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Help support a child who is silent in our room

  • 1.  Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-01-2019 07:42 AM
    I would really appreciate some ideas about how to support a 24 month old girl in my room who is totally silent the second she crosses the threshold, despite parental reports that she is nonstop talk outside of our room.  I did overhear her in the bathroom across the hall with her mother and she speaks clearly and animatedly in multi-word phrases.  I realize I cannot (and wouldn't want to) diagnose, I  am looking for ideas how to support her in finding her voice and assume anyone with experience with selective mutism would have relevant suggestions.

    We only meet twice a week and I have waited since September to see if she starts speaking, but no change.  She seems (and her parents confirm that she tells them) to really enjoy class and I can understand what she wants and needs.  She understands everything.

    Some questions - we sing a morning greeting song which involves the children saying their own name - what do I do when I get to her? I usually do her last (to let her prepare), wait five seconds for an answer and then just say her name.

    Any idea appreciated.  Thank you.

    Alisha Alford

    Falls Church VA

  • 2.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-02-2019 12:34 AM
    Thank you for caring about this child and closely observing the child's abilities and challenges. Selective Mutism can sometimes be noticed at age 2, but there probably are not many who would diagnose or label before age 3. Should this pattern of non speaking continue, you should make sure parents are aware and support them in understanding your concerns. The earlier Selective Mutism is treated, the better the outcome for the child. Some good resources are The Selective Mutism Association web site, The Child Mind Institute web site and  Kurtz Psychology web site. Working with a skilled therapist who is familiar with evidence based practices in treating Selective Mutism is also key.

    Kathy Slattery
    StarNet Region II
    Arlington Hts IL

  • 3.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-02-2019 05:40 AM
    It is coincidental that late last night a parent that I knew from a previous school called me on this matter. I have been successful dealing with children with Selective Mutism. I also found lits of support from the lical FIU's department of family and child behavior specialist. They helped me to guide the child and family. With some of these children, lits of patience is key. The child may be able to talk to classmates outside of school. Maybe suggesting playdates to the family. Number one is to make sure the child always feels safe. Help the family as a whole. Try to find any comfort zones the child may have. Hope this helps a bit.

    Judy Markell
    N Miami Beach FL

  • 4.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-02-2019 05:43 AM
    Sorry about typos!

    Judy Markell
    N Miami Beach FL

  • 5.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-02-2019 08:26 AM
    It sounds to me that you are doing everything you can. She likes your class and talks articulately outside of class. And the class is only 2 times a week - which isn't a great deal of time. She will speak when she's ready.

    Nancy Surbrook Goins
    Training and TA Manager
    Clinton County RESA
    Dewitt MI

  • 6.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-02-2019 09:22 AM
     couple of things: 
    1 Teach everyone to sign Maybe one letter or symbol for their name use this with saying their name they have a choice to say their name or not

    2,everyone draw a picture or use a photo when it is their turn have them hold it up and say their name or just hold it up

    3.the child who is silent will have another option during the song to identify herself/himself 

    Try to blend in all the activities this way with options for expression other than verbal

  • 7.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-02-2019 09:26 AM
    Thank you so much for these ideas!  I will try them out this week.

    Alisha Alford

    Falls Church VA

  • 8.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-02-2019 11:24 AM
    First of all treat her as if she can speak. Often this can be an anxiety issue so any pressure will not be productive.
    During one on one I would ask yes no questions and the child taps/points the right hand for yes, left for no. This establishes to her and to others that she is a communicator. You might want to have some pictures for her to point to for going to bathroom or other simple things to support her.
    I would think of a way to have all the children say the names so there is no spotlight on her as people wait for her to speak.
    Give her time, half a year is not much honestly. It is very important to be very matter of fact, yes she is communicating. By treating this in a matter of fact way you can help not concretize it. Just remember that anxiety hijacks her speech, this is not wilful. The ideal is that she is seamlessly included.
    Let me know if you have other questions. Before I became an child analyst I worked for many years in Early Childhood

    Melissa Werner, PhD, LPC, IAAP
    Jungian Psychoanalyst for Adults and Children
    C G Jung Institute Zurich

    Melissa Werner
    Vestavia Hills AL

  • 9.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-02-2019 05:49 PM
    Dear Alisha,
    It could of course just be severe shyness, but it sounds like selective mutism, but as you said, it's not our place to diagnose (after I just threw out a diagnosis.)  I've had a number of students over the years like this (all of them girls interestingly?)  Two of them never spoke at all the entire year in school, one eventually spoke very quietly and in mono-syllable answers by about Feb.  I also had two sisters in the past who had this: the older one always participated in songs like you are describing, but the younger one did not until about Feburary.  At the time, the younger girl's therapists suggested to have a "get to know you" conversation with the mom and the child outside of the classroom and to let the girl and her mom lead the conversation about things that the girl wanted to tell me, and then let me tell her what we would be doing in music class.  We also needed to wait more than 5 seconds, and she had the room to decide on the spot if she would participate in the song that day or not by simple nodding or shaking her head no.  She eventually participated.  But it's hard.  Have the parents recognized that there may be something besides shyness going on?

    Joanie Calem
    Music and Inclusion Specialist
    Sing Along
    Columbus, OH

  • 10.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-02-2019 08:03 PM
    Thank you so much! I have spoken with the parents, but they aren't very concerned.  Since she is so young, I am going to try some of the things suggested here and just watch.  She will be in the class next door next year and I will give the teacher a heads up. 


    Sent from my iPhone

  • 11.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-03-2019 11:10 AM
    Alisha, I see this as a chance to see if there are subtle pressures in you classroom. Something is making this child uncomfortable with speaking. It could have happened early on if there was any pressure to speak. Have you seen if you can have a conversation with her together with her mother outside the classroom? I'm not suggesting any blame. Children can be quite sensitive to even subtle pressure. It appears that you and your staff has made her feel comfortable with the other activities.

    Jack Wright
    Child Development Consultant
    Success With Children
    St Ignatius MT

  • 12.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-04-2019 01:00 AM
    When I was a kindergarten teacher, I had a child in my classroom who did not talk at all. Then one day, I read an article about the benefits of Home Visits and decided to offer the families of the children in my classroom, the opportunity for me to come and visit with them in their homes. Well, the result was when I visited this child's home, he and his family were so excited to have me visit with them in their home. The child started to tell me about everything in his house and everything in his bedroom. From that moment on, he started to talk with me and the other children in the classroom. The experience help me realize that when the children and their families interact with a teacher at school they feel they are in a place that belongs to the teacher and when I was in their home, I was in a place that belonged to them. I realized I acted differently when I was the guest in their home. I also realized the importance of honoring and respecting the value of the child's home as the first and most important environment for a young child. I also found visits to the homes of the other children were also valuable to strengthening my relationship with the child and families I worked with for 10 years. The trust and respect we developed each year was invaluable to my success as an Early Childhood Education teacher.

    Robert Gundling, Ed.D.
    Better Futures LLC
    Senior Consultant
    Washington, DC

  • 13.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-04-2019 04:36 AM
    Just one more idea that we used at my school to help to encourage children to talk is to allow the children to bring a toy from home to school everyday. Then during circle time the children get their toy and take turns standing up and talking about their toy.
    We found that over time children who were not speaking would take a turn eventually talking about their toy.
    Everything will work out for you.

    Melanie Smith
    The Preschool Doctor

  • 14.  RE: Help support a child who is silent in our room

    Posted 12-03-2019 02:48 PM
    Your question brought me back to my own personal experiences with my son in preschool.  He also showed "selective mutism" (without an official clinical diagnosis).  He had new twin sisters less than 1-year-old and his dad deployed overseas for that entire year. He spoke at home, but not at school for many months.  Due to the circumstances, we kept in communication with his teachers, observed,  gave support as some have already suggested in this thread. He eventually outgrew it.  That said...perspective... he is 14 years old now and a couple of years ago, did have some symptoms of anxiety resurface. We initially thought were just typical tween-teen behavioral issues until we dug a bit deeper.  Now I wonder if not talking was his way to manage his stress and anxiety with all the changes at that time in his life.

    Exploring and assessing all options is thoughtful of you! We are all affected by things in such a dynamic way, and it's hard to know the triggers. Some obvious, and others not so much. The best we can do is observe, try different approaches and re-assess. Curious to hear your update months from now,  what tools and strategies you tried and if any successful. Good luck!

    Mary Lynn Hafner, PT, DPT
    Physical Therapist. Early Childhood Educator and Author.