I am a kindergarten teacher and I think one of my students has Selective Mutism
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I am a kindergarten teacher starting my school year (3 weeks in). I think one of my students has selective mutism. I just found your site today and am not sure of the appropriate approach. Do I refer the parent to your site right away and risk offending them or do I look into this myself? I want to approach this correctly and feel I only have one chance of starting it out right.
I will do my best to simplify this complex question.
When I integrate my therapeutic strategy for children with selective mutism, which is a variation of obsessive compulsive disorder and social phobia, into the school setting, it is only after parents have made substantial progress with non-enabling and with processing. Non-enabling refers to the methodology of restructuring the child’s over-dependence. This overdependence is the gateway to reinforcing social anxiety, avoidant and dependent behavior, and possible avoidant and dependent personality disorders.
Non-enabling the child with selective mutism includes restructuring the parents talking for the child, over thinking for the child, reading the child’s mind and overly anticipating the child’s needs. Please be clear non-enabling needs to be a methodical process. I cannot over-emphasize the term “methodical”. “Processing” is the developmental strategy of nurturing the child’s skills with identifying thoughts, emotions, and reasoning. Both of these dynamics require the parents to negotiate their own parenting anxieties. Indeed; it’s a daunting challenge, but potentially profoundly productive!
The synergistic strategy of non-enabling and processing empowers the selectively mute child to access neural pathways that have been under -utilized. In fact, accessing these pathways is the essence of the child’s anxiety. That’s why the child learns how to detach, which is disconnecting from thoughts and feelings. The more detachment occurs the more there is risk for that avoidance pathology.
When the empowering strategy is integrated into the school setting it requires putting positive and empowering pressure, concurrent with nurturing support for the child with selective mutism. This strategy starts with a conference with appropriate school personnel. A feedback system between teachers, parents, and therapist is created.
As a concerned teacher when you research methods for the selectively mute child within the school setting, you will find a myriad of accommodation strategies. Unless carefully implemented as bridging technique, most of these strategies, while accommodating academic needs in the short term, in my professional opinion, inhibit the mental health of the selectively mute child for the long term.
Most of the families with whom I have worked, have contacted me after getting feedback from teachers. Most parents with selectively mute children do not take therapeutic action. Most have their own anxiety. Most invest in the belief that the child will simply outgrow the problem. Indeed; parental denial is common. The older the child, the more ingrained the problem becomes. The more that over-accommodation occurs in the classroom, the harder it becomes to break the enabling cycle.
A very important component of the treatment process is nurturing and supporting the parents through the empowering methodology. Kindergarten is the perfect time to initiate the healing process.
I appreciate the reality that you are in an important and difficult position. A possible starting point would be referring parents to the free seminar “Professional Baseball Player & Selective Mutism”. This 40 minute experience will give productive insight into the multi-dimensional healing process.
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