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selective muteness???

(9 Posts)
angelpoppet Fri 16-Jan-04 16:11:51

My dd has just received her first report from Playschool. The whole report was heavily focused on the fact that although she plays well with the other children she shuts down with the teachers. I have spoken to them about my concerns regarding this and they have suggested she may be suffering from selective muteness. I've been told not to make a big fuss of this as presuring her to talk to adults will make things worse. I can't help but worry that NOT addressing the problem will make things worse and my dd will think this is acceptable bahaviour. She is 3 1/2 and has been at the playgroup for nearly a year. She is shy with adults, especially strangers but at home we can't keep her quiet.

Any helpful comments / suggestions would be most appreciated.

JanH Fri 16-Jan-04 16:15:08

This is probably a silly question but have you tried asking her, in the gentlest most casual way, while you're talking about Playschool in general, why she doesn't like to talk to the teachers? Or maybe which teacher she likes best?

I don't think being shy with adults is very unusual though and they're probably thinking she will grow out of it.

angelpoppet Fri 16-Jan-04 16:18:50

We have spoken about various things. I made her pick 1 thing she liked about each teacher to write on their Xmas cards Eg for one she said thankyou for helping me draw and another thankyou for being my friend.

She speak's so highly of 2 teachers in perticular at home but at the school she is just silent. She enjoys playschool very much and doesn't every mind going.

My dh is very shy and I'm worried he is passing it onto dd

jessmack Sat 17-Jan-04 08:11:07

Sorry I have no advice, but I have come across this. When I was studying Childcare I had a work placement in a school nursery class. There was a little girl just how you describe your dd. She was a lovely, bright wee thing, she would play fine with the other children, and talk to them, but she would never utter a word to the teachers.
It was dealt with the same way as your dd. No fuss was made, we didn't even comment on it to her.
I wish I knew how she is getting on now, but I do remember the teachers saying that this girl's big sister was the same at nursery, but soon started talking when she went to school.

suedonim Sat 17-Jan-04 14:05:49

I know someone whose dd also has selective muteness. To judge from her experience, I think you're quite right to at least keep the issue at the forefront of everyone's minds and try to find out the best way of tackling it, if it doesn't resolve itself. The person I know had a lot of difficulty in getting anyone to take her dd's problem seriously and I'm sorry to say the girl is now an adult and finding it very, very difficulty to cope in the world of grownups. She went right through school and college never speaking to any staff and only talking to one of two special friends. I do suspect there were other issues at play, though, as the family are all a bit 'odd' in various ways, while your dd sounds as though she enjoys and mixes well at playschool. I really hope I'm not worrying you, I'd just hate for anyone else to end up as this girl has. Best wishes.

tigermoth Sat 17-Jan-04 20:07:25

There was a boy at my son's nursery who wouldn't speak much to the teachers or children yet was talking fine at home. I don't know the full details but I know his mother had lots of meetings with the staff and was worried about things. As far as I can tell, the staff and the mother had a joint plan of action, but I don't know what it was. This wasn't common knowledge.

I didn't know the mother well enough to ask her, (in fact I only found out about the problem properly on the last day my son attended the nursery)

I always thought the boy was a little shy, but it was only when his mother told me about his muteness at nursery did I realise there was more to it. Sorry not much help!

angelpoppet Mon 19-Jan-04 08:31:27

Thank you for your comments. We have had meetings with the play group and they are being very helpful. I feel sorry for the girl who had no help with her problem and hopefully we have caught this in time to help my dd.

She started swimming lesons this weekend and really enjoyed it so we are going to involve her in as many activities as possible to bring her out of herself.

We have arranged extra visit's to the school she is starting in September and she is also attending a club there with some of the children she will be at school with.

Oce again thanx for you comments.

marthamoo Mon 19-Jan-04 10:00:04

Angelpoppet, I have just spent 20 minutes typing and somehow managed to delete the lot.

OK, here we go again...

Ds1 was just like this (even worse I think) at 3 and a half. He had always been a painfully shy child - toddler groups were an ordeal as he wouldn't move off my knee and would sob if another child so much as looked at him. I used to take him to the local soft play area at 9am so he could have half an hour playtime before the first other child arrived - because once they did, he wouldn't budge from my knee. We'd also had a hellish two weeks when he hadn't spoken at all (I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't witnessed it for myself - every morning I would get up thinking "please let him talk to me today" and he wouldn't say a word, how he managed to keep it up I will never know). I'm afraid we finally resorted to threatening him to get him to talk again that time (having tried ignoring, cajoling, bribing...). we put his beloved Star Wars toys in a binbag and said we would take them to a charity shop if he didn't speak. It worked, and while I'm not proud of it, those two weeks were desperately hard. He's always had a very vivid imagination, and *becomes* characters - we had a Tom Kitten stage (no speaking, just meaowing), an Iron Giant stage (no speaking, just lots of stiff walking around in a robot fashion), an R2D2 stage (much beeping and squeaking, no speaking).

Anyway, that's the background - don't know if it rings any bells with you. When he was 3.5, he had been at nursery 2.5 days a week for 7 weeks when his teacher called me in to express her "serious concerns" about him. He didn't speak at all, not to staff and not to other children. He did make funny little noises, but nothing approximating words. She was particularly concerned that he didn't interact with the other children at all - he just wandered round aimlessly and didn't play. He also wouldn't make eye contact. To say I was devastated would be an understatement - he had been coming home, telling me about his day, singing me songs they had learned. It slowly dawned on me that the teacher was gently suggesting that my son was autistic - I am quite sure she had me down as a Mum in serious denial as I insisted that he did talk at home, that he had a vast vocabulary, that he did play with other children and make eye contact.

I walked home in a daze and just cried - I am quite shy, and I had suffered from PND when ds1 was born, so of course I convinced myself that I had somehow *damaged* him.

Over the next half term, up til Christmas, I worked on him at home ("you must SPEAK so the teachers know how clever/kind/funny you are" etc.) and the staff tried to as well, though with limited success. He finally spoke on the last week of term - "can I be the handsome prince now please?" in a song they were singing, his teacher was nearly in tears when she told me and I was going "I told you! I told you!"

Then, just as I felt we were making progress, we moved house and area and he had to start at a new nursery. I went in with his record, which included the information that the Nursery had been considering starting the statementing process (statement of special needs) and talked to the staff and let them know how worried I was that he would withdraw completely into his shell again just as he was starting to improve.

When I picked him up after the first day the teacher told me he had announced "My name's S and I live in a big new house [we don't!] and my Daddy works at the hospital" !

Since then he has slowly and steadily improved. he was still very shy and withdrawn in Reception (they were more concerned than I was - they hadn't seen him when he was REALLY shy and withdrawn!) then he suddenly came into his own in Year 1, in fact his teacher looked surprised when I asked if she would class him as a *shy* child. He's almost 7 now, in Year 2, and thriving - he is popular and sociable, doing well academically, and his teacher thinks he is fantastic.

So my advice would be to keep on at them in playgroup (I think it can be easy for them to overlook a quiet child, after all they are no trouble), keep talking to your dd, not in a pressuring way, but in a gentle, encouraging way and hopefully your daughter will gain in confidence, as my son has done. My son has done much better in the smaller, more structured environment of a classroom than he ever did in a playgroup/nursery *free-for-all* environment. I also think that the fact your dd does play with and talk to other children is a huge positive in her favour - she really does just sound very shy around adults, rather than any serious underlying problem.

Don't let her know you are worried, and don't try and *deny* her shyness - I have always told my son that the nicest people are a bit shy (I believe that too!) but not TOO shy. I really hope she finds a bit more confidence soon -I know how hard it is as a parent when you know your child is capable of more than they are showing.

angelpoppet Mon 19-Jan-04 13:23:07


It sounds like you had a terrible time during those early stages. We have not experienced anything so severe. My dd is so noisy and outrageous at home 2 weeks peace sound's lovely!!

But seriously, I had hoped that this is something she will grow out of. The playschool has been very helpful - they have provided us with an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for my dd and provided us with a facility so that the teachers and I can talk about her without her hearing. At home we are trying to take her to as many places as possible where she can be independant and mix with other people without our interference. Hopefully this will give her some more confidence for when she starts school.

As with you my main worry is that changing schools will be a set back. The after school club for the new starters is a brilliant idea though. One which I think more schools should offer.

Hopefully in time her shyness will fade and it will never become a big problem.

I'm glad to hear your son is doing well, I hope he continue's to do so.

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