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Advice Needed On Elective Mutism


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Although I have been teaching for more years than I care to remember this is the first year I have come across a child that just will not speak to me or any other adult in class. He has speech difficulties and has already been referred to S&L whilst in his previous setting. Mum advised me during summer term at the home visit that he doesn't talk, only at home. His nursery key worker advised the same and said he would get by on pointing at things he wanted.

 

Well, he has settled in to school and seems very happy. After the first four days he began to speak quite animatedly to his peers particularly during role play and small world. He is eager to take part in all activities, including circle time and indicated his intention to join in by pointing at himself. He will not however utter any words to adults. The most we have managed is 'ugh!' and a finger point or a nod or shake of the head. He does make humming noises on the carpet on occasions but usually when we are supposed to be listening to someone else!

 

I am at a loss what to do for the best. I don't like to be beaten by anything and have been trying to get him to communicate by joining in with role play pretending to be a little sister or mum and getting others to join in. I have tried being Golidilocks in the 3 bears house and role playing with a group. I have tried using a telephone pretending to ring him up for a chat. He seems to want to talk to me and screws his face up and compresses his lips as though holding it in. Yesterday he hid behind the toy kitchen with the phone and whispered into it where he thought I couldn't see. He used lots of story language in the bears house with peers after I left. Mum is obviously discussing not speaking at home because she says he has told her he is not going to speak to the grown-ups.

I do individual readers starting with discussion books this time of year and managed to pursuade him to whisper one word for a sticker reward after much coaxing today. A colleague has told me she was advised with a previous child to leave things be and not force the issue as this would make it worse. I don't want to make things worse but I am really stumped.

 

Can anyone suggest where to go from here?

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You colleague is right to tell you not to push him. Your best bet is to work on making him feel as relaxed and at home in the school environment and around the adults as you possibly can. Try not to back him into a corner and don't allow him to miss out on things because he doesn't feel able to speak.

 

This isn't a battle of wills and it's not about being beaten or not. Children with selective mutism are not choosing not to speak, they are unable to speak at particular times. It is an anxiety related disorder. You can help him by accepting him how he is and offering lots of opportunities for him to communicate in other ways.

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You colleague is right to tell you not to push him. Your best bet is to work on making him feel as relaxed and at home in the school environment and around the adults as you possibly can. Try not to back him into a corner and don't allow him to miss out on things because he doesn't feel able to speak.

 

This isn't a battle of wills and it's not about being beaten or not. Children with selective mutism are not choosing not to speak, they are unable to speak at particular times. It is an anxiety related disorder. You can help him by accepting him how he is and offering lots of opportunities for him to communicate in other ways.

 

 

we have had 2 children recently similar, and found much improvement when we were quite tough with the parents about not pressuring them by talking about it at home all the time. I know it must be hard as a parent but we reiterated over and over again that by saying 'who did you talk to today, why didn't you talk etc etc' it is creating the anxiety. One now whispers to us occasionally and the other one does talk to us now, responding to questions etc unless mum is there saying 'tell them what you did at the weekend' or similar!

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We had an elective mute a few years ago, she chose not to speak at nursery, in our reception class, in year 1 - she told her mum (she spoke at home and when out with her parents - just stopped as she walked through the school gates each day) that she would talk in year 3 - she actually began to speak at the end of year 2. She still made good progress with her writing and number work and she used to mouth the words to me as she read - and I lip-read! Mum kept us informed of her progress at home. She was popular and played happily with her friends.

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I found this on www.selectivemutism.org and thought it might be helpful.

 

What is Selective Mutism (SM)?

 

Selective mutism (SM), formerly called elective mutism, is best understood as a childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child or adolescent's inability to speak in one or more social settings (e.g., at school, in public places, with adults) despite being able to speak comfortably in other settings (e.g., at home with family).

 

Affected individuals understand language use and, although they have the physical and cognitive ability to speak, they demonstrate a persistent inability to speak in particular settings over a particular period of time due to anxiety. This differs from the developmentally appropriate behavior of a child with limited speaking and social interaction behaviors during the first month of school or daycare when he or she is adjusting to a new social environment with peers and teachers. SM also differs from shyness, which is a socially adaptable personality trait.

 

To meet diagnostic criteria, the child or adolescent with SM shows significant impairment in daily functioning, typically in educational or occupational settings, and by refraining from social participation at school and other settings due to a pronounced fear of speaking. Most affected children and adolescents function normally in other ways and learn age appropriate skills; however, some may have other comorbid anxiety disorders, developmental delays such as impaired social skills, and communication disorders in addition to SM.

 

It is seen as important that the term 'Selective' rather than 'Elective' is used in order to reinforce the fact that these children are not choosing not to speak. It is important that this disorder is never treated as stubbornness or bad behaviour.

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Guest littlemissblonde
I found this on www.selectivemutism.org and thought it might be helpful.

 

What is Selective Mutism (SM)?

 

Selective mutism (SM), formerly called elective mutism, is best understood as a childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child or adolescent's inability to speak in one or more social settings (e.g., at school, in public places, with adults) despite being able to speak comfortably in other settings (e.g., at home with family).

 

Affected individuals understand language use and, although they have the physical and cognitive ability to speak, they demonstrate a persistent inability to speak in particular settings over a particular period of time due to anxiety. This differs from the developmentally appropriate behavior of a child with limited speaking and social interaction behaviors during the first month of school or daycare when he or she is adjusting to a new social environment with peers and teachers. SM also differs from shyness, which is a socially adaptable personality trait.

 

To meet diagnostic criteria, the child or adolescent with SM shows significant impairment in daily functioning, typically in educational or occupational settings, and by refraining from social participation at school and other settings due to a pronounced fear of speaking. Most affected children and adolescents function normally in other ways and learn age appropriate skills; however, some may have other comorbid anxiety disorders, developmental delays such as impaired social skills, and communication disorders in addition to SM.

 

It is seen as important that the term 'Selective' rather than 'Elective' is used in order to reinforce the fact that these children are not choosing not to speak. It is important that this disorder is never treated as stubbornness or bad behaviour.

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Guest littlemissblonde

Hi

I had a little girl with the same difficulties in Reception last year. Her problems began in Nursery and continued into Reception ( we are a Unit) She received support from and I was advised by a speech and language person who specialised in this area. The child concerned would often appear to be desperate to talk to staff. She used a lot of gestures and facial expressions to communicate. I was advised to try to identify what she wanted to tell me and almost speak for her, never to put any kind of pressure on her to talk and to explain to the other children that she was shy. She began to laugh when playing with other children and the breakthrough happened when she was invited by another child to come to tea after school. Because her real problem was talking at school and nowhere else this created a link between home and school and she started to talk at school immediately after this visit. Hope this helps

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Hi

 

I manage a pre-school and we had a little girl last year who had selective mutism. After time she spoke to adults in whispers, and then in a quiet voice, then eventually normally one to one and even quite loudly especially outside - we found she was happier and more physical outside. Does your child have a particular space he appears happier. We tried to encourage friendships, and eventually were successful with a particular friendship with an empathetic little girl, other children would give up trying to be friends after a while of not getting any feedback. So our situation was the reverse of yours in that our child liked adult interaction. However, the advice not to force the child to speak is excellent. The following website is also excellent.

 

http://www.talkformeaning.co.uk/

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