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???

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