Our back to school story – the girl who didn’t speak

I’m reprinting this for ABC’s and 123’s Back to School story I first posted at my other blog, Raising Smart Girls that I wrote on August 18th.

I’ll have to write a follow up to this post about my youngest daughter’s first day at preschool she’ll have next Tuesday.

As far as oldest daughter going into second grade, she was chomping at the bit to get back to school and learning. She loves school so much and her friends and her teacher is a very good fit.

So is she no longer selectively mute?

For the first time in two years, my selectively mute daughter spoke in class on the very first day of school!

But let me back up a little…

We were both very disappointed last week when we found out we didn’t get Ms. L. for a kindergarten teacher. Even though we knew there was an equal chance of getting her or Ms. P, we were really both hoping to get the one we were both familiar with (since oldest daughter had her 2 years prior). My formerly selectively mute daughter K also was very mad at first when she saw that she wasn’t going to have any of her friends that she did know in the classroom. She stated she didn’t want to go to school and I was slightly worried she’d still feel that way come the first day of school. In fact, we were so upset, we both cried (though I saved my tears for when she wasn’t around to see me). But we had a few days to adjust to the idea she was going to get Ms. P. this year.

We went to the orientation day last night and K and I met her teacher, who seems pleasant enough, but K would not speak to her when the teacher talked to her. This didn’t really surprise me. But we did go to also see Ms. L. afterward. K did speak with Ms. L (not surprising to me since she talked with her during her K screening), and Ms. L. reassured her that Ms. P was very nice. Ms. L. assured me that if K didn’t do well with Ms. P, we could meet with the principal about it. She did ask me to give it a chance (which I was going to anyway).

This morning, fortunately, the girls woke up bright and early to get ready for school. K seemed happy enough about the prospect, though mid-way through her breakfast (a ham and cheese omelette, as this mama knows she needs protein to start the day off right) she had a tiny stomach ache (probably a bit of nerves).

She wore her new outfit I bought her yesterday (a grey and pink shirt and gray skort) and brought her new pink princess backpack (because she’s a girly girl). She didn’t give me any arguments about what she wore (especially when asked to change to something different than she chose), or brushing her teeth, or getting her shoes on. We were out the door on time and got to school with plenty of time to spare – which was a good thing, because I needed to stop in the office to buy my second grader some last minutes supplies. Then she confidently walked to her classroom.

All the preparation we did last year made this day totally a cake walk for her. Because she went to the early intervention preschool right within the school building that she would go to for elementary school, she had spent the entire year getting to know the building and staff for the transition to kindergarten. Towards the second half of the year, she and her speech teacher went on errands throughout the school building so she could become very familiar with the staff and the location of places. This year, her kindergarten classroom was located literally one door down from the preschool class she had last year. Because of this, she didn’t have “what if I get lost on the way to my classroom” worries.

It helps a lot that she is the middle child, because having an older sister at the elementary school meant that we spent an fair amount of time at the school (playing at the playground, going to the fun fair, going to the book fair, attending the pot-luck dinner at Halloween) so she had lots of good memories there.

This morning, she saw her preschool teacher from last year, who had a nice little chat with K and told her to “shine like a star” today, which made K smile when she told me about it.

As a result of all this preparation, K was able to speak and participate on her very first day of class. When the teacher asked what day it was, K said, “Wednesday” and when the teacher asked K to tell something about herself, she said, “I have two sisters, M and E, and I like puppies”. She even made a friend today.

Now…this is wonderful news! This is what she’s been working 2 years so hard for. I’m so proud of how far she’s come.

Now, the only other hurdle is to ensure that her educational needs are being met. Having finished up reading to me her first chapter book, Dinosaur’s Before Dark (a second grade level book), I have to make sure she is adequately engaged. She’s already voiced the opinion to me that she wants “medium work to do, not too easy and not too hard”. She always lets me know when she thinks things are too easy, or worse, too boring, so challenging her might be difficult in kindergarten, where the focus is on beginning reading skills and very basic math skills.

I think K started off the year on a very strong foot and I’m going to be excited to see how things go for her. Her selective mutism may very well be a thing of the past. In fact, given the fact she’s really chatty at home, I would not be surprised if she gets so comfortable that she begins to chat too much as the year goes on that happened to my other very shy but not selectively mute M – first quarter of first grade she got marked down for lack of oral participation, by second quarter her report card included a comment about being a “little too chatty” and she needed to work on it a little.

Updated 9/14. It turns out K was not only able to be assessed for reading, she tested at an early 2nd grade level and the teacher informed me she’ll be grouped with 3 other children from other kindergarten classrooms who scored high for some differential reading instruction. So, I think it’s safe to say that her mutism is firmly a thing of the past, at least with regards to her school. She still has trouble addressing strangers who make idle chatter with her, but I really don’t see that as much of a bad thing.

Note, I have a summary of her past year and a half of progress in that blog under the tab Our daughter’s SM journey – the summary and resources for selective mutism in the sidebar.

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2 Responses to Our back to school story – the girl who didn’t speak

  1. Natalie says:

    It’s awesome that your school has differential instruction. It looks like K is doing great and really far ahead (which doesn’t surprise me in the least), since I followed your blogs for a while. I hope she continues to have a great time in school!

  2. growinginpeace says:

    Yes, I hope so too. But she has one thing going for her to help with the academic side of her: she has a lot of creativity and imagination, and she really finds ways to make things more interesting for herself. She’s always been that way.

    As long as school can’t touch that…she’ll be doing well. We’ll cross any bridges when we get to them, though.

    I’m just so grateful that she took well to the personalities of the teachers and they were so warm and understanding towards her. That made all the difference in the world!

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