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.
I think one of the areas that we relied a lot on teachers advice for was on the question of should he have the work up and qualify for an IEP or 504 plan. I heard from parents that have children with disabilities or other conditions that they were put on a 504 or IEP depending on the condition. The parents called it the “ruby slippers” to getting the educational needs met of their children. Basically it gave them the legal standing to make or in some cases force accommodation and educational tailoring with in their school for their child.
What the teachers failied to tell me when I asked about 504 or IEP, was that I was asking for the wrong accommodations. My son was very bright, he was a good student in their mind, so thier advice to me was why label him, and therefore they recommended nothing should be done. They would make thier own accompations in the class room. That is what I heard year after year, teacher after teacher. Oh no … you really don’t want to do that, don’t label him, he is too bright.
In the spectrum, I learned in most cases the IEP and 504 are for lower performing or those needing accommodation. What I finally learned is that I should of been asking for was a gifted evaluation. Why the teachers did not say anything is interesting. I learned later they don’t like to loose their brightest students out of their classroom and wanted the opportunity to teach him. But it just was not working and he was not getting the education at the right level. Now he was so bored and we where loosing his attention.
I talked with other parents to figure it out. I later learned you can be designated gifted and also have an IEP and or a 504. The issue was education path. If he was first designated gifted, they would provide the right level of education, then apply the IEP to allow accommodations. If not the accommodation would be in a lower learning room or in the class room. Those programs are to slow the process down for learning not accommodate a high learner with additional needs.
Once I asked the right questions, the test was given and with his anxiety he did terribly on the test, as I expected. Put him in a new room with a strange teacher and he would not pass any test, let alone a gifted test. So they said he does not qualify, we could reapply in a year. Dead end.
The teachers later explained that the testing for gifted given at the school was only one test format and the goals was to keep the number of children who qualify down, since they do not get the funding to the levels needed for these program. The other area is they are not equipped, nor do they want to have a mixture of a high class level of students and a child with accommodations. I think it was a fact that they would need to change the way they teach and did not desire to do that.
They did give me a clue, that there were 10 total tests that the state would recognize, the school just would not give them, they chose the hardest one to pass to keep the numbers down. Nor would they pay the $1200 to test him privately. They basically said again, if we could afford it we should try that route. If not, he would not be accommodated.
So this put us in a world of he is so advanced, but the tests that the school needs a grade on says he did not qualify …so your basically stuck.
Should we invest in the tests outside? Why would the school not offer the other tests? It lead me on another road in this long journey to figure out how to get the right education to my child that fits for him, not the school district process. I had ideas, armed with options and wanted to not let this go. I call the state education board and learned some interesting facts…..
I would ask each year the teacher if this was something that should be done for my son. Their answer was, oh you don’t want to do that. He is far too smart and you really do not want him labeled.
Now this was confusing to me. In the end we did have him tested outside at great cost and he was tested as and designated as gifted, it was needed for him to be in the right setting for a selectively mute child to excel, not what the school district dictates for main stream students. This designation put him on the correct path and he excelled. It took a lot of our effort and our money, but it was so worth it.