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, 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!