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Tommy
Tommy asks:
Q:

How can I get the school district to help my child with selective mutism?

I wondered if there was anybody out there going thruogh the same thing.our son was diagnosed with selective mutism when he was five he is now six .He is almost done with kindegarden, and he still hasn't talked in school. We've asked the school for help. They have never had to deal with this problem before so , we've had to educate them. We have been trying get him classified, so we can get him an iep,and come up with a intervention plan to help him in school. They refuse to classifey him. they don't think its necasary. If there has been anybody who has been through this with there school disrect, what was the out come?
In Topics: Speech and language issues
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Wayne Yankus
Jun 19, 2008
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What the Expert Says:

Tommy:

when pediatricians encounter selective mutism, it is often sign of sexual abuse and children simply refuse to talk.  Often they refuse to talk to anyone other than family.

What has your pediatrician said?  It is generally a psychiatric condition and not one school will use an IEP for.  Has he had a child study team evaluation at school? or with a neurodevelopmental pediatrician?

I would suspect your pediatrician has found this worrisome as well, and I would be sure to have him/her on your team with the school to offer assistance.

Wayne Yankus, MD, FAAP
expert panelist: pediatrics

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Additional Answers (12)

Wayne Yankus
Wayne Yankus writes:
I respect your thoughts; however, one of the many causes physicians and mental health workers consider in the diagnosis of selective mutism is sexual abuse.  That said, what is important for your son is care, resolution and therapy.  Schools were not meant to be diagnostic or therapeutic. Has your pediatrician considered a neruodevelopmental evaluation or consulting a child psychiatrist skilled in anxiety disorders?  If not, that may be your next move for your son, and it will carry more clout for the school to respond in the educational setting.

I sense your conern and urgency.  It is fair and well placed. Try a consult with your pediatrican again for further help or consulting the pediatric department of your nearest university medical center.

Wayne Yankus, MD, FAAP
expert panalist: pediatrics
> 60 days ago

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tmp123
tmp123 writes:
When my youngest was in pre-school, he chose NOT to speak in school.  He was fine at home and in any other social situation, but just not when he was at school.  He didn't speak to the teachers or children the entire year.  But he would come home and tell me what he did at school, sing the songs to me that he had learned and show me his artwork that he completed.  

The following year, he had a really good school experience - he talked some with the teachers, was making friends, and participating in circle time.  Much improved from the year before!!

Then, his kindergarten year came about, and he had a fabulous time!!  In fact, there were times when the teacher had to actually tell him to be quiet!  We felt he needed one more year to grow and mature before sending him to first grade, so he repeated kindergarten a second time, and did fabulous!!

Looking back, I think my little one didn't talk during school that particular year because he simply wasn't ready to go to school.  He didn't know any of the children or teachers, but we left him there for 2 hours.  The staff was so sweet and were great friends of mine, so they were very understanding - thank goodness!!

His selective mutism was a way of coping with his own anxieties that he didn't know how to verbalize.  Looking back, he wasn't ready to go to school, and we probably shouldn't have sent him.  There was no sexual abuse - just a little boy's inability to tell us, "I don't want to go!  I'm not ready for this!"

I don't know what to tell you about your school district, except they may see how incredibly intelligent your son is and don't see the need for an IEP.  Understanding is exhibited by what children understand, not by how they perform.  So although he may not be speaking, he may actually be on or above grade level and not need special services at this time.  Which is a good thing!  

Keep in contact with his teacher (which I'm sure you do) and let her know that you want to be informed of his progress in class - is he understanding concepts, completing work, following the routines and procedures set forth?  More importantly than him being on an IEP, would be how are they ensuring he is understanding the material being presented?  What forms of assessments are they using to ascertain his abilities?  Can they interpret the results for you so that you know where your child is academically?  If so, then that's wonderful!  If not, then there is a problem.  

Also, is he making friends?  Does he have one friend that is his "voice" during the day?  How is he interacting with others?  Our son had one little girl that would speak for him and play with him.  He is still very fond of her even though they don't see each other at school anymore.  I believe she was an important part of his self-esteem actually improving during his first year of schooling.

Best of luck to you and your little one.  Continue being supportive during this time - as I'm sure you are.  We lived through it and now our son is a little chatter box at school!  He is now 7 and thriving!  There is hope...keep the faith!

Tiffani Patrick
Teacher/Parent


> 60 days ago

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miraclemom
miraclemom writes:
SOUNDS LIKE YOU  NEED TO FIND A DIFFERENT DOCTOR MY  DAUGHTER IS 10 AND IS AUTISTIC AND IS JUST NOW TALKING IN FULL SENTENCES, SO WORD OF MOUTH AND A GOOD PEDITRICIAN AND DEVELOPMENTAL PED AND EARLY INTERVENTION, WHETHER, SPPECH, OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY, ETC DEPENS YOUR CHILDS NEEDS,.MM
> 60 days ago

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LenaK
LenaK writes:
Dear Tommy,
I am a special education teacher who has worked with about 8 children with selective mutism over the years.  Let me give you some feedback about both what you have heard so far, as well as current treatment.
First of all, a ray of hope.  EVERY child I have worked with (from age 3-11) has eventually spoken and been FINE.  Unfortunately, Dr. Yankus is not speaking of selective mutism, but of an emotional disorder causing children to not speak based on emotional trauma.  That is totally different from selective mutism which is genetic.  Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder.   It is based on a "shy" gene.  It is very possible that either you or your child's mother was very shy as a child, and in fact, many parents end up remembering that they, themselves spoke rarely in public.  If you take shyness, and take it to the tenth degree, that is selective mutism.  When I became a teacher with my first student who had sm, I did everything to get her to talk to me.  NOthing worked. I even held back snack until she asked me for a cookie.  She would have rather have starved than ask me.  I learned my lesson that, that never worked.  Support and understanding works.  I went to her house for dinner, and from the minute I walked in, she spoke to me, like she had spoken to me for always.  I was stunned.  Gradually, over the next few years, she began to whisper in her teachers' ears, then to certain friends, and is now fine.  This happened to the others as well.  It is a gradual process.  Sometimes anxiety disorder meds work- other times it is just time.  Remember one very important thing.  THIS IS NOT Willful.   It is genetic.
NOw, another very important point.  He does not need an IEP.  BUT he does need a 504 plan.  They differ in that he will not be classified as a disabled child, but WILL get the support he needs.  The school CANNOT deny you a 504 plan ( it is national law )where all his teachers sit together and plan for him in the best way they can to make his year the most successful in school. Telling him that you understand how hard it is to speak, (selective mutism children who are now speaking adults, say it was like they tried to speak and literally could not move) and that when he is ready he will and that you will help him in any way you can to be the best person he can be.  Chances of him outgrowing it are VERY GOOD.  Best of luck.  I also hope Dr. Yankus , the expert panelist, learned some things as well!
Lena
> 60 days ago

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gamom35
gamom35 writes:
Lena,

Thanks for sharing all of that info.  I'm very curious to know how children identified as having selective mutism qualify to receive special student services.  I am asking because I have a 4 year old that shows all of the signs as a child with selective mutism.  However, her selective mutism is not negatively impacting her education.  She is basically on or above age-level in academic and motor skills.    Yet, I am still concerned, obviously, about her not talking in a preschool / pre-k setting.  (She's already been in the preschool setting for about 2 years.)

You mentioned you worked with about 8 kids with selective mutism.  Can you please let me know how they may have qualified to receive special help?  I want to help my 4 year old now before she begins kindergarten.

Thanks!
A.M.C.  
> 60 days ago

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kgavigan
kgavigan writes:
My son is 5 almost 6 and is in Kindergarten.  He went to preschool and never talked but speaks normal at home and in the community.  We discovered he had SM when he was 3.  He hasn't spoken in Kindergarten yet but he has a very caring teacher and we are just praying this will the year he breaks through.  Anyway, I am looking for resources on the 504 plan . . . I would like more detail and I'd like to know how to approach the teacher/school to suggest the 504 plan.  

Thank you!
Kristina
> 60 days ago

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jacquie
jacquie writes:
My daughter is in grade 2 and does not have an IEP.  She is however, given an 'unable to assess at this time' or allowed to read into a tape for her teacher.  I do not have an official diagnosis but she has been assessed through the Selective Mutism Clinic.  So far it has not been a problem and her grades have not been hurt by it.  Really what are grades in grade 1 or 2 anyway as long as they learn the material? If it ever results in your child getting penalized for not speaking then you have to demand that she be classified and get an IEP to accomodate how she will be assessed in school
> 60 days ago

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MissGold
MissGold writes:
My son was diagnosed with Selective Mutism at 2yrs old. He has never spoken in school, and he is currently in the 4th grade. I was told he would grow out of this "disorder" and should be fine by 7yrs old. This apparently has'nt happened. My son does have an IEP but I'm not sure how this is helping him. I don't know what state you live in, but help for children with "disabilities" varies from state to state. North Carolina is excellent in helping children. They have extensive programs to assist kids. I moved from NC to NY and I find they don't offer more than group therapy and a speech therapist (which was pointless, he would'nt talk ). My son has begun to speak in public, and I'm not sure if his not speaking at school has now become a convienent habit. He is the only child in the school district with Selective Mutism and they are'nt sure how to handle him. You have to take matters into your hands and be aggressive in finding help for your child. Get educated on this disorder. The older he gets the harder it will be for him in school. Teachers will become frustrated with him because they have'nt been trained on how to deal with Selective Mutism children. Also, don't let them put your child in a school for students with autism or treat him as though he is autistic. Selective Mutes are very normal and sometimes even more intelligent than the average child. Contact your local Board of Education and speak to the head of Special Education.  Good Luck! and God Bless!
> 60 days ago

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honeyred
honeyred writes:
Hi, yes I feel your pain. I also have a child that has not talked to any of his teachers since he was 4 yrs. old, he is now 6, and in Kindergarden,we are now getting him some help with this. I just thought this was the something that he was just going through because of his age.  The more we tried to make him talk, the more he would shut down. His teacher told me that he has not said a word to her all year, and that he would fail kindergarden because she doesn't know that he could do the work, he would get good grades in everything that he had to write, but as far as the assignments where he would have to speak 0. We took him to a doctor and she diagnosed him with selective mustism so inorder for him to get through school with this type of shyness, he would have to have a 504. So I would recommend that for your son to if he hasn't already started talking. Good luck!!!
> 60 days ago

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SPierce1
SPierce1 writes:
My son is 11 years old in the 5th grade! He has never spoken in school. He has also stopped talking in public. I have been through a battle at the school trying to get him a 504 in place just so that the teachers will leave him alone!!! Last year, the music teacher was very mean to him because he would not sing. She was so mean that the actual teacher called me to tell me about it! The guidence counselor at the school is in charge of the 504s and it seems that she is using every excuse she can come up with to not give him one. Today, I finally told her not to worry about it anymore! I am calling the board of education tomorrow to report her.

And to the doctor that said selective mutism is a sign of sexual abuse....you need to get your fact right buddy! My child has never been abused!!! I think you should look up the definition of the "anxiety disorder"!

Susanna Pierce
> 60 days ago

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NEESER61
NEESER61 writes:
I have had the same issues with the school over classifying my child.  My child had severe ADHD even on meds she is wild and impulsive.  she goes to a private counselor and has been in pine grove for the first time this school year.  she has been diagnosed with a mental illness also and counselor said do a  504 and get a IEP.   well school said she doesn't need it..she is smart.  well now she is flunking and I ask...when a child has been put in detention several times...has disrupted the classroom many times and is now getting more F than A and she used to be on the high honor list! my older daughter has a PhD in education and she said it sounded like someone just didn't want to do the work and they didn't want to deal with it.  and it is possible they don't have funding for her classification of race...even though its not suppose to go by that...many schools try to evenly give it to everyone....but in reality if its a minority chances are all the "spots" have been used. by law i could sue but i see that as not an option my child has enough issues with out being known as the girl who's parents are suing the school.  so good luck for you.  i have applied for disability for my child and once she gets that there will be no denying she has a disability and they will be made to act.  they also told me they have no dealt with her type of issues....i don't buy that...there is only one person that does this classifying and she never answers her phone and NEVER EVER returns the messages left for her.  I have tried for 2 yrs to get help and i get none....good luck to you
> 60 days ago

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jen99
jen99 writes:
I know just what you mean. I have a seven year old that is now redoing the first grade this year. He has never talked in school since pre-k. I just thought he was really shy. The teacher told me he never talked and just followed her around. I told his pediatrician about it and he said he had selective mutism. (found this out during pre-k). During kindergarden we took him to see a Psychiatrist for a year. The dr. and teacher . were in touch with his progress throughout the year. At first he would do anything just sit there. He slowly started to at least point to things. We stopped taking him to that doctor since it was not helping him. when first grade came along same thing never talked but he did talk at home all the time and on the bus. etc.... just not in class. His learning was getting infected. The teacher was trying to help him. Made little cards for him to keep on his desk to point to if he needed to go to the bathroom or didn't feel good etc... I then couldn't take it anymore because he was falling behind so much in his class because of it. I then found out from a friend to call a psychologist not psychiatrist that he might need to be tested to see if there was something else going on as well. I did think something else was going on because at home I noticed he didn't understand a lot of things we were talking about. Well we found a psychologist and had him tested academicly. Six hours of tested broke down in three to four sessions. We found from his scores that he has mixed expressive language disorder. He now needs speech ( a lot of it). The doctor doesn't think he has selective mutism. Just the speech disorder. I personally think he has both. He just started the first grade over this year and we moved this summer to get him a better school since we didn't like the one he was at. I thought maybe since it was a new school and new friends it might be better since the kids don't know he never talked. Maybe he would talk. So far no luck. The teacher has got some quite words from him though. That's a step I guess but not enough. I am now working with the dchool to get him enrolled in speech. It is very very hard to have a son/daughter that is going through this because you have no idea how to help them. Its so frustrating. I don't want him to keep failing at school because of it.
> 60 days ago

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