New student with selective mutism...only speaks at home, (sometimes) to other kids...

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by Em_Catz, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. Em_Catz

    Em_Catz Devotee

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    Feb 2, 2013

    On Monday, I'm getting a new student who has selective mutism. Her teacher from the old school went above and beyond by contacting me on Thursday evening :thumb: and explaining the situation to help make the transition smoother.

    No one, not even the seasoned teachers at my school, have experienced a child like this before, so hopefully you all have advice.

    The Facts -

    1. As far as we know, the child has never been abused, nor witnessed any sort of trauma. (I was reading up on S.M. and it said that's a common misconception -- that S.M. is a severe form of social anxiety disorder)

    2. The child talks normally at home where he lives with parents and an older sister (the teacher said when the sister picked him up from class and they were walking to the bus, she trailed them and overheard the child speaking normally about his day. However, as soon as the child saw the teacher, he stopped speaking)

    3. He will NOT speak to teachers, or any adults at the school. He does speak to the other children, but not in the way that kids are loud and chatty. He may say something quietly to one other child. But all the kids in the class are aware that "Johnny doesn't talk".

    4. No one knows what he really knows because he doesn't respond verbally or express himself by writing or drawing. They think he's a little bit below grade level, but not much.

    5. When he gets upset or hurt and is crying, he won't say what is wrong. Another child used to "translate" for him

    I've done some reading on S.M, online and it said not to try and make the child talk, to understand that they're really afraid and not to make a big deal of it or bribe them. They said even if the child does speak, not to make a big deal of it. To just act normal. I was debating if when the child comes in, should I -

    1. Introduce myself to the child as I would any other and have him sit down and start teaching

    2. After introduction, find a point where I can pull the child aside and say, "I understand it's hard for you to talk and that's okay. I know you can hear me and you're answering in your head and that's fine. It's hard for me to talk sometimes too. (Which is true. I have social anxiety and when I get upset I shut down and it feels like my jaw is hinged shut)
    then go back to the regular day.

    I don't want to be an enabler, so I am nervous about # 2
     
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  3. letsteach

    letsteach Comrade

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    Feb 2, 2013

    I had a child like that in my class 3 years ago. Once I read up on SM I just treated him the same as the others and put no pressure on him to talk. The more you try to get them to talk, the more they clam up. SM can be a controlling mechanism, they control communication.

    My student arrived mid year, the other children knew he didn't talk but when he started to talk to them (not me) they were excited. I didn't react with excitement, I told them I knew he could talk. Every afternoon I said 'Bye' as he went out the door and one afternoon (his sister had come to my class to collect him) he turned round and said, "Bye'. Again I didn't react, but inside I was whooping it up with a smile (the look on his face indicated that he'd forgotten to be mute). By the end of the year he said to me, "Paul hit Tommy", I really wasn't bothered about the hitting, I was so excited that he had come and spoken 3 words to me. I felt we were making progress, he was feeling secure.

    I made allowances in reading. When testing sightwords I had to read the sightwords (they were on cards spread on the floor) and he had to point to the word. I also relied on mum to do the homereading as there was no way he would read to me.

    When he moved into the next grade he totally regressed. The teacher threatened to send him back to my class if he didn't talk:(

    Treat him like the other children, don't pressure him to talk, make him feel safe, secure and welcomed.
     
  4. Cicero

    Cicero Companion

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    Feb 2, 2013

    I have a student who has SM. I volunteer to talk for her when I am having students share their written work. We do a lot of group work though and I feel like I am disserving her, because she does not speak enough to contribute to the group. I have been told by her mother that she really enjoys my class, however, so hopefully that means she doesn't feel left out. If you have any good strategies as you welcome your student, I would be interested to hear how things go.
     
  5. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Feb 2, 2013

    I had a student like this for two years (2nd and 3rd grade-she looped with me) she had understanding, patient and loving teachers throughout her elementary years...by 3rd grade she was starting to use her voice...it took a lot of trust building.:love:
     
  6. brigidy

    brigidy Comrade

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    Feb 2, 2013

    I taught a student like that a few years ago. At the beginning of the year, she didn't talk or smile. Toward the end of the year she did start smiling at me, she even said a few words - whispering them in my ear. I don't remember her speaking to any students at all. When the other kids would ask me about her not speaking I would just say "Sometimes I don't feel like talking either". My heart broke for her because she seemed so lonely.

    Like "Letsteach" I never made her read aloud or make it seem like a big deal that she didn't talk.
     
  7. Marylander

    Marylander Rookie

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    Feb 2, 2013

    I think your steps one and two are the perfect way to proceed with this child. He will know that you understand and, hopefully, will feel welcome. Just be yourself and teach as always. Selective mutism is a psychiatric disorder, and you need to be understanding. Does your school have a counselor who could work with you when you have questions or need help?
     
  8. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    Feb 2, 2013

    I agree with all the other posters. We have also had children with selective mutism. Some had 504 plans. See if this child has one.

    None of them refused to write. That doesn't sound like part of the selective mutism disability; in my opinion, and i could be wrong, refusal to write could stem from other issues.

    All of our students have performed at grade level or even at a gifted level. If they would have refused to do written work, they were graded accordingly.
     
  9. ktdclark

    ktdclark Comrade

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    Feb 2, 2013

    I had a sm a few years ago...another teacher on my team scared her out of her class by calling her "disrespectful" for not answering on the first day of school. (Insert eye roll!)

    I loved having her! She never spoke to me but I did tell her that in order for me to help her when she was having problems, I needed her to write down her concerns so she kept a little notebook and would write down any questions or problems she was having. Her mom recorded her reading at home so I could hear her fluency.Kids were super respectful, she was a sweet little girl and I did NOT make a big deal about her sm. I did joke with her sometimes by asking her to "please be quiet"-she would giggle:)
    Her sister was in my class the following year--she made up for the lack of talking:rolleyes:

    I think your plan sounds spot on! Enjoy!
     
  10. MissD59

    MissD59 Comrade

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    Feb 2, 2013

    I have a sm in my class now. He is a triplet, and talks at home with mom and dad and his siblings. He talks to the other children, but will not speak to the teacher or myself. He got a bloody nose in class once, and even with blood streaming down his face, he refused to raise his hand or make a sound. In fact, one time, he and another student bumped heads in the cubby quite hard by accident, and he was sobbing silently with tears streaming down his face.

    Now it is midway through the year, and he will nod his head to yes and no questions. We even are getting him to sort of hum (mmm hmm) for yes or (mmm mmm) for no. While he used to go silent when he realized we were nearby, he now talks to the other kids in our vicinity. He's quite shy about his writing, some days he will let me read it and work with him, other days he will flip the paper over.

    We don't pressure him to speak, nor do we make a big deal out of it. If the other children say "X doesn't talk" during a special to the teacher, I am quick to correct with, "X does speak."

    One thing we had to think about is how we set up our classroom. In the past, the teacher did not have a sign out sheet for the bathroom in second grade, but now she does. We also have a lunch count where the children move their names to their lunch choice so that no one has to verbalize what they would like. Little things like must be kept in mind.

    I treat him like the other students in my class, and I've noticed that he is slowly coming out of his shell around me. I don't coax him out of it, though. He's a sweet kid, he has a lot of friends and is a GREAT athlete. A lot of SM seems to be a mystery, though. His is anxiety related.
     
  11. Ms B IL

    Ms B IL Rookie

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    Feb 2, 2013

    My little sister is fifteen and has had Selective Mutism her entire life. There are only five people that she regularly speaks to and has since she began to talk. Occassionally, she can speak to good friends, but that is not a regular thing. Also, especially when she was younger, if adults around her would just pretend they could not hear her talking she would become more comfortable talking near them and sometimes address comments intended for them to hear to kids around the adult. Even now, if my boyfriend ignores her talking, she'll talk to me in the same room (quietly) when we visit.

    Surprisingly, she is quite social and communicative. Trying to get her to talk has only ever resulted in regression. For awhile my step-dad (her dad) tried to get her to talk with bribes of things she really, really wanted and there was nothing she could do. Letting her know that you understand and that it is hard for you too would only have put her at ease, but would not have "enabled" her. Kids with Selective Mutism usually really wish they could just talk and be normal.

    Texting has really made my sister be able to have friends. She can communicate with friends that way or even type out messages to other people when she can't talk. My parents have considered getting her a tablet that she can use, especially as she gets older or goes to college, to communicate in classes.

    If her peers and teachers had just assumed that all communication had to be verbal, she would have been a lonely girl. And would have been held back in school (as her Elementary School tired to do once) even when she was excelling academically because she could not meet some of the standards. Eventually, they tried things like letting her record speeches or reading out loud either at home or in another room with another student she would talk to-- sometimes that works for her and sometimes she can't even do that.

    Have you watched to make sure the child eats at school? For a long time my sister could not eat around strangers as part of her Selective Mutism/anxiety. Until a teacher told my mom she just did not eat breakfast or lunch at all.

    I feel like I was all over the place there :sorry:
     
  12. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Feb 2, 2013

    I had a student last year in my French class. I agree with everything that's been said, not making a big deal when they do talk, and talking to them like you would any other child ("Good morning Suzie! Have a nice weekend, Suzie"). I reall struggled, because my French class is all based on oral communication. Luckily, she was able to speak with some of her peers, so I would partner them up. She would sometimes use them to translate for her. (She would whisper in their ear, and they would say it out loud.) She would also do written work for me with no problem, so I just figured she could do the work. Also, I was able to see her participate if we were doing French songs, and if I asked her to do something in French (turn off the lights, shut the door, etc.) she could always do it.
     
  13. Em_Catz

    Em_Catz Devotee

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    Feb 2, 2013

    So...I started doing more reading after going through all these posts and now I'm more confused than ever. I thought telling the child that I understand he ca speak and that he's answering me in his head and that I sometimes have trouble talking to was the best route.

    However, now I am reading an article that says you should not tell the child it is okay for him not to speak because it enables the behaviors and gives him the false impression that society is going to bend to meet his needs, rather than him needing to bend to fit into society. I'm so confused (and admittedly ticked off that I have to come to you all for this issue because our Guidance Counselor is useless :mad:)
     
  14. Go 4th

    Go 4th Habitué

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    Feb 2, 2013

    Em, I had a sm last year. She was also EBD. I would advise to have a meeting with the parents as soon as possible so that you know how they are addressing the issue at home. They may not want him to think its ok not to talk.

    I used a magna doodle in class for my student. My kiddo actually did talk to the students at times so that made things easier on the kids. She did cuss at me at one point and I just told her I was honored that she shared her voice with me. :) she didn't do it again.

    I would tell my student the question I wanted her to answer, give her time to write out a response, and the. Come back to her when she signaled that she was ready or when I felt adequate time was given.

    I stayed in constant communication with mom because the child would share things with her about the day that I needed to know....if she really did or did not understand a concept, etc.

    Good luck with your student. Teaching my sm was a highlight for me. On the last day of school, she said a sentence to me. I cried like a baby and told her how honored I was that she trusted me with her voice.
     
  15. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 2, 2013

    I have 4 students who have some SM this year. For two students, it can really depend on the activity or time or day. For two students, it really is all day.

    I have reassured them that I know it is difficult for them to talk. I have allowed them participate nonverbally instead of speaking. I give them a pass on morning message/calendar. With two students, the SM is becoming less and less everyday. You almost wouldn't know that this is how they started the school year. With the other two, it's a bit more tricky. They will speak very very quietly to other students occasionally. I reassure the other students (because they are so excited by this) and I do not make a big deal about it nor expect them to speak with me. I allow them to whisper, when they are willing to speak. I allow them to take a pass on assessments if today is not the day for them.
     
  16. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 2, 2013

    Don't be so bothered about coming here. SM is a disability that many teachers have never encountered.

    Do what you feel is best! I think your reassurance isn't going to convince your student that it is okay to not speak, but provide some of the encourage that the child may need to begin speaking. Take it one day at a time and never assume that because the child spoke yesterday means he/she will speak today.
     

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