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 got a question from a reader that asked: If I recommended group sports for my child who had selective mutism. The answer for my child was Yes. I did enroll him in group sports. Some group sports where better to try than others, for a child with selective mutism. He did not speak at school, so as long as the children that he associated with at school did not participate, he spoke, if they were they were on this team he did not speak. Selective mustim has a strange line of speaking and non speaking. The coach was also part of the equation, a loud coach, he would not talk, a soft spoken coach, he would.
We tried all sorts of sports group and not group, in hopes it it would cause a break through with this speech. It did not, but he liked doing the activity.
Group sports where he was on a team and running in a group worked well. Soccer was our first try. He got lost in the group. Tag football, he loved it. Baseball, not so much. He could not handle the spotlight of him stepping up to the plate and swinging. Basketball was a good choice. He never yelled to get the ball. Lots of arm waving. Swimming not so much, same issue of the starting line focus was too much for him. Running, did not like it, he was fast but could not handle when he lost.
So all in all. See what your child is comfortable with. We started many seasons and did not finish. Others were great and he stayed all season and he grew a lot for having the experience.
The school year was drawing to a close and options were needed. Do we send him for an extra year of preschool, or as they say a “red shirt “ kindergartener? Do I try to find some other program that is willing to deal with the condition and try to improve it? The current preschool he was as just ignored it, as though it did not exist, was this a good thing or a bad thing. Did it allow the selective mutism to exist and continue since no one made a big deal of it. Would it be the same thing for the next year?
Encouraged by my neighbor, I called the school district to find out about the speech services my child even at 4 was entitled to. I called and spoke to the district coordinator and told her what the situation was with the selective mutism and told her I understood we qualified for services. Her reaction was …well …can you afford to do something privately? Yes. …Well then I would recommend you do that, because you are too affluent to be provided services….. what…. I am a tax paying person and why would I not be able to quality? There are much more needy people than you and we need the spaces for them. I thought this was for children with special needs. Yes and your child is not special needs. It is not classified as a need. What….her tone was very apologetic. Look you just do not fit the disorders we cover and do therapy for and you are better to find your own private resources. He does not qualify for speech therapy because he does not speak!
Again another dead end.
Months went by and no progress. I thought we could wait him out. In fact we could not. So we tried some experiments. If he would not talk to children in class and would talk to neighbor children, if we invite the child to our house, would he speak to them? No.
OK, then lets try it at their house. No.
OK, lets try the teacher coming to our house. No.
But there was a small win, we took the teacher into the other room to talk to her and he must of thought she left. What do we hear and what does she hear for the first time. His voice! She was shocked and said, you were not kidding he is articulate. He speaks in full sentences. Yes, we told you that was the case. She said, I know, but I just did not understand the level was as high functioning as a 1st or second grader. I have never heard him speak a word. I didn’t know.
This made this teacher, Miss R, even more determined to get him to speak in class. She felt he was missing out on so much and so did we.
When we arrived in school the next day, she had a butterfly key chain with all sorts of old funky keys. She gave it to our son as a gift and said these are your keys to speaking. I give them to you to unlock your talking. She told him it was to be used when he wanted to speak. Just open the door of his mind with the key. It was a wonderful gift, one my son has to this day. I had such hope it would be just the key needed to open up his world.
Unfortunately, it did not open the door to his speech, nothing changed. The school year was winding down and we knew we could not send him to kindergarten this way. There must be more options. We must be more open. What the keys turned out to be were more of a symbol for us, to open our minds to the keys that may solve the silence.
We stopped going to the Dr. for the play dates which is what it had become. He was still spelling S.O.R.R.Y , but he had return to his bad, instead of sleeping on the floor at our bed.
Medicines must not be our only option, but yet what.. what is the next step? How blind we felt, going on gut and faith that we would find an answer.