It is hard to believe the end of the school year is in sight and that summertime is almost here! Summer is often associated with spending time outdoors, a break from school, and most importantly FUN. The transition from school to summer can also lead to questions about how to maintain growth and progress for the child with Selective Mutism (SM) With the school routine on pause, summer is an important time to continue targeting speaking gains to make the transition back to school easier for you and your child. Consider these ideas to create a summer plan that balances fun with promoting brave talking with new people, situations, and activities.
1. School: Be sure to speak with your child’s school before the end of the year to identify next year’s teacher if possible. Ask for your child to meet the new teacher and if appropriate, conduct a fade-in to promote greater comfort and likelihood of verbalization when the new school year begins. Because this is not always possible, find out when you and your child can have access to school prior to the first day in order to ensure a smooth transition back to school. Visit school grounds over the summer and get your child comfortable speaking there by playing games and/or doing scavenger hunts. Even without access inside the building, you and your child can practice getting up early, getting dressed, putting their backpack on, and going to school as school approaches to play to help build comfort for when school is back in session.
2. Peer group/summer camps:
Some families consider whether an intensive treatment program might be a good fit for your child this summer. In addition to treatment programs, summer camp and other structured summer activities are a great forum for your child to flex their brave muscles and practice speaking in front peers. There are many different summer camp and peer group opportunities, so consider one that feels like the right fit for your family. There are often affordable options through a town’s recreation department. In order for camp to be enjoyable and also help your child maintain gains, it is helpful to meet with the camp staff so that you can provide information on your child and how they can best support her. If your family has used reinforcement plans for brave speaking in the school setting, you may consider modifying one for camp as well. Consider making a “tip sheet” with a few key tips for working with your child (include their likes, dislikes and things that help them warm up).
3. Plan activities (exposures) in your community that encourage speaking!
All of these below options can and should be modified depending on where your child is in terms of speaking. For example, your child may be answering questions in front of others or direct to others.
- Create a scavenger hunt list to bring to the pool, beach, park or other destination
- Set up a lemonade stand or yard sale
- Order ice cream or other food
- Visit a library and have your child practice speaking with a librarian, or set up a summer reading group
- Set up regular play dates
- Schedule a visit with extended family or friends
- Video chat people your child does not get to see often
- Sign up for classes that interest your child (e.g. gymnastics, music, swim)
- Check out programs at local recreation centers such as the YMCA
- Attend local farmer’s market or carnival
- Volunteer with local organizations and consider giving your child a role, such as taking tickets or welcoming people.
4. Get active! Children with SM become less inhibited when they are behaviorally engaged in high-energy activities. Bring out some bubbles, jump rope, have a catch, or set up a relay race in the backyard or the park with other kids.
It is never too early to start planning for a rewarding summer. Whatever you choose to do, remember to incorporate speaking opportunities. Get creative and have fun!
Lindsey Giller, PsyD; Child Mind Institute
Rachel Busman, PsyD, ABPP
Child Mind Institute