Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Why won't she talk?

What am I to do?

Today, as we walked to school, my daughter told me she didn't like school.

"Why?" I ask.

"Because I can't talk."

Now, you have to understand the background behind this.

Firstly: the immediate past. I had just lost it with her completely because, despite 20 minutes to get dressed, at the time we had to leave she was playing with Lego in her bedroom, in her pyjamas and saying she didn't have a shirt. It was, of course, in the wardrobe where they are always kept: she was just distracted by play. I know, I know ... her behaviour is totally normal (perhaps even for a nearly-7-year-old), but it doesn't make it any less infuriating when I can almost hear the school bell ringing and she still has her dressing-gown on.

Secondly: her history of delayed development. She was late speaking, which we eventually put it down to glue ear and hoped was resolved by grommits. Well, it was in part, and she began to play more with others and pay attention to teachers. But, for some inexplicable reason, she still struggled to catch up. That was nearly four years ago. Despite her perfect hearing she doesn't have good grammar and mispronounces many words. She gets additional help with developing her gross motor skills: she can do everything, but then falls over a lot, or won't hop, or something. Ask her a question and she is like a bunny in the headlights: frightened, blank-faced, panicked. She won't sit still on the carpet and struggles with her numbers, in particular. We have been to speech therapy, who just believe her to be delayed, and have been on a waiting list for OT for nearly two years (not helped by moving house, of course).

Just last week we had a chat with her teachers, the headmaster and SENCO person at school. No-one can pin-point what is wrong with her, why she isn't flying through school, or at least why she is struggling to progress. They commented on her being quiet in class, not answering questions, or having her blank face look if asked directly. I must state that I have complete confidence in her school and the teachers are excellent and (whilst I am being positive) my daughter's reading skills have come on leaps and bounds over the last 6-9 months.

But today - today is the first time that she has said she doesn't like school for a reason that I fear and that I cannot quash: she can't talk. Yesterday she had also said she didn't like school, but I had ignored it, assuming it would pass. (She is the same as all other children in not liking school some days simply because she'd rather be at home watching TV!) She talks at home ... too much, her brother would say! So now I am concerned, and don't know what to do.

Should I tell the teachers? Should I expect it to pass, as it has on other days? Should I go into class and try to encourage her, or would that distract her? Should I push for one-to-one support, or is she lazy and not learning to work independently? Do I do too much with her at home, or too little, or simply the wrong things?

She is usually such a bright, cheerful, giggly little girl, and I would hate that to be squashed by the steamroller of school and education. I want to encourage a love of life and a love of learning and a love of others.

Just not quite sure how to do it. Any advice?


Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

I don't know very much about this, but I did remember that Susanna over at A Modern Mother wrote about selective muteism in her daughter. Maybe it is something similar?

cheshire wife said...

Sorry, unable to help, but I wish you luck.

The Dotterel said...

When you say (or when she says) 'can't talk' does that mean not allowed to (e.g. while the teacher's talking) or finds herself unable to? I suspect, reading the post, that it's the latter and - if so - be reassured that it is an incredibly common and temporary problem. You sound as if you've got a good, listening school there and they'll monitor the situation and act if they think there's something untoward. (Of course, not all school are quite so on-the-ball!) If this really is the case, I'd let it pass for the time being. Keep talking to your daughter about why she feels she can't talk, and maybe gently suggest some small steps she might like to take to get things moving (e.g. saying something 'pre-planned' in a lesson she enjoys and feels comfortable in - even go so far as rehearsing it if necessary) but be reassured that it is almost certainly a phase that will pass. Hope that helps!

Catharine Withenay said...

BiB - thank you. I remember (now!) reading that article at the time. She seemed really on the ball and pro-active and timely. I've re-read it, printed it out and will take it in to school to discuss with the teacher. I think my daughter's situation is a little different, but the ideas there may form a basis for a way to go forward. Thank you (again!)

And thanks, CW, for your support. It really does help.

Catharine Withenay said...

Dotterel - you sneaked in there!

Yes, it is the latter scenario, and I agree that it is almost certainly temporary. Indeed her teacher said she has spoken more even just this week. I like your idea of rehearsing answers, such as what we did over the weekend etc. I'll work on that too.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Good luck with it all. If it continues...maybe it is a medical thing? Perhaps keeping a diary of peaks and troughs may also help?

It must be worrying for you for sure. The fact that you are paying attention and listening is superb. Many parents try to push stuff under the carpet. Hxx

Troy said...

I'm no expert so can only send you my best wishes that things change for the better. However the great thing about "Blogland" is that there are experts out there, like The Dotterel, who can offer savvy advice.

Nathalie said...

Could be a range of things. Two of the girls in my youth group are incredibly quiet in public but apparently talk endlessly at home. Both are very bright and "normal"- its just how they are. With delayed development has she simply not developed her confidence yet especially in a new environment, recently ish moved home, school or class? Poor chemistry with her teacher? Then there are more medical things I'm sure you've thought of e.g mild dyspraxia etc.

We have a girl who was "mute" at secondary school but came to college and while never overly vocal something changed and she quite happily speaks away especially outside formal sessions. So take time and see what happens I suspect most children have mysterious "hiccups" in behaviour at school.

Neil not Nathalie

Ladybird World Mother said...

Oh you poor thing. Such a worry.
Now... not an expert but AM teacher and so interested and concerned when I hear things like this...
First and foremost, your little girl can talk to you... and that is brilliant. Next, you have a supportive school, who will LISTEN to all your worries and see what they can to. So far, really good!
There are so many reasons why your little girl isn't doing what others are. Firstly, every child develops at their OWN speed/way/time. Individuals... all of them. Some are lucky and are the same as others. This is called 'Normal'. Others are not so lucky and are slower or much faster.
I suggest that you work out what learning style she has. Not sure how much you know... but this is SUCH a good way of working out how someone learns... some people learn better with background music, some in groups,some on their own, and it will tell you if she learns better by hearing things or seeing them. Or touching them. etc. Just google on learning skills and you will get loads of places to go to and find out.
Find out what she means by not being able to talk. If, like me, she felt it impossible to speak out for fear of saying the wrong thing, or finding she was still in the discussion they had had before, and she hadn't realised... then it will be helpful to know all that.
Then you and her teachers can work out a way of helping her cope with listening and taking part in everything. There IS a way, and she WILL be fine. More than fine. You just need to be as informed as possible.
I have so often had children who are slower at dressing after PE, etc... or at finishing their work, or at getting ready to go home. If you know WHY the child does things this way, it goes such a long way to creating a partnership between you and the child.
So, the more you can inform the school, and the more you can work together, the better.
And the most important person in all of this is your little girl. She needs to LOVE school.
Am sure she will. After all, she's got you.
Lots of love xxxxxx
(some kids dont like being asked things when looking AT them. It scares them. No idea why. Had a kid like this, and used to ask her to do things indirectly, like asking the whole class,and hoping she would put her hand up. Very very occasionally she would... and her face would be a picture!)

Catharine Withenay said...

Thank you, all, so much. All the support is much appreciated, and all the advice has been read and taken on board. I'll let you know how we get on. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Maternal Tales said...

Sorry have come to this a bit late, but my advice would be to talk things through with the school and just have them keep an eye on her and know that you are concerned. I wouldn't go in and cause her extra pressure, but what I would do is invite a few children home to play with her after school. If she's in her home environment then she'll feel more comfortable to talk and then once she talks in front of her contemporaries at home she'll feel more confident to do it at school. Invite a few of them, one at a time and build up some good relationships out of school. I think that will really help. Good luck x

Working Mum said...

Have come to this post late, but there seems a lot of good, sensible advice here already. Children do learn in different ways and sensitive teachers will know this and work with your child's preferred way of learning. I know I have pupils who would completely clamp up and stare blankly if I asked them a questions in front of the whole class, so I don't, but I don't ignore them, I go to talk to them one to one and they are much more relaxed and able to communicate then. Perhaps your daughter just has that type of personality.

clareybabble said...

I'm slowly catching up on blog reading so please forgive me for commenting so late. I've been through everything trying to help Little S with his speech. If you ever need advice or a shoulder then please email xx

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