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Child Wont Speak To Adults


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We have a child in our setting who is nearly 5. When he first joined us in Sept he was painfully shy. I didn't worry too much at first thought once he got to know us he would be fine. By end of Oct he still wouldn't make eye contact with adults and if you spoke to him would put fingers in mouth and would simply nod or shake his head. I spoke to mum who wasn't concerned as she said he was fine at home. However this has continued. He is fine with other children will happily chat and somwtimes has to be told to be quiet for talking at inappropriate times. However he still does not speak to adults. He wont look at them and i have never been able to have a conversation with him. I am now really concerned and do not know what to do next.

Any ideas????

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I have had a few of these over the years. One way I've used is to talk as the child played along with someone they were comfortable with such as another child-You say aloud what they are doing, its called pole-bridging. You can sometimes catch a child out and they may add a comment . It is your opportunity to say that when the child spoke to you, it made you feel happy, and that you liked it. Then pass onto other children.

Some children do it as a control mechanism. I sometimes then tell them I think that it is rude to not reply to someone. However you have to be careful that you are speaking about the behaviour- not the child themselves.

Both of these ways have worked for me with different children. Other people may have other strategies.

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Guest DeborahF

I'm no expert on this at all and have never had experience of a child who displays this behaviour but just recently I've come across different bits of information about "selective mutism" and it sounds as though your child shows several of the signs of this condition. Maybe it would be worth your while to do a bit of research into this condition?

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Gently support and encourage, Lola. This sounds very much like the selective mute I have experienced and she didnt speak for the whole of her reception year! It was frustrating and the child I had displayed similar reactions to visitors in her own home. You may need to talk to the parents again and to your SENCo--there could be some support to be drawn upon.

Good luck.

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We have had a few children over the years that havent spoke to adult and then go over to school completly different.

And we also have a child who has selective mutism.

We often do as suggested and pole-bridging,trying not to worry i would ask your area senco for advice.

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Selective mutism - This was covered recently on the House of Tiny tearaways t.v. programme.

 

One strategy they used was for the adult to talk to the child through someone else. In the T.V. programme it was through the mum.

 

ie: Child playing with bricks next to mum, other adult came alongside, child stopped talking, even to mum, adult then turned away face / body but remained next to other side of mum. As the child relaxed the following strategy was used:

 

A to M " Mum can you ask Tom if he can find the yellow brick?

M - T " Tom, Tania say's can you find the yellow brick?"

Tom picks up the yellow brick and shows it to mum

T-M " Toms found the yellow brick, I wander what he will build with it?"

M-T " Tania is wondering what you will build with your yellow brick"

 

this carried on with mum as the go between, for a while, until Tom spoke a reply, using eye contact, directly to Tania. ( past his mum)

 

 

The 'conversation' was relaxed, non testing, jokey, praise and fun. This event happened after the child had been in the house for 4 days. The child initially would only talk to parents when not with others, then he spoke to children but not other adults. He had been selective mute for quite a few years.

 

Tania, the 'expert' described how the child has a kind of phobia about hearing his own voice in certain social contexts ( ie: school / adults only) and needs gentle, non threatening support. She said it is not a case of attention seeking, if anything it is the opposite.

There are other strategies such as using puppets as go betweens which has been discussed on the forum before.

 

maybe do a google search on Selective Mutism, for other strategies that may help. I am personally not aware of any adults who have selective mutism so it is most likely that this child will also grow out of this condition. :D

 

Peggy

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My son did this, used to hide his head when spoken to by an adult at school, but at home very articulate, speaker who never stopped. They were patient and did not force him, and it continued into year 1, but he was obviously learning by the way he spoke at home, good links with parents were important to the school as it was the only way they knew how he was doing, except by observing him in class, which he noticed they were doing and immediately stopped playing!!

 

He was lucky in school noticing his progressing confidence with 1 teacher and were able to keep him in a mixed year class so he could stay with er another year, he took off from that and never looked back, took a lot of patience on her part but for him it worked, if anyone tried to push or make him it just made him worse .

 

(now a confident adult not worried about speaking in front of large groups, unlike most of us)

 

Inge

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we had a child like this a few years ago now, spoke at home but for the first year would not speak to staff or other children, then very slowly started to speak to key worker and a few children but left us to go to school and went back to square one... have a sibling now who is very chatty and said child is now quiet and slightly reserved at scool but communicating well. :)

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Guest DeborahF

Yes, there's an article on Selective Mutism in the November issue of Early Years Educator - at a glance it looks quite good.

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