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!