Is this your child…or, When is it more than just “shyness”?

I’ve been perplexed by my 4.5 year old’s behavior for the past 2.5 years. I have compiled 19 pages of observations about her in the last year alone. I’ve consulted book upon book to find out what is “wrong” with my daughter. Well, not “wrong” as in “bad”, but what exactly is going on that the usual positive discipline techniques just aren’t enough.

I’ve been so perplexed as to what to do and how to handle her. Our relationship was starting to crumble because I didn’t know how to handle her persistent intense feelings and negativism. I couldn’t understand how she could be incredibly loving and cuddly one moment, and having a major meltdown on the floor the next.

Until I started looking into selective mutism, I had no idea what I would find. I had an idea it may help me understand her current inability to speak at school. I had no idea it was going to help explain the past 2.5 years.

I found this group of characteristics related to selective mutism, that even though it’s not usually readily apparent until the child enters school, the signs have been there all along. This list of characteristics I have gotten from searching a message board for mothers and someone who posted this list. I’m so glad this message board had archives that go back for a few years. It used to be on the Selective Mutism Group’s website, but is no longer there (I don’t know why).

The following characteristics have been found to be common in children with SM (this is in addition to not speaking in one or more social situations):

1. Heightened sensitivity to noise/crowds/touch (possible Sensory Integration Disorder (SID)/aka Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD))
2. Difficulty separating from parents (especially younger children) and difficulty sleeping alone
3. Introspective and sensitive (seems to understand the world around them more thoroughly than other children the same age, and displays an increased sensitivity to feelings and thoughts)
4. Behavioral manifestations at home, such as: moodiness, inflexibility, procrastination, crying easily, temper tantrums, need for control, bossiness, domination, extreme talkativeness, creativity and expressivity
5. Intelligent, perceptive and inquisitive
6. Tendency to be creative and artistic
7. Bedwetting, daytime wetting accidents (enuresis), anxiety over using public restrooms (paruresis), or accidents with bowel movements (encopresis)
8. Excessive tendency to worry and have fears (often manifested in children older than 6 years of age)

Except for the toileting issues, she has EVERYTHING on this list.

I don’t know why, but having this exact description of my daughter down to a T, totally has me incredibly relieved – I finally know who she is, and everything makes so much sense now in the context of this condition.

Whereas before I had clues that pointed to different conditions, none of which seemed to fit and therefore confused me even more, I finally have something concrete to explain all my daughter’s behaviors, quirks and gifts.

I don’t feel like I’m in the dark anymore. I feel like I don’t have to explain/apologize to anyone for her behavior. I feel like I have confidence in knowing what she needs now, whereas before, other people would make me feel like she’s just manipulative or attention seeking. And even though I dismissed what they said initially, it would creep into my thoughts that well, maybe she *is* being manipulative and she *is* attention seeking. I know now she’s not. And it makes me tear up with having that clear picture I’ve been looking for.

Now, AFA the diagnosis part. I need to have a professional to confirm this. Mostly to have the diagnosis to arm myself against school administrators. They do reading in class and have assessments 4 times a year in Kindergarten! If she doesn’t talk during class, I’m going to have to get them to allow me to videotape assignments at home and have them review them at school. I can’t have that kind of special treatment without a diagnosis and a IEP or 504 plan in place. Accomodations may have to be made otherwise they will think she’s developmentally delayed. She’s so NOT! She’s so bright – besides the typical knowing of her alphabet, numbers to 100, colors, etc – she knows the names of the planets! She figured out that Stephen Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and also the 24th president of the US.

There is no way this child is delayed, but the schools are going to be hard pressed to figure that one out if she doesn’t speak when they need to check her progress.

And actually, even though our relationship has been on the mend anyway, this is further softening my view of my daughter, and I’ve been even more deliberate in spending time cuddling with her. She’s been very responsive to that, of course.

Having this clear picture of who my daughter is has the added benefit of making me so much more sensitive to her needs. I’m so grateful to have found my way back to my beautiful daughter. And pish-tosh to anyone who has ever said to me, “you better put that child down before you spoil her too much”. I know now that keeping her close is exactly what this child needs to overcome her anxieties.

I hope, if you recognize your child to have more than typical anxieties, you will find it worthwhile to look into this for your family. The prognosis for early detection and therapies is supposed to be fantastic!

This entry was posted in selective mutism, shyness and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Is this your child…or, When is it more than just “shyness”?

  1. KatieMae says:

    I too felt a tremendous “aha!” moment when I finally discovered that the symptoms I was observing in our oldest child were the exact description of SID/SPD, which you mentioned in your post. We’re having him officially evaluated by the school district in two weeks so we can get a Dx & start some occupational therapy.

    Looking back, I’m so, so thankful to have learned about attachment parenting methods before he was born. If we had done the “normal” thing of letting him cry to sleep, tossing him in a stroller instead of holding him close in a sling, ignoring his fears of crowds & new places, forcing him to “clean his plate” even when the foods make him gag and scream… well, I can’t imagine how miserable he would have been.

    Good for you for following your instincts to find an explanation for your daughter’s behavior.

  2. growinginpeace says:

    Thanks for posting. I’m glad you are pursuing getting help for your son and that you have kept your son close during all his struggles. I have learned so much about Attachment Parenting with my first – she had lots of food issues too, that eventually was worked out only with patience and understanding and not forcing her to do what was easier for me. Though I do have to admit I was struggling to uphold AP practices when I was stretched thin taking care of 3 little ones so close in age. But in the end, it’s the AP position and learning more about positive discipline approaches that has helped more than anything. I have learned so much that even though I struggled for a while, I’m glad I have been open to seeing beyond the surface of what was going on. Now that I finally have that a-ha! moment, I know what to work on and how best to go about things. I’m so glad I didn’t give up hope that I would eventually find reasons for my second daughter. Now that I think I have, I’m so grateful I’ve had learned about AP and positive discipline techniques that have kept my relationship intact, even though the difficult moments.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. reen says:

    Thanks for the inspiring post. I learnt from http://www.whatcausespanicattacks.com about overcoming shyness. It has an interesting guide. Thought that I might share with you.

  4. growinginpeace says:

    Thank you Reen. Sorry it took so long to get you posted, you got caught up in my spam folder. I appreciate the link and will get a chance to look at the articles soon. Maybe someone else will find something useful for them too.

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