I wish to obtain some helpful advise from you regarding my daughter. P.. is now 7 years old and has been diagnosed with selective mutism by her current psychologist/therapist. She does not talk in school whether it be among peers or during class. Dealing with a large group overwhelms her. With this, she is often alone during class breaks although there is a group in her class who ‘sympathizes’ with her and have ‘adopted’ her as their groupmate. She of course finds it difficult to relate with her teachers. For example, she cannot even submit an excuse letter to her teacher face-to-face. She has to put it on the her teacher’s table before the latter arrives. Going to the toilet during class hours is also one of her problems. Rather than ask her teacher’s permission, she would just force herself to hold it. Several times, she has gone home wet and for a time was sick with Urinary Tract Infection. In general, she does not interact easily nor talk to strangers or new faces or to a large group. Her circle of comfort is our immediate family (she has 2 sisters), her grandparents and my sister, brother-in-law, brother and our household helpers. With us, she is a normal bubbly kid of her age. She is especially close to her younger sister (P.. is a middle child) who is 4.5 years old. My youngest daughter is outgoing and hence, P. most often uses her as a security blanket in unfamiliar social situations.
At the age of 2 we sent P. to a speech therapist since she still was not talking normally at that time. Her words were limited to Mommy and Daddy and very seldom would she want to express herself. She was very stubborn and when her wish was not granted, would lie on the floor which we thought was her way of attracting attention. After going to speech therapy for almost a year, her speech had greatly improved and her fits of anger also controlled. But she still was very shy and was not talking outside of the family circle. We then sent her to a psychologist and through therapy sessions starting with one-on-one and then to group settings, she was able to talk and be comfortable in that group. At this time, she was attending pre-school and was quite comfortable (although still shy) since she was in a class of maximum of 15 and the activities then were quite simple (mostly play). We stopped bringing her to therapy sessions when she was 5 years old since her therapist migrated to the U.S. and we could not find a good one at that time.
She is presently in Grade 1 and we feel she is not able to cope in her current school environment. She is in a class of 50 and every year the kids will be reshuffled among all the other kids of their level (total of 200). She has gone back (starting 5 months ago) to weekly play therapy sessions with a psychologist. I have talked to almost all her teachers to make them understand her behavior. The more difficult teachers still force her to recite which really traumatizes her. There was a whole week this school year where she was crying and did not want to go to school. She did not tell us why, but we later learned through her classmates that one of her teachers embarrassed her by telling all of them not to be like her who does not know how to talk. I have talked to the teacher since but the damage was done. My husband and I are seriously looking for a smaller school that will give her the opportunity for her to be happy and get out from her shell. We are eyeing a Montessori school that typically has a maximum of 25 students per class and whose teachers, hopefully will be more understanding. Her current therapist told us to defer the decision of transferring her to a new school until end of the school year since she might have been able to talk in class by then. Judging from my daughter’s behavior and from what I’ve read so far, I think this is not possible. Hence, we are almost sure of getting her a new school. We have involved our daughter in the decision making process and she has positively told us that she likes to be in the Montessori school than in her current school.
Are we doing the right thing? I also wish to obtain some more advice in dealing with our daughter. At home, she is a perfectly expressive, jolly and playful girl.
From the sound of your letter you certainly seem like you know what you are doing with your daughter. A bit of information, the wetting is common among many SM kids…this happens because our lil SM’s do not ask the use the bathroom and they literally get to the point where they can no longer hold it. The Urinary Tract Infections are most likely from your daughter holding in her urine for so long that the urine is literally backing up into the kidney, and causing REFLUX and possibly hydronephosis. You will need to make sure the teacher takes your daughter to the bathroom quite often.
I agree with you, a small Montessori school is a wonderful idea for your daughter. These children notoriously do much better in smaller, less structured classes. Reasons for this are obvious. My advice would be to pursue the private school and start taking your daughter there often, getting her used to the school. Take her when few people are around, and just let her get comfortable with the school environment. Engage her in conversation in the new school…and do this continuously until she starts school. Another bit of advice, try and speak to the principal about allowing your daughter to meet the other children before the new school year. Call the mom’s and arrange playdates with the new children. This way, your daughter will have gotten to know many of these kids before school, spoken to them already and will then carry this over into the new school!
Believe it or not, going to a whole new environment (such as school) may be enough enable your daughter to start speaking, I have seen this happen many times. The main reason for this, is that these NEW kids and teachers will not make a BIG DEAL when she talks…whereas in the school she is in now…everyone would probably bring a lot of attention to your daughter…a real ‘No, No’ to a SM kid!