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Very shy or just pig headed?! And how to fix?

(21 Posts)
kipsy Thu 22-Nov-12 23:35:51

I have a 4.5 year old DD, just started Reception in Sep.

She loves people but is practically mute in the presence of adults or multiple children - familiar or not. She has never once answered to her name being called out for the register - in her nursery or now in school; does not read her reading books aloud (even though she reads very well at home, to me); does not talk to or ANSWER any adult in the presence of another.

She does talk to teachers one-on-one I'm told, but with quite a bit of prompting and reluctance from her end. Most questions are met with silence.

She is intractable - however much I calmly ask /threaten/cajole her to say "Good morning" or "Thank you" or "What do you say?" - her response is always silence and feet shuffling.

I keep oscillating between ignoring it, making excuses for her 'shyness', laughing it off or telling her off.

She is, with me and with family, very articulate and intelligent.
What in god's name is going through her head? I did try asking her but she is not a very open child unfortunately.

I know this is a fairly low-key issue and might resolve over time (hopefully!) but would appreciate any insight or advice that could help us now.

Many thanks in advance!

ThePathanKhansWitch Thu 22-Nov-12 23:45:17

I,m not an expert, just a mum of a 5yo. I would have thought telling her off is not the way to go, your dd sounds to me if she has some low level anxiety to do with school, and perhaps 'crowds'.
As an adult who suffers social anxiety, i,m with your dd on this, and can really empathise.
It is only early days re school, perhaps she is just taking a little longer to find her feet.
What do her teachers say?

kipsy Fri 23-Nov-12 00:28:53

Thank you for your response, ThePathanKhansWitch. If this behaviour was happening only in school, to which she is new, I would not at all be concerned, it is early days yet as you so rightly pointed out.

But this behaviour was there at her nursery even after a couple of years, and she still refuses to talk in front of adults she has known for 2-3 years.

Telling her off is me saying "That's not very polite..." I guess it doesn't feel good to be criticised but I worry that silence would be construed as condoning her behaviour. Aargh!

Most of my concern or worry stems from a "What will they think of her (and consequently, of me!)" type of attitude, and I am ashamed of it. But it really hurts to see that my lovely, sweet daughter could be judged as rude sad

The teachers are not worried yet, as per the class teacher. But I feel that is quite easy to ignore or just pass by the child who hardly/never talks. And she might never get her chance to shine, so to speak.

I am worried that she will lose the chance to build valuable friendships now - after all, she is going to be with the same set of friends for many years in primary school.

Maybe this belongs in AIBU anxious - to which the consensus would probably be YES!

ThePathanKhansWitch Fri 23-Nov-12 00:39:44

No, no not at, i understand your concerns. You sound like a lovely mum.
4.5 is still quite little, have you spoken to your g.p?/hv
I know of a child, who chose to be selectively mute at school, and was a complete talkaholic at home.
Im sure a salt came to school, anyway she,s 9 now and whilst not loud in a crowd, definately more vocal.

ThePathanKhansWitch Fri 23-Nov-12 00:56:20

Your dd may well grow out of her shyness, but if it were me, i,d ask the school for some 'confidence building' work to happen with dd.
Perhaps one to one, withsome for even a short while, just until her confidence and trust grows to feel able to let her voice out.

ThePathanKhansWitch Fri 23-Nov-12 00:57:01

Short while*every day.

lisad123 Fri 23-Nov-12 01:00:03

Do have a look at "selected mutism". My friends ds has this and she really worried. He still a year later still doesn't talk at school but school are managing well.

bruffin Fri 23-Nov-12 01:00:27

Google selective mutism.

ThePathanKhansWitch Fri 23-Nov-12 09:35:15

Bumping for very worried op.

Might be good advice from the day crew.

PopMusicShoobyDoobyDoA Fri 23-Nov-12 09:53:49

My friend's DS did not speak to anyone apart from his parents, his brothers and sisters and his granny until he was about six. I know they got a referral to see a behaviour therapist. It was a slow process, and while he is not the life and soul of a party, he participates in class and has good friends.

ConstantCraving Fri 23-Nov-12 20:48:27

I think my DD may be like this when she gets to school. She won't talk to anyone except me, DH and her childminder. She is 3 and also very very chatty at home to us, and even to herself, but will not speak to anyone else. Even with my Mum who she sees twice a week - sometimes she will say 'bye' but always with prompting. She doesn't enjoy groups either - i think it is her personality and she probably takes after me and DH as we are not very sociable and I was cripplingly shy as a child. I wouldn't draw too much attention to it if you can avoid it - obviously ask the teachers to be aware and encourage, and maybe they could asign her a buddy, but I remember being described as shy and it making things even worse. I just wanted people to ignore me and my shyness - and I did grow out of it. I have to do quite alot of public speaking in my job and while i don't exactly enjoy it, I can do it.

MrsMushroom Sat 24-Nov-12 08:47:30

This was my DD exactly. She never spoke in reception or at nursery but would apparently speak to her friends...just not teachers!

Luckily, she was in a very tiny school and the teachers were older and kind...they'd seen it all before.

She did grow out of it. She's 8 and in year 4 now at a new school and has come on amazingly. She now answers adults. Strangers will probably always make her anxious...but she has the skills to cope.

She goes to Brownies and I have worked hard at her confidence....boosting her at every opportunity....I looked at the things she excelled at and I made sure she had the chance to shine at them. As she's good at art I entered her in contests so that she might win a prize...she did and it really helped her.

I avoided tellling her off and when she wouldn't speak, I used to say "Say hell Oh well never mind then maybe next time."

But I never, ever put her down or told her off for it. I used to explain to other parents about her when she wasn't in earshot. So if she went to a playdate I used to say "She is very, very quiet around grown ups she doesn't know....but don't worry about her if she's not talking to you...she talks to her friends fine."

That made them feel better.

As I said OP it IS a bother...but she will come out of it eventually. How is DD with her classmates? Does she play at playtime?

Funnylittleturkishdelight Sat 24-Nov-12 09:42:18

Perhaps a play therapist could do some work with her to build confidence and develop skills?

Ime early intervention is essential- I taught a 16 yo selective mute drama. Totally excruciating for her. Parents had refused all help and blamed school as she was fine at home.

CecilyP Sat 24-Nov-12 10:14:29

This really does sound like selective mutism; so neither shyness or pigheadedness. My neice never spoke a single word in nursery school, although when she started primary school, she also started speaking.

The more fuss you make about it the worse it will become. I am sure nobody is judging you or your DD, if she doesn't yet comply with all the social niceties. Your friends and neighbours are interacting with you, and you can greet or thank them on your DD's behalf - far less embarassing for them as well.

kipsy Mon 26-Nov-12 11:33:49

Thank you everyone, that was very helpful!

Mrs Mushroom - your DD sounds exactly like mine too. She's good with art as well coincidentally. Your advice on being kind and saying never mind if she doesn't speak is good - I will try to do that! Thank you.

I am very lucky that her teachers are kind as well and do not make a fuss. They do have a language/communication specialist who works with her once a week. We will wait and watch till end of term and then take it from there.

DeWe Mon 26-Nov-12 12:07:54

My dd1 was a bit like that. Didn't talk at those points where you'd like them to say "hello" "Thank you". I didn't make a fuss about it, but we practiced at home, saying to dolls and things.
She started doing it (sometimes) towards the end of reception, although it was probably about year 4-5 that she stopped saying it as though it was a chore/she was scared of the person and sounded like she really meant it. wink

Rotkehlchen Mon 26-Nov-12 12:51:18

As the mother of a selectively mute child, I think it's good that the school are providing one-to-one help. However, please remain vigilant - the longer this behaviour goes on, the harder it becomes to treat and selectively mute children can easily slip through the net as their behaviour does not disrupt the class.

Have a look at the Selective Mutism Resource Manual by Maggie Johnson. It will give you and the school tips on how to help your daughter.

BBQshapes Mon 26-Nov-12 13:43:22

Selective mutism?

BBQshapes Mon 26-Nov-12 13:43:44

Oh, just saw others had already suggested this!

unexpectediteminbaggingarea Mon 26-Nov-12 14:02:26

just wanted to say I do understand how hard it is to see a lovely DC not showing everyone how great they are. My DS would not talk to anyone he didn't know, and rarely spoke to people he only knew a bit (including grandparents, aunts, etc) until he was nearly 4, and even now is very quiet. It did always seem like rudeness and it used to break my heart to see him, in my opinion, judged.

He is now nearly 5 and will talk to anyone one to one (although hates hates hates big crowds). Going to school has made a big difference, but the biggest positive influence was a fantastic preschool with a wonderful key worker who gave him lots of one to one time and saw him for what he was.

He has a super confident super sociable younger sister and it still breaks my heart to see everyone fawning over her and pretty much ignoring him because he's quiet, when we know that he is the cutest, cleverest, funniest boy in the world.

I try not to call him shy because my mum was always called shy and it had a massive negative impact on her confidence. DS describes it a being 'a bit nervous' so that's what we call it, if we mention it at all, which is rare. We have never pushed him to do anything he's uncomfortable with and it is resolving on its own. He still sometimes will whisper in my ear what he wants me to say to someone.

I know what you and your DD are going through is different, I just wanted to add my sympathy, because I do get a bit of what you're feeling.

Kipsy Wed 19-Dec-12 11:45:41

Thank you everyone - we had a chat with the speech therapist at school and the diagnosis is selective mutism. Neither shy nor stubborn, just anxious!! Like so many lovely people up-thread said!

I feel quite ashamed of how long it's taken me to understand her issue sad the poor dear! Think I was in denial or thought hers was a rare complex case when everything was pointing to SM! I knew so little about it.... All this while I thought she was anxious about being told off, but she's been anxious about the actual talking! The relief on her face when I told her that it's ok if she doesn't talk, and that she can talk when she's ready!

The therapist at school is lovely and is putting a plan in place to help her at school - no pressure, gestures in place of verbal responses, all helpers etc made aware, talking to her as normal but not pressuring her for response etc

I'm reading every resource on SM I can get my hands on. I'm positive she will improve with help but I'm prepared for it to take a while.

In my OP I said that it's a low-key issue that will resolve over time .... Well I was very wrong and thank god for the school and your insights.

Thank you everyone soooo much, early intervention is key for this I believe, and you all have helped me get just that for my DD.

for anyone reading this with similar issues, please take a look at this book by Maggie Johnson for a start, it's an eye-opener

Can I Tell You About Selective Mutism?

As rotkelchen suggests, the SM Resource Manual is also highly recommended by the therapist, it's winging its way home from the amazon warehouse!

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