School Blues

Three cute little children in kindergarten sitting at a deskThe new school year brings new beginnings for a lot of parents and their children as they are filled with hope, anxiety, and anticipation. Some are entering kindergarten for the first time. This can be very traumatic for the child who has to adjust to being away from home and entering an unfamiliar environment. Most will not feel comfortable talking to the teacher or classmates. This is usually when the parent discovers their child is experiencing Selective Mutism. Early diagnosis of Selective Mutism and developing a treatment program with your child’s teacher and school staff are vital for your child to have a successful year.

Each year, there are new obstacles and challenges which can be very difficult as the kids are adjusting to new teachers and for some, a new school. Many students make great progress only to regress during the summer months. Sometimes, a new year means a few steps backwards before you get going again in the right direction. Just remember, it takes a lot of love and patience! The rewards will come, a step at a time. It may seem small at the time, but you will remember every moment. Those little steps are precious! It is helpful to keep a journal. When you are at a standstill and feel discouraged, you will have something to look back on to see your progress even if it seems like baby steps. In your heart, you know this is a great accomplishment for your child. No matter how many tears you have shed, just remember, your child will be successful.

Many families cope with inappropriate educational programs for their children, inflexible school personnel, and the accompanying stress and frustration. Most parents express anger and frustration. Parents, teachers, counselors, and therapists should strive to develop an individual plan that fits your child’s needs. Share experiences and strategies that have worked, so others may benefit from the knowledge and heartache. The best strategies are those where everyone works together. Develop an individual treatment plan for your child, and most importantly, be consistent. The treatment program you devise for the children can be adjusted to use shorter or similar versions at home to encourage the child to speak to others. It may seem you are making slow progress but remember to stick with it! Parents can prepare a short letter for substitute teachers, describing their child’s behavior and how to handle it. You can request that teachers keep the letter available for substitutes. This should avoid additional anxiety for your child when a new teacher is present.

For the child entering middle/junior or high school, this can be an even more difficult time as they transition from elementary school. The child has to adjust to new environments, several teachers, and several classrooms. Before school begins, parents should meet with the principal and every teacher involved with their child’s education and provide them with information on Selective Mutism. Encourage them to stay in touch with you throughout the school year. Together, you can develop alternative methods for your child to deliver oral presentations.