Not everyone has the confidence to speak everywhere...

Selective Mutism is an anxiety disorder in which affected children speak fluently in some situations but remain silent in others. The condition is known to begin early in life and can be transitory, such as on starting school or being admitted to hospital, but in rare cases it can persist right through a child's school life.

These children usually do not talk to their teachers and may also be silent with their peers, although they do communicate non-verbally. Other combinations of non-speaking can also occur, affecting specific members of the childs family. Often the child has no other identifiable problems and converses freely at home or with close friends. He/she usually makes age-appropriate progressat school in areas where speaking is not required.

The essential feature of Selective Mutism is the persistant failure to speak in specific social situations (e.g. at school, with peers and/or the teacher), despite being able to speak in other, morefamiliar situations.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

It's The Most Frustrating Time of The Year!

I've been rubbish at posting...I'm sorry! But I'm back and on form to continue the story of our journey.

After the excitement of Isla's birthday we had Christmas to contend with. Both the children were busy writing thank you letters for Santa, we bought a new tree and decorations, chose Christmas presents for the grandparents and had lots of fun joining in the festivities.

Our trip to see Santa at the beginning of December was a bit of a failure. Isla was so anxious about seeing Santa she waas rigid with fear in the queue and wouldn't let go of Allan. Once we were inside the grotto it took a lot of persuasion from me to get her to go and sit on the throne next to Santa. Kimi sat nearest to him, with Isla on the other side. Kimi was quite happy to chat away to him, telling him what she'd like him to bring on Christmas Eve. When he started asking Isla questions she froze and couldn't even look him in the eye. Kimi gave her a few seconds to answer and then spoke for her. "She wants Sylvanians," she said. Isla continued looking at the floor. Santa asked Isla if that was what she wanted. She couldn't even nod her head. There was no attempt at communication at all. I simply said to Santa, "I'm sure she'd love that, thank you." The girls were allowed to choose a gift each before leaving the grotto. Kimi had to pick one for Isla. She just couldn't do it herself.

We were a bit unsure about what would be happening on Christmas Day due to the nature of my job. We provide care 365 days a year, and working my normal days I should have been at work although I had requested it off. We decided rather than chance it we would celebrate our Christmas Day on Christmas Eve instead, and Kimi would go to her Dad's on Christmas Day to spend it with him, just in case I did have to work. And really, I'm quite glad we made that decision.

On 'Our Christmas Day' the girls woke up so excited to see what Santa had brought them (he'd made a special delivery just for them because Kimi had asked him very politely!). The 4 of us sat in the living room, Allan and I enjoying the kids anticipation, excitement and enthusiasm with every gift they opened. They ate chocolate for breakfast (why not, it's not Christmas Day every day!) and once all the presents had been opened we snuggled on the sofa and watched films. My Mum and sister popped round for an hour to give the girls their gifts. During that time Isla was silent, but in a relaxed way. She was unable to say thank you for her presents, but she nodded her head when I asked her if she'd write a thank you letter after Christmas instead. Once they'd gone home we got the turkey on to cook. The girls had a lovely couple of hours playing with their new toys and listening to Christmas songs. We had a relaxed dinner together and spent the evening watching the new dvd's Santa had brought. We'd spent the whole day in our pyjamas with no pressure or expectations on any of us to do anything. It was a perfect Christmas.

The 'Real' Christmas Day was a complete contrast. As it turned out I didn't have to work. So my parents invited Allan, Isla and myself to have dinner with them. Isla put on her new party dress and was looking forward to seeing her grandparents and taking them their gifts. Once we got there though the anxiety was the only thing that was noticable. My nephew C was hyperactive, running through the house like a mad thing. Both my sisters were there, as well as my Mum and Dad, not to mention the 3 dogs! The house was frantic with activity. We sat down with a drink before dinner, Isla stuck like glue to my side, not saying a word to anyone. My family kept trying to ask her questions, and instead of replying she would bury her head under my arm, not willing to look at anyone. Once at the dinner table my Mum asked her "Do you want beef or gammon for dinner?". Isla just looked at her with a blank expression on her face. "Beef or gammon?" Mum repeated. I started to get annoyed. I had to explain to my Mum that there's no point in asking Isla a question where she has to make a choice. She had to try and phrase the question differently so that Isla would be able to answer. I asked Isla "Do you want beef for dinner?". Isla shook her head. I asked her "Would you like gammon?", to which she nodded in reply. Problem solved. It just takes a bit more thought before asking things. It was like that for the rest of the meal, Mum trying really hard to ask answerable questions to Isla, and Isla not speaking.

After dinner my nephew's dad arrived bringing gifts for him. This made C even more excited than he been earlier in the day, and Isla even more withdrawn. Everyone could feel the tension in the room, and it was all caused by the fact a 4 year old wouldn't speak. Ridiculus right?  I was so stressed from trying to shield my daughter from the anxiety she so obviously felt, but it's harder said than done. We made our excuses and left, without Isla saying goodbye. The 5 hours we had spent at my parents that day were the worst I'd felt in a long time, honestly the worst Christmas I'd spent ever. And I know Isla felt bad about how the day had gone as well. We were exhausted by the time we got home and I'm sure it was through the frustration we'd all felt.

Boxing day was a better day, and the difference in Isla was amazing. We went to see Allan's parents for the day. We walked into a calm, quiet house, and Isla immediately started telling them what presents she'd been given and how much chocolate she'd eaten. She was so at ease with her paternal grandparents, and they never put any pressure on her to talk. She would approach them if she wanted to ask or tell them something, and if she didn't want to talk, they were quite happy to let her just sit quietly. It was definitly the right sort of day we all needed after the stress of the day before. Now though I've got the worry of...What's going to happen this year???

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A Silent Birthday!

I am so sorry it's taken so long for this 'chapter'. We have found ourselves with illnesses galore and loads of stuff to do. I've hardly had 2 minutes to think!

Once I'd been told that Isla was suffering with SM our first hurdle to overcome was her birthday at the end of November. She was adamant that she wanted a party at a childrens play centre with everyone from nursery. She enjoys going there, the parties are fun, but I was so worried that she would feel under pressure from everyone to speak. We had a talk with her and told her that we didn't have enough pennies for a big party, so would she like a little tea party at home instead. We didn't mention anything about the fact that she would need to talk. Strangely enough she agreed to a small party and immediately started planning it.

She would tell me the friends she wanted to invite, the games she wanted to play, the food she wanted to eat. We spent many hours on the internet looking for party things. She changed her mind that many times I was scared that once I'd bought everything we needed she would change her mind again. Fortunately she didn't! So in the end it was a Hello Kitty theme.

The SLT (Speech and Language Therapist) had advised that it would probably be best to just have a few children to the party so as not to overwhelm her, and that hopefully , in her home environment, she might start some communication with them. We ended up inviting 3 children from nursery and my friends little girl, and we also had Kimi at home due to the school strikes.

On the morning of her birthday Isla was so excited. She woke up early, eager to see what presents she had been bought. She was full of chatter and excitement and loved everything she had been given.

Once the presents had been opened and we'd had breakfast we decided to take the children out shopping. Isla was determined to buy some new trainers with her birthday money (at 4 she already has a great love of shoes much to her Dad's disgust!). We had our friends daughter with us aswell, so off we went to the Designer Outlet. In the shoe shop Isla pointed to the shoes she wanted to try on and could only shake or nod her head when the assistant asked her questions. She paid for the trainers herself (with me lifting her up to the counter!), but couldn't say thank you and was reluctant to take the receipt. She left the shop in silence. We went to a cafe for a drink and gingerbread snowman before home, but she still sat in silence while the other two chattered away between themselves.

Once we were home though her attitude changed. She got changed into her party dress. I put some music on, and she was singing and dancing away without a care in the world. The moment her first friend arrived though she became silent again and stuck like glue to my side. Her other two friends arrived with parents in tow. I could feel how anxious she had become, but didn't make a fuss about it, just sat on the floor with her. I was quite thankful I had Kimi there as well because she was fantastic in getting the younger children to play and interact with each other, even if they were quiet whilst doing it!

We played a few party games...pass the parcel, musical bumps and pin the bow on Kitty. I also put my creative skills to the test and did a spot of face painting. Isla was quite happy to participate in everything, but it was all done in silence. The food was eaten in silence and then we had the birthday cake. It was mainly the adults that were singing 'Happy Birthday', though the children did try to join in. We had a bit of a tense moment when we got to the end of the song and Isla had to blow out the candles. Because it meant she had to use her mouth she was reluctant to do it, so after waiting a few seconds I had to shout 'Everyone blow out the candles' and all the children helped Isla. She did manage a smile, but I could see that she was a bit fed up.

Once everyone had gone she told me that she had really enjoyed her birthday party and that she wanted another one. I told her that was fine, but she would have to wait a year for it first.I was exhausted by the end of the day, but I really don't know why. It was the most quiet and serene childrens birthday party I have ever been to!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


The first term Isla spent at her nursery went without event. She went to school happy most mornings, and always came home with a smile on her face, quite often with a painting or a junk model. Her teachers weren't pushing her to talk, but she still went through every day in silence. Once she was at home though I couldn't shut her up! She would sit at the table with her lunch and chatter away about the things that she'd been doing and the children she'd played with. She also enjoyed make believe play in the afternoon, where she would have conversations with Sarah Bear or Baby.

By the end of the term though she hadn't said a word at nursery. We'd ask her why she didn't talk at nursery, and her reply every time was 'I'll talk at nursery when I'm a big girl. I'll be big when I'm 4.' We'd go for days out through the summer holidays, and I noticed that when we were out, more often than not Isla wouldn't talk. She was unable to thank people for things, she couldn't tell waiters what she wanted for dinner, and more upsetting for me, she couldn't speak to my friends or their kids. And when she was acting rude like that I would punish her. She wouldn't get a bun at the bakers because she couldn't say thank you. She would be sat in the corner at soft play because she was being rude. One day I walked her outside in her socks becuase she threw a tantrum over not speaking, kicking and screaming because she wouldn't say please.Once she realised I was taking her to the car she apologised, then I let her go play.

As the 6 week holidays were coming to an end Isla started worrying about going back to nursery. She'd tell me she didn't like going, she didn't like her teachers. She tried lots of excuses for not going, but I told her that I don't always like going to work but I've got to do it. The first day back was the hardest. Isla didn't say a word the whole way to school, and I could feel her body tense when we walked through the school gate. She was greeted with a big smile from her teacher, and although her face didn't change from the fear it showed, she took the teachers hand and went to the waving window to see me off.

After 4 weeks back at nursery her teachers raised their concerns with me. She still hadn't spoken at nursery, though she had started to make silent friendships with a couple of the new starters. They recommended I take her to a Speech and Language drop-in session at the local children's centre. Unsure what to expect when we got there I was pleasantly surprised. I gave our details to a lady, who then sent a speech therapist over to have a chat with us. I told her about Isla's teachers concerns, and what had been happening with Isla's lack of speech, and she immediately told me it sounded like Selective Mutism (SM). She said she'd put in a refferal for Isla to see a speech therapist at a clinic so that she could be properly assessed.

The assessment day came, and Isla's SLT (Speech and Language Therapist) confirmed that she does suffer with SM. And now, we are trying to overcome it.

Monday, 23 January 2012

More Changes!

Isla started at pre-school in the spring term 2011. I had fore-warned them about Isla's silence at Dee's but was hoping that with a bit more social interaction she would open up more. Isla already knew a couple of children there from going to Dee's, but she seemed reluctant to join in with the activities on offer. The staff at the pre-school didn't seem to communicate well with each other though. There were a number of occasions when a staff member would pull me to one side at pick-up time and say 'Isla hasn't said anything today. Does she talk at home?' I began to get annoyed, having to repeat myself over and over again, 'Yes, I can't shut her up at home. She's a little bossy boots who likes to speak her mind!'. Nothing else was ever said about any concerns they had, but she didn't stay there very long anyway.

In February 2011, we were offered a new house. A gorgeous 2-bed with front and back gardens. We felt so lucky to have the chance of our own place again, so we accepted it. We stayed on at Mum's for another couple of weeks while we decorated the bedrooms and had carpets fitted. We moved in at the begginning of March, and couldn't have been happier. The children were sharing a bedroom, so we had got them bunk-beds, Kimi on the top, Isla on the bottom. We were a bit worried about how they would cope in their new beds. Isla had spent 10 months on a mattress on the floor, and Kimi in a junior cot bed! They loved it though. They'd picked their own wall colours, and finally had all their toys back from storage.

For the next few weeks, we carried on as we had been. I was dropping the kids off at Dee's on the other side of York, she was taking them to school, I was picking Isla up, spending an hour at Mum's,picking Kimi up, then going home. It seemed the best way. Kimi was at one of the best schools in York, and I didn't really want to disrupt them any more than I had to. I was working in the village anyway, so it made sense to keep them where they were. Until Allan changed jobs...

Allan found a new job that he enjoyed more and that paid better. It made sense for him to take it when they offered it to him. But it meant he needed our one car. The car that I needed for work. The car that I was using to ferry the kids over the city and back 5 days a week. And so I had to change my working hours. And the girls had to change school and pre-school.

They started their new school and nursery in the summer term 2011. I was at home through the day now, able to walk them there and pick them up again, then I went out to work in the evenings. Kimi settled into her school amazingly well. I was so pleased. It was her third school in a year, and she was only just 6. I'd really worried that all the upheaveal would affect her schoolwork but her teacher said that she fitted straight in, and she didn't stand out as the new girl. Isla took longer though.. She looked forward to going to nursery, but she was very apprehensive about it. The more she went though, the easier it became. She was happy going (as long as Sarah Bear went as well). The more she saw of the teachers, the more relaxed she became when we arrived. She became less clingy to me, and was quite happy to go and stand at the 'waving window' when I left. I had told her new teachers about the 'not-talking'. They didn't seem fazed by it, and simply told me that they would see what happened.

And that's more or less where we are now, where the serious stuff begins.

Saturday, 21 January 2012


Trying to find a childminder in the village we were living in was an almost impossible task. I rang quite a few before I found the number for Dee. And the first time we met her, she put us completely at ease. She sat on the floor, and while nattering to me she engaged in play with Isla. Isla spent that first meeting making cups of tea, and brushing Dee's hair. She was talking to her, although not a lot, words were coming out of her mouth and she was having a conversation. I was happy. Isla was content. I was sure Kimi would love Dee too. So, on the 23rd August 2010, I dropped the kids off with their new minder, and I started my new job.

That first week went quite well. I was enjoying work, and the children seemed to be settling at Dee's. The one problem we had was that Isla refused to go to the toilet the whole time she was there. We had started potty training Isla earlier in the summer. She was doing really well, had only had a couple of accidents. But she was going nearly 8 hours every day without even attempting to have a wee. Yet as soon as we got home from picking her up, it was a mad dash to the loo before she wet herself. Talking about it with Dee we agreed that she would try and persuade her to go to the toilet a couple of times through the day, but the next time she went it was the same story. The day we were going shopping straight from Dee's house, I decided Isla had to have a wee before we went. I didn't want her to have an accident in the car, and I was sure she wouldn't last the 20 minutes to get to the supermarket. I put her on the toilet and stood with her. She had silent tears rolling down her face. I felt mean, making her do something she obviously didn't want to do, but I knew she had to have a wee.

For the next few days after that, every time we mentioned the toilet to Isla, she seemed to freeze and go silent. It is this time I am sure, that she started with her mutism. Every day Isla would chatter away in the car about what she was going to do Dee's house, but as soon as we pulled up outside she would go silent. She was happy though. She would walk into the house full of smiles for Dee, and would fuss over the baby she was also looking after. There was never any concerns in her enjoyment there. She always came home smiling aswell. She just went through every day in silence.

Dee managed though. The two of them developed their own special sign language, Isla rubbing her tummy when she was hungry, or standing as close as possible to Dee when she wanted a hug. Dee seemed to know what Isla wanted without her having to talk. And the baby loved the attention from Isla, even though she didn't verbally communicate with him.

After 5 months of silence at Dee's I thought that starting Isla at pre-school might help her come out of her shell. I enrolled her, and waited for her strat date at the beginning of the spring term...

Friday, 20 January 2012


Right then, let's start we we left off yesterday.

Isla had always been a 'normal' toddler. She would have the odd tantrum and argue with her sister over toys. When we moved house her tantrums became a daily occurence, and it wouldn't be once a day, it could happen 7, 8, 9 times, sometimes more. She would suddenly go into a rage over having been given the wrong bowl at breakfast, or I'd chosen the wrong colour pants for her to wear. She would shout and scream at my nephew, C, if he started playing with one of her toys. When she was in a mood like that, no one could do anything about it, and she would cry, scream, hit and kick until all of her frustration had abated.

It upset me, seeing my little girl like that. Kimi had been such a placid baby, and a happy little girl. Isla was the complete opposite. I know people always say no two children are ever the same, but to have such a contrast between the two of them was shocking. I was told that I was too soft with Isla, that I was letting her get away with too much. I tried my hardest with her, to help her not have tantrums, but how do you do that with a 2-year-old? I was constantly tired as well, which I suppose didn't help, but at the time I was working 3 night shifts a week, and looking after the kids through the day. I didn't sleep much!

I decided to send Isla to a playgroup, just twice a week so that I could get a couple of hours sleep after I'd been working. We went to have a look around. It seemed nice enough and the staff were friendly, but Isla clung to me like a limpet. After her first session the play leader took me to one side. 'She hasn't really done anything all day. She didn't want to play, and she hasn't said a word,' she said to me. I didn't really think anything of it. It was the first day in a strange place, with strange people and strange toys. I had sort of expected her to be a bit quiet that day. But it carried on the next time she went, and the next, and the next.

I was struggling with the travelling to and from my night shift. I didn't like the half hour drive I had to face at the end of my shift. I had to look for a new job, something closer to mum's where we were living. That's when I applied for my home care post. The problem was...I was now to work 4 mornings a week when I should have been looking after Isla at home. That's when we met Dee...

I'll carry that story on tomorrow!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

All About Us!

I think I'd better start by telling you a bit about us, just so you can understand our situation a bit better. There are four of us in our family...myself, my husband Allan, Kimi, my 6-(nearly 7)-year-old independant little supergirl (my daughter from a previous relationship) and Isla, our 4-year-old noisy but quiet (!) princess. There's also the dog, Keeta, and the hamster, Hammy, who the girls count in our family numbers.

I found out I was expecting Isla 3 days after we had had moved into our new house, only 10 months after Allan and I had got together. We knew it was going to be a struggle financially, but were thrilled at the thought of a new addition to the family. We had help from both our families and spent 8 months getting ready for the arrival, decorating the new house, buying baby paraphenalia and talking to Kimi about having a baby to help look after.

Isla arrived at 11:59pm on the 30th November 2007 (and Allan being a man had wanted me to stop pushing so that she would be a December baby like him. I mean...really!). We loved having this new little girl in our life, and certainly wouldn't change her for the world. Things got hard though. We started struggling with money, bills weren't getting paid, we missed mortgage payments and were living hand to mouth. We simply didn't have enough money.

After nearly 2 and a half years struggling, we ended up having our house repossessed. It was the worst time of my life, without a doubt. We were served with an eviction notice, and we didn't know where we were going to go. We applied to the council for  house and were told we would have to go into temporary accomodation. Speaking to my mum she said I couldn't do that to the children. The solution...we all moved in with her (and my dad, my sister and my nephew). So, on the 7th April 2010, we packed our bags and left the house we had lived in for 3 years, the only house Isla had known, and moved to a little village just outside York.

It was this day we moved I noticed the change in Isla. Little things to start with, but over the next 18 months things that became more obvious. She began to have the most horrendous temper tantrums. All I thought was 'It's the terrible two's. It'll settle down.' But it didn't. It was just the beginning of her going downhill.

Well, that's the start of the story. I'll carry on tomorrow so you don't get too bored reading about our dreary life! Bye for now x

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


Two months ago I was told by a Speech and Language Therapist that my daughter has Selective Mutism (SM). Until this time I'd never heard of the condition. I'd spent 18 months thinking that my daughter was being difficult, ignorant and playing me up. At times I'd thought she was misbehaving and being extremely rude. I would shout at her and punish her for being naughty. The guilt I felt when I walked out of the clinic on that cold and wet November morning was overwhelming. My 4-year-old suffers with severe social anxiety. It's not that she won't's that she physically can't. This blog is our journey, and we'll overcome her fears together.