At 3.5 years old, our son went an entire month not speaking to us. He communicated only with gestures and signs. He had gone from typical communication to nothing, just like that.
He had always been a shy child and did not speak to strangers, but standing in the middle of Disney World with my son screaming when I tried to put him on the carousel, and no words to comminucate what was wrong, I knew in my heart that something just wasn't right. I have been a special education teacher for 15+ years and have lots of experience with children with communication difficulties, but this was so different from anything I had ever experienced.
He didn't have communcation delays. He was able to speak in complete sentences and paragraphs, but just wouldn't. He did not speak at school, and the teachers described a child who could come into the school with shoulders bent forward and eyes down. It was quite the opposite from the child we saw at home. At home, he was loud and boisterous and smiling and happy.
The pediatrician said "selective mutism," and my research began. At first, I really focused on the mutism, and not so much on the anxiety. Over the next year, I would come to understand that the anxiety was the much bigger piece of the puzzle. We learned that much of the challenging behaviors that we were dealing with (tantrums, aggression, anger) were all a direct result of the anxiety and our little boy trying to find control of his little world.
We had to change our parenting style and learn a different way to reach him. It has been a long, long road, and I know that we are still at the very beginning. We went to numerous different people; psychologists, social workers, and counselors, all of whom were very well-meaning, but they all gave me the same look that said, "we really don't know what to do." Sure, my son can come sit in your office, but not a chance is he going to talk to you. We struggled with what to do. I knew that we needed to find the right intervention.
The problem is that selective mutism (SM) is very rare. Less than 1% of the population is diagnosed with this disorder, adn that means that no one knows how to treat it.
My sister, who is a Marriage and Family therapist, was meeting with Lynne Robertson at Word of Mouth one day. She was talking about my son. Lynne said she had a therapist who worked with kids with SM. She told me that she pretty much always has the child talking to her by the end of the first session.
I was skeptical that would occur with my son, but I was wrong. We started therapy with Kristin five months ago, and the progress that we have seen since then is quite amazing, Kristin uses exposure therapy that is so appropriate for children with SM. She started in the clinic getting him to talk to her, and then we gradually introduced other people and settings.
A child who would speak to virtually no one outside of our family has recently spoken to strangers at the grocery and the dental office.
He didn't speak to his swim teacher for three years. Kristen came to one session and his swim teacher actually had to ask him to be quiet so that he could hear the instructions at his last lesson! He also started speaking at school after his teacher came to a therapy session. I am so thankful that we cound Kristin. Not only she our son's speech therapist, but she is also his cheerleader. She is just as happy when he makes progress as we are. I know that we are still at the beginning of this road, but I know that we have the right support, resources, adn people in place now to help him grow up to be healthy, happy, and to meet his potential!
Absolutely so grateful for Lara Kate and all the staff. Everyone always has a smile, and very friendly. They also love on my little boy. My son has been going to WOMCA, since January 2019. Lara Kate has been OUTSTANDING, and very patient with my son. My son enjoys coming, which is amazing to me. Now that he's in school, Lara Kate travels, and sees him at school. Very flexible. We sure do love everyone, and would most definitely recommend to anyone who is needing help, getting their child help.
a confidence and grade boost:
The loving staff demonstrated by the professional staff at Word of Mouth made me comfortable that my middle school daughter's emotional and academic needs would be met. Furthermore, it made my daughter's experience not only comfortable, but helpful. Her confidence rose is a couple of short sessions and so did her grades. Thanks to all her testers and tutors at Word of Mouth.
- Parent of a USN student
Word of Mouth has provided our daughter with a support system to help her turn her academic struggles into positive learning experiences. As a parent, I can say that my daughter's therapist is her biggest cheerleader. Word of Mouth assists me as a parent by providing many creative ways to incorporate speech therapy techniques into home life. I am always amazed by the creativity and amount of preparation that goes into each therapy session.
- Parent of a Poplar Grove student
"She was presented her Bible at church this morning. We went back for an intro class this afternoon, where we met with two other families...4 peers around her age and 2 youth directors (whom she has never spoken a word to...she still hasn’t been talking at church). I worried because we were early and she wasn’t answering the director’s questions but just looking at me; but when we got in the group around the table, she introduced herself, answered the director’s questions, and even read verses from her Bible to the group!! Such a breakthrough for her to speak at church."
a thorough plan:
Lynne Robertson was extremely thorough in her assessments, and she laid out a clear plan for how she felt our son could best be served. While hesitant at first to commit to the plan due to the time and money involved, we decided to jump in. I can truly say that I never looked back as I watched my her SLP encourage, challenge, and change my child.
- Parent of a New Hope Academy child
When we began my son's therapy six short months ago, he was difficult to understand and his testing indicated that his articulation accuracy was only in the 4th percentile. After working with Lynne and another therapist, my son gained confidence and mastery over the sounds and words that were difficult for him. Best of all, he has loved every minute of working with them... I had a five-minute phone conversation yesterday with my 5-year-old son, and I understood everything he said. Thank you!
- Parent of a pre-K child at Woodmont Christian Preschool
"Last night we went to see Ed Sheeran. He talked about being afraid to dance, etc at concerts and how he would always have a frozen look on the outside while having so much fun on the inside. And then he realized no one is really watching....and he became a confident dancer. I looked over at my daughter and she was smiling so big. Later in the show she was clapping and had her arm in the air. So cute! We were running late for dinner before the show. We called and they said they could only hold our table for 15 minutes. We drove up about 16 minutes after and so I dropped her at the door and said “Run on in and give them your name while I park and tell them we are here”. She hesitated and then she did it!! She checked us in with not just one host but a whole counter of them. When I came in, she was standing aside and said “They said they’ll get us seated in just a minute.” So proud of her!!"
a strong-willed child:
My daughter is a strong-willed, but also sensitive child. She's not used to being away from us, and we were concerned that she may not succeed in speech therapy sessions given that she has separation anxiety and a strong personality. Since being paired with her SLP, we have been absolutely blown away by her progress. She adores her time with her SLP and her speech is flourishing. We have been so pleased with out experience at Word of Mouth and are so grateful to have them as a partner in our sweet girl's growth and development.
My wife and I could not be happier with out family's experience at Word of Mouth / Eppert OT. Our son's occupational therapsit was knowledgeable, kind, patient, and helpful. With guidance and hard work, his fine motor skills imporved tremedously. His OT also provided us with home exerciese wnad work to do on our own. Our son always was excited to come see "Miss Lisa" and felt so good about what he learned and the work he did. Five stars across the board for Word of Mouth / Eppert OT!
In a packed auditorisn, with tons of poeple watching, she was able to alk on stage and say her 20+ lines and we could hear her!
finally, some eye contact and conversation:
She is participating in class and in group. She has asked for help and is raising her hand. She is in hip hop class now and they ahve to do weekly dance solos. She's doing them without issue. If she's not comfortable speaking, she is at least making some eye contact and smiling at the person which is pretty huge. We've talked a lot about how people feel if you ignore and don't make eye contact, so if a stranger greets her in some way, she's smiling at them and will answer basic questions. This past week, we went to see her old swim coach. She was nervous but made eye contact, smiled and answered direct questions from her. I know that was extremely difficult!
teacher notes a significant improvement:
The student in my class started the year off with very limited communication skills and no play skills in the classroom setting. He required a significant amount of prompting to complete any classroom task and would very seldom respond to teacher or peer questions. The student looked down a lof of the time or would cover his eyes. He lacked confidence in the classroom setting and was extrmely hesitant to try unfamiliar tasks. On the playground, he woudl only go on the swing and would refuse to play in any other area or with any of his peers. His speech therapist would come once a week to work with him in the classrrom and helped to encourage communication between his peer adn teachers. The SLP wa able to provide us with strategies we could use in the classroom and she came up with a reward chart to encourage his independence and to promote peer and teacher interactions. Shortly after he started working with the SLP in our classroo we began to notice small changes in the student. He required much less prompting and seemed much more confident and comfortable in the classroom environment.
After a few months of classroom-based therapy with the SLP, the student started making significant improvements. Now, at the end of the year, I see a student who is confident, kind, silly, smart, adn who enjoys playing and communcating with both his peers and teachers. It has been amazing to watch all the growth and change that has happened in the course of the year.
teacher works with selective mutism student and therapist in the classroom:
I learned so much from working with a child with selective mutism and his therapist. The student grew leaps and bounds in the classroom this year. From entering the room not speaking to others, to leaving the classroom at the end of the year speaking to teachers and classmates, it was a joy to watch his progress throughout the year. His therapist was extremely helpful in and out of the classroom. When she was in the classroom, she worked diligently with the student and his classmates by creating environments where the student and others had to communicate through games, activities, lessons, etc. to expose the student to successful interactions in the classroom with peers. His therapist educated us teachers on how to work with a child with selective mutism, and collaborated with us and the family to come up with several goals for the child to meet. Finally, the therapist communicated regularly between teachers and family on the student's progress and setting new goals throughout the course of the year. It was a gift to have this experience as a teacher.