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Still concerned about dd and selective mutism

(30 Posts)
Wallace Wed 20-Jul-05 15:16:45

I posted a while back about my dd (4). She has been at nursery since last August and doesn't talk at all there. She did a tiny bit at the beginning, then stopped after Christmas.

The nursery say she is getting a bit better - she will almost join in with actions for songs, and she looks more animated. The teacher thinks it is just shyness, and nothing needs to be done. They say if she is still not talking by Christmas, then they will start to worry (she starts school next year).

The problem is that she is getting worse everywhere else. She only talks to myself and ds. SHe doesn't talk to dh, or any other relatives or adults that she has known all her life. She has 2 girls who are her friends, and she talks to them. But she hasn't seen them all summer holidays and I am worried that when she sees them again she will not talk to them either.

I was quite happy with the wait and see approach, but, as yuo can understand, dh would like to be able to have a conversation with her. And as things seem to be getting worse I am a bit concerned there is more of a problem than we first thought.

How do we go about getting help? Through the school, or GP?

Jimjams Wed 20-Jul-05 15:19:21

Hmmm I would say goto the GP and ask for a referral to a clinical psychologist. NOT a psychiatrist (or they'll go shooting off on the wrong tangent). I'm sure there are peads and psychs who specialise in selective mutism but I don't know who they are. maybe google?

Wallace Wed 20-Jul-05 15:25:10

Thanks. Would definately rather go through GP than school as we have a lovely GP. A bit worried that we will be told "some kids are just shy, she'll grow out of it"

I will have a search for specialists in selective mutism. I have looked it up, and she does meet the criteria, but I don't really like saying she has selective mutism, because it hasn't been diagnosed by a specialist.

BareFootAngel Wed 20-Jul-05 15:36:03

ooh my dds 2 and 3 had this !

BareFootAngel Wed 20-Jul-05 15:42:23

dd2 started talking at scholl when she was eight and the same has happened with dd3!........with dd2 her school diddnt know anything about selective mutes so they did as much reserch as they could but nothing worked and the problem is when the other chiildren know they dont talk they start answering for my dds so it becomes more of a problem,,if the teacher asked dd a question ,,the other children would jum in and say ,,you know she doesnt talk!.........with dd3 she didnt talk till we moved and changed school the teacher here is old fashioned and very nice but she said to dd you say please and thank you or you dont get and after a couple of days she was bribed with a yellow rubber [her fav colour] and said please ,,she is now asking questions etc and spoke aloud in french in assembly the other day i was in tears

Wallace Wed 20-Jul-05 17:25:51

Barefootangel - did your dd's talk to their friends, but not the teachers...or nobody at all?

BareFootAngel Wed 20-Jul-05 19:23:50

nobody! even had friends round did not talk to them but they managed to make loads of friends!,,my youngest still doesnt talk to my friends at all

Miaou Wed 20-Jul-05 19:57:32

dd1 was like this when she started school (nursery was a bit different as I was her nursery teacher and there was only dd2 and one other child in the nursery!). She had a very patient and understanding teacher who managed to draw her out eventually. But she was in a school of six at the time (yes I do mean school, not class ), so it was a less intimidating environment for her. However even after three years in school she would not speak out of her own accord, eg at circle time, and would find it difficult to answer a question in front of other children.

She is now in a school of 15 and is still incredibly shy. Talking is the one area on her report where she has not made any progress this year. However she is very popular in school (much more so than her very extrovert sister!) and has lots of friends, who just seem to accept that she will say one word to their thousand

Anyway Wallace, none of this is directly relevant to you atm. If it wasn't for the fact that she won't talk to your dh, I would say she is just shy - dd1 won't talk to any relatives except dh, me, dd2 and my mum and dad. However the fact that she won't speak to your dh is a cause for concern IMHO.

I think jimjams has the best advice in terms of professional help, but maybe your dh could try to do things with your dd to encourage communication in the meantime? Eg read a book together - ask her to choose a book or point out various things in the pictures, so that she is at least communicating.

We find with dd1 that we get the most out of her whilst doing something else - eg side by side activities like craft projects etc. - so she is not feeling "threatened" by eye contact.

She is now 8, and sometimes gets upset about things but can't tell us what's wrong. Dh got her to write it down, which really helped.

Hope that some of this is helpful!

Wallace Wed 20-Jul-05 20:10:39

Thanks. It is really nice to hear other people's stories.

My dh has been away a lot, so that might have something to do with it. She doesn't talk to him on the phone, but does make little squeaky sounds with a big smile on her face

Miou &BFA Did you find your dd's were fine up to a cetain age, then got worse, before they got a bit better? Dd was fine until she was almost 3, and then it was only this Easter that she stopped talking to relatives and my friends. Before then the problem was mainly at nursery, and in public.

Wallace Wed 20-Jul-05 20:12:15

I see what you mean about doing things side by side, she is a lot more relaxed when she doesn't feel forced to speak.

BareFootAngel Wed 20-Jul-05 20:20:12

dd2 was ok till she started nursery,and dd3 wouldnt even go !! she screamed constantly so i didnt forse her...dd1 was and always has been a mouthy talk to any one girl so its weird..this teacher is brill though ..shes over the moon as dd is still in her classin september.

BareFootAngel Wed 20-Jul-05 20:20:13

dd2 was ok till she started nursery,and dd3 wouldnt even go !! she screamed constantly so i didnt forse her...dd1 was and always has been a mouthy talk to any one girl so its weird..this teacher is brill though ..shes over the moon as dd is still in her classin september.

Miaou Wed 20-Jul-05 20:52:55

Hi Wallace, glad some of what I said is useful, I do tend to go on a bit!!

Trying to think back now - I don't think dd was as bad before the age of 3, although she was always very quiet, but so much changes around that age though that it's difficult to know if it is to do with circumstances or their age. After the age of 3-4, she found herself in more and different social situations which probably compounded the issue, although I wouldn't have done anything different anyway. I never used to leave her at parties for example, but wouldn't have considered not taking her to them!

And totally relate to the phone thing - even now, she won't speak on the phone, unless it's to me or dh - and didn't speak at all on the phone until very recently. She will nod and smile though and likes to hear people talking to her!

She is very aware of her shyness and wishes she was more like her younger sister. Dh and I are at great pains to point out that she is who she is and should never apologise for being that way. We found out when the dds started their new school, dd2 was very protective of her, and would introduce her as "this is dd1 my big sister, she's very shy" - she was trying to be helpful (bless) - unfortunately dd1 didn't see it that way!

Re your dh being away a lot - if he is then around for quite a while, does she gradually begin talking to him again? Dd1 needed extreme familiarity to make her feel comfortable enough to talk at that age, and I could imagine that we could have had similar issues if dh had been away a lot then.


Saker Wed 20-Jul-05 23:06:03

Wallace, sorry you still have this problem. It must be quite hard for you and your dh.

In terms of getting help I asked my dh (who is a GP) if he had ever seen anyone with selective mutism and what he would do if he did. He said not but that he would almost certainly refer to the community paed. I don't think he could refer directly to a clinical pyschologist himself. HTH.

fionagib Thu 21-Jul-05 10:54:48

This happened to a friend of mine. Her four year old didnlt talk at nursery for about 6 months. The nursery teacher looked into selective mutitsm, researched it and had a meeting with my friend. Not sure where the research came from but it involved my friend spendingparts of the nursery sessions in the classroom, just helping out, working with her son and the other kids.

The nursery teacher also visited the boy at his home, just in a casual way, playing a bit with him, chatting to his mum etc. Gradually the child has become a lot happier about being at nursery and now talks there. It was quite a long slow process but they (my friend and the teacher) followed the guidelines to the letter and it worked. The teacher was brilliant.

Good luck, hope things get better soon.

dinosaur Thu 21-Jul-05 15:33:19

DS1's best friend at school is selectively mute and it certainly doesn't stop him and DS1 being good friends. He is nearly six.

lfm Thu 21-Jul-05 15:53:12

Hi, I am a Clinical Psychologist and remember a child with selective mutism being referred to the Child Psychology Service and treated successfully (not by me so dont know what it involved but I know it didn't take long). GP's can refer directly to psychology services but sometimes there is a long waiting list to be seen. Hope things turn out well.

marthamoo Thu 21-Jul-05 16:03:23

Yes, ds1 was like this. He was always extremely shy - from a very early age. For example, at toddler groups (and I went to several) he would sit on my knee and refuse to budge. Sometimes by the end of the session he would venture a few feet away if there was a toy which interested him, but if another child approached him he would burst into tears and run straight back to me. I used to take him to the local soft play for 9am, which was when it opened, so that if we were lucky we would get half an hour before any other children arrived - because as soon as another child came in he would run back to me and refuse to play any more. He was the same at the park - would only go on empty equipment, we never went near the park at weekends or in the school holidays. At that stage, I put it down to extreme shyness - he talked with family but no-one else. Other friends with children had never heard him speak, despite us spending a lot of time together - he was better with children he knew well, but still didn't talk/interact with them. He also had quite long periods (2/3 weeks at a time) of going into character and not speaking to anyone - not even dh and I. That was so hard. I remember his Tom Kitten phase, and his Iron Giant phase, and his C3-PO stage - it sounds funny now, but it was heartbreaking to get up each morning and spend the day with a practically silent 3 year old: being a kitten, or a robot. And he never forgot - he kept it up all day (I can't do that when I'm mad at dh, I forget I'm not talking to him!) The longest period he did that for was 3 weeks when he didn't utter a word - in the end dh and I pretty much bullied him into speaking again: we got a bin bag and started putting all his precious Star Wars toys in it - dh said we woudl take them to the tip if he didn't speak. We were desperate - it worked though - he started talking (to us at least) again.

At 3.5 he started nursery, 2 and a half days a week. He came home and regaled me with tales of what they had done and the songs they had learned. At the end of the first half term his teacher collared me and told me she was extremely concerned about him. After 7 weeks she had never heard him speak, not a single word. he made funny little squeaking noises when asked a direct question, that's all. He wouldn't make eye contact, didn't interact with the other children, hadn't eaten lunch for the whole time he was there, didn't play - just walked around on the periphery. She asked me if he could speak, and when I said (defensively I suppose) "yes - he has a fantastic vocabulary" she said "mmmm...but does he form meaningful sentences?" She then said that she suspected he might be autistic (I knew he absolutely was not) and that she wanted to start proceedings to possibly get him statemented. I didn't have MN then and to say I was utterly devastated would be an understatement. I didn't know where to turn or what to do - I knew he wasn't autistic (though his teacher was so convinced I was beginning to doubt myself over that too), but I knew something was wrong. It was a friend who first mentioned Selective Mutism - I had never heard of it - and I did some research on the internet and the stuff I read rang so many bells. I went back in to talk to his teacher about it - but I felt she wasn't taking me seriously and was still pushing for starting to assess him for statementing. My dh was utterly unsupportive - he was very sceptical of the stuff I had read on the internet and was sticking to the "he's just shy" theory.

At this stage, everything stalled because we moved house and ds1 had to start at a new pre-school. I went in before he started to talk about ds - his old pre-school sent a sealed letter () presumably to 'forewarn' them. At his first session he told them he lived in a big house and his daddy worked at the hospital - it was more than he had said to any adult apart from family since he had started to talk. I could tell the pre-school leader thought I was a seriously over-anxious parent and that his other pre-school had been worried over nothing....

It wasn't all plain sailing. He continued to be painfully shy. When he went into Reception he lapsed into Tom Kitten mode, no talking, just the odd miaow, and so when he was assessed they put him in the potential SNs group of children. Once he settled in he started talking a bit more - though "needs to speak up more / lacks confidence" has been a constant refrain at Parents' Evening for the last five years. He also found it pretty hard to make friends - much prefered his own company - but this last year he has really blossomed, grown enormously in confidence, and made some proper friends for the first time (he's 8, about to go into Year 4).

I know that was very long - and I hope it wasn't too much irrelevent waffle, I just wanted you to know that there is hope. I know how heartbreaking it can be: I used to come home and weep after toddler group, children's parties and the like.

I think jimjam's advice is excellent - seek some professional help from a clinical psychologist. I wish I'd had MN to advise me when I was so worried about ds1. I was very lucky that ds1 came out of it by himself - but I had years of worrying about him, and feeling it was all somehow my fault (I had severe PND when he was born and convinced myself it was all down to my failing to bond, continuing depression, natural shyness etc.)

Best of luck - I really feel for you.

sweetheart Thu 21-Jul-05 16:08:51

Wallace - Just wanted to add my experience on this.

My dd was identified as having selective muteness at nursery by her key worker. The nursery drew up a IEP (Individual Education Plan) for my dd and my dh and I were brough in to discuss and agree it.

The research showed that this tends to effect children under the age of 7/8 and that by this time most children have grown out of the habit.

Children choose to mute themselves due to extreme shyness and feeling pressured to speak. Due to this you should not acknowledge the fact the child is mute - nor put any pressure on them to speak - they will do it in their own time. Avoid asking direct question, in perticular, anything where they are forced to make a choice as this can make things worse.

When my dd moved from nursery to school her new teachers were fully informed of her situation and her teacher pretty much ignored her for the first few months to let her settle in.

She is leaving reception tomorrow and to look at her now you'd never know she'd been the mute girl at the beginning of the year!!!!!

sweetheart Thu 21-Jul-05 16:11:09

Also forgot to mention - the nursery suggested that she bring in a toy of her own choice each day - which usually ended up being a doll. Teachers would encourage her to speak about the doll and it helped her to have something familier with her.

Wallace Thu 21-Jul-05 18:05:18

Thank you everybody for sharing your stories. It really helps to hear what others have gone through.

I think another reason for me to get help from a psychologist is that the nursery would maybe take it more seriously. Believe it or not they have never really talked to me about the problem apart from the occasional 2 minute chat when I pick dd up. And even then it has been me that has approached them.

And my heart breaks for dd, always playing by herself at nursery, and the other kids thinking she can't talk. And the way she blanks people when they talk to her. And I know dh gets upset because he doesn't feel like he really knows his daughter.

Then part of me thinks that dd is just her own unique person, and what could a psychologist do anyway...

mogwai Thu 21-Jul-05 21:34:47

refer your daughter to speech and language therapy. I have treated a number of children with selective mutism. There is a specific programme to use, an SLT will know about this.

suedonim Thu 21-Jul-05 21:38:40

Wallace, I think it would be a good idea to get someone else involved with your dd's problem now. I'm truly, honestly not trying to worry you with my tale, but rather reassure you that you're doing the right thing by acting now. You must also bear in mind that the girl involved is now 25-ish and education services were much less developed all those years ago.

My friend's dd stopped speaking at playgroup and went through 13yrs of school having spoken maybe half a dozen times to teachers or class mates in total. When a psychologist was eventually brought in their only suggestion was that she was stubborn and would speak in her own time. No real attempt was made to help her. At 25, she doesn't/can't work and still only speaks to family. I suspect she has other undiagnosed difficulties, though whether these are cause or effect of the mutism I have no idea. But I feel sure that if positive action had been taken years ago, there would have been a far better outcome. I'm sure cases such as this are few and far between (I've never heard of another one like this, tbh) but I think it justifies seeking early intervention. Best wishes to you both.

Rafaella Thu 21-Jul-05 21:49:44

My dd was painfully shy almost from the moment she was born . To cut a long story short she wouldn't talk at all at nursery though she has always been fine with close family. She refused to speak to any adults as school though would play with other children if asked but rarely spoke to them either. The other children spoke for her and happily informed any new teachers that 'X didn't speak' so would answer for her. By year 5 I had had enough of the school's softly softly no pressure approach which was achieving nothing and searched the internet for ideas. By this time she was desperate too but had become 'the child who didn't speak' making it almost impossible for her to suddenly change. Fortunately she had a great teacher that year who was prepared to read the research and together we agreed with her on certain targets ie teacher would ask her a question which he knew she would know the answer to and required a one word answer. Things slowly progressed from then on and now as a teenager she is very happy. She is still very quiet at school but doing really well and has some close friends and gets on well with many more. She is very sad about her 'wasted years' at primary school. Like you, the worst thing was when girls would come up to her to say hello and she would blank them. She would then stand with me until the whistle went looking longingly at them all playing together.
I don't know what the answer is but the earlier you can sort things out the better so if there is help out there, go for it. I don't think things will improve without gentle intervention - probably will just get worse.

Wallace Fri 22-Jul-05 06:07:24

Thank you, you are really helping me make up my mind. You are right, the problem may eventually get better by itself, but it may not, or it may take a very long time. If I get her help now, then it will do more good than harm.

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