I think a milestone should be added today to this blog. My son graduated Jr. High, will be a freshman next year and had a 4.0. For a kid who could not put two words together during pre school, this is a milestone.
He talks, he talks too much, he is popular, words that if you had asked me 10 years ago, I would of said how, he never speaks a word to any of his class mates. He has tons of friends today. The selective mutism never came back, but there are still hangovers to those days. He is a perfectionist and it is his way or the highway.
He will be a teacher, lawyer or preacher when he grows up, his word are so spot on. The kids at school call him Dr. >>>>, like Dr. Phil since he can tell them what in their life is not working and get them on the right track. Parents call him the voice of reason. They always know they can go to him to find out what really went on. Words are a big part of his life. He is a very good writer. It comes easily to him. Sometimes I think for all the early struggles, it should be easy. Time will tell.
I still sit in amazement at how far we have come and how many paths we went down. Always fearing every grade that it would re-appear, luckily it did not. How many teacher I had to train on what it was. How many feared it and tried to put him in a ” special class”. How many were annoyed that they would have to have a child with Selective Mutism who turned out to be gifted.
So instead of going down the path they wanted him to go, I had to bully my way up. I mean fight hard for him, fighting with the school administration, talking with state administrators who did not want to fund his alt test. Funding it ourselves and finding out we were right all along.
The point was he was not mute and dumb, he was selectively mute and brilliant. People have to learn the difference. Einstein did not speak until he was 5. That piece of info carried me through many a dark day. Helen Keller was blind deaf and mute, but not stupid. My son did not speak at school, but did at home, so I saw different child then they say everyday.
So my advice and why I wrote this blog was to help others, since I had no road map. Do not give up on your child, Dont’ ever give up, follow your gut, and do what you can do to make it right.
I have written this blog to chronicle for others the paths we took with our son who had Selective Mutism, it starts at the bottom of the posts and reads up. I have recently asked my son of what he remembers about the condition and would he remember at all that he was selectively mute?
It turns out he does remember and he remembers it in pieces, but not all pieces. He remembers not talking in school, but not that we took him to a psychologist. He remembers that we tried a lot of things, but is not sure what we did. He remembers teachers coming to visit at the house, but he did not remember that we had a family member who was a school teacher come to observe him in the classroom setting. It is a real patch work of memories.
I also came across a picture of him with other students in his preschool the other day and the blank look on his face was clearly there, and he was participating by hitting a pinata. This was so typical of a selectively mute child to participate but in silence. His face changed dramatically from happy engaged child driving to school to a blank expressionless zombie face every day he was in pre school.
He remembers it as the way he was, he remembers clearly when the mutism broke. He remembers when the things broke on the table and from that time on he could speak.
I will ask him to chronicle it from his remembrance when he is older. Someday I will ask him to add to the blog. But at the moment he is not looking back and his future is very bright. He already in jr. high knows he wants to go to college at Standford or Harvard and we know he has the will, the brains and the voice to get there.
When I started this blog I never imagined it would have as many who seek it out or that I would have so much to tell on the subject.
So yes we did remind our son that he had selective mutism and he was not bothered in the least.
Be sure to start at the beginning of the Archives in Feb and read forward by month to get the full picture of selective mutism, what happened and how it was overcome.
If there was an area that we should of done better, it would be with his teachers. They experienced first hand the condition of selective mutism and even after it has been diagnosed, they did not know what to do for it. They wanted to help and were not trained how. How to help? None of us knew.
They did try, but all were within the speaking world teaching methods, which I feel are not effective. They tried various methods like flash cards, did not work for my son. They tried incentives of candy and treats, no go. We sent others into the class room to observe. No help. Came for home visits, he did not speak to her at home. We video taped it in hopes that if he saw himself it might do something. Ditto, no change.
The question is DO SOMETHING, or is it better than ignore it? For months we ignored it at the school level, working on an outside solutions. We were ill equipped to work with his teachers. I learned over many years to be well prepared. Articles in a notebook to show the teachers it was an actual condition. I always did a meeting during the morning of the first day of school. I would show up one hour early to introduce him and to talk about selective mutism and what to expect. Some of his teachers where very open and glad I had come by, others looked at it as a bother and something else they were going to have to deal within their classroom.
I could always spot those teachers since they asked about an aide. An aide??? He does not speak, he will do everything you ask except answer you or speak to you or the other students. He would not answer the aide, so what good would that do. Will you be in the class room, they would ask. I can be there as much as you like, but it will not make a difference. How can we mark his progress if he does not speak? You will have to find creative ways to interact with him.
I just did not have the words myself to describe selective mutism to them in all its aspects. Does he have behavioral issues? No. Can I or other children catch it? No. What caused it? Something in has brain is shut down in the school setting.
The questions were endless. I had very few answers that were in detail. Once the selective mutism had been resolved the conversation with the teachers were almost disbelieving that he had selective mutism. We wanted to make them the early warning system to pick up on any behavior that would indicate it was coming back. They would always report at the parent teacher meeting how well spoken he was and how smart he was. They said they would like him to participate more. More …. to us it was great that we were even having this discussion about more participation.
They were more concerned that he was finishing the school year ahead of the other children and wanted to move him ahead a grade or move him to another school for the top gifted children, They got a big resounding NO from us on both accounts. But that was the issue that would be the crux of the issues for grade 1-6. Once he has his voice back, how much change do we want him to have?
I learned a lot and if a child is one grade above the school level the school in not obligated to teach the child at their level. That is a sad fact in our school systems today. They just expand the strands of learning. Thus we had to choose in our minds between keeping in place and speaking and getting them to teach him at this level. I never thought we would have to make that choice.
What was the school was willing to do? To them he seemed fine and advanced, so they just want me to go away. We had come so far and I would not give up. So what was next?