Saturday, February 11, 2017

Newsletter Launches Today!

Today's the day! We're launching The Selectively Silent Child newsletter, "Create, Advocate, Educate". 

Every other week, you'll get a quick list of resources and easy to implement tips for helping your child with Selective Mutism.

It's totally free, and takes seconds to sign up (all we need is your email address). Join us!

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Here's to 2017!

I am not broken. But I used to think that I was.

Because of the molestation, because of the rape, because of the verbal abuse: “Idiot, stupid, you are ugly and will always amount to nothing”; “Big deal, so you got to endorse a book and get mentioned in it. You are not an author. You will always be stupid. Don’t go getting any ideas”. And so I didn’t... Until I did.

My daughter, Becca was diagnosed with Selective Mutism in the early ‘90s, at the age of 2.5. Selective Mutism is a childhood anxiety disorder in which the child experiences intense anxiety that literally renders them unable to speak in social situations. When Becca was first diagnosed, I felt helpless. I had no idea that this disorder even existed, had no idea how to help myself with my own anxiety and depression, and had no idea where to begin. I spent my nights googling how to treat childhood anxiety and my days calling psychiatrists’ offices, desperate to get Becca help.

When Becca was in treatment and began to gain some control over her anxiety, I decided that I wanted to ensure that other parents in my community never had to struggle like I did to help their child find their voice. So in 1999, I founded a support group and called it The Selectively Silent Child. The group ran monthly at the renowned Hospital for Sick Children here in Toronto, Canada. We had families from all over Ontario drive in for our 2 hour meeting. My daughter was instrumental in having helped me to make tremendous strides in raising awareness and educating families and professionals.

2004 was the year we took it online, creating our first website, with help from a good friend called Jean. The website helped families affected by SM from around the world find us, and we helped them find resources.

A few years later, we went on hiatus, as I was working full time and taking 3 night-time classes through Seneca College, and Becca was grappling with the sudden appearance multiple chronic illnesses. We vowed that when we were ready, we’d come back to The Selectively Silent Child and help more families, because we loved our SM community.

In 2012 we slowly began to create a new site for The Selectively Silent Child. In 2015 and 2016 we spoke to lots of parents and increased our web presence.

Now it’s about a week until the end of 2016, and we are feeling introspective. This is the time of year when most people make at least one resolution. While Becca and I don’t believe in resolutions, because they’re often vague and rarely concrete, we do believe in setting goals for ourselves.

This year, more than ever, Becca and I wish to make a measurable, tangible difference in the lives of people like you, whose families are affected by Selective Mutism.

That’s why we’ve created these goals for next year. In 2017, we will:

  1. Launch The Selectively Silent Child newsletter. We’ll bring you free weekly updates on all things parenting and mental health related. (If you haven’t signed up yet, enter your info in the box at the bottom of this post, and you’re good to go!)

  2. Post more content on our social media. We’ve loved interacting with you online, and are looking forward to chatting with you some more, and sharing links to great content to help you help your child.

  3. Take care of our own health, both physical and mental. You can’t help your child if you’re not helping yourself-- that’s something we stress to all of the parents with whom we work. We’re going to continue to take that advice to heart and practice mindfulness, self care and healthy coping strategies. And as always, we’ll share whatever techniques work for us, because they may work for you, too!

Thank you so much for being part of the Selectively Silent Child family, and remember: no matter who you are, where you come from, or what anybody else says: You are valuable, you are important, and your child loves and needs you.

See you in the new year!
Love, Lin and Becca at The Selectively Silent Child

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I'm An Imperfect Success Story

"I look at Becca and I see such a success story," my aunt said. I blushed and tears streamed down my cheeks. She's seen me at my most anxious and she's seen me thrive. I guess she would know.

But I never thought I'd be a success story. Some days, I don't even feel like one, even though I was Selectively Mute and came out on the other side.

I remember sitting in a patch of grass at summer camp, anxiously scratching at my own skin so hard that it bled. It was almost time for singing camp songs, and I knew they'd ask me why I wasn't singing. I never sang. I never told them why I couldn't. But they always asked.

I wanted to sing along. I knew all the words. I'd sing at the top of my lungs, alone at home with my mom.

But as soon as I got to camp, surrounded by kids and expected to talk to them, the words got stuck in my throat. I couldn't talk. I couldn't even whisper. How could I sing?

A decade and a half later, I'm in my mid-twenties, running a mental health coaching business with my mom. My inner child is shouting with glee. In her wildest dreams she couldn't have imagined finding her voice and helping other little girls and boys find theirs.

I'm still anxious sometimes. Officially, I have Panic Disorder and OCD. They're largely under control, but some days I wonder, who am I to tell parents how to help their kids? I'm no expert. I'm still a terrified little girl, deep down.

But then I remember the number one thing I learned as that anxious little girl with bloody knees: Persistence. Some days will be hard. Really hard. So hard you'll think you won't survive. But then you will. You'll go home and hug your mom and your hamster, and read a funny book, and think about all the brave things you've done before. And you'll remember that you have all these great things in your life, and all these accomplishments, and you'll think, maybe I really can do this. Maybe I am courageous. I am kicking anxiety's butt. It's not kicking mine.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

6 Ways To Get the Teacher On Your Side

Your child’s teacher can be your greatest ally. She has a vested interest in your child, because she spends 5 days a week, 10 months of the year with your child. Teachers have insight into your child’s behaviour and development that you cannot see, because you aren’t in the classroom.

Whether your child needs an IEP or simply someone who understands their anxiety, having an open dialogue with your teacher is always useful. Your teacher wants your child to succeed; help them help your child.

1 Ask if you can volunteer to help out in your child’s classroom. Your child will be more relaxed knowing you are close by, and you’ll be able to observe the dynamic between your child and her classmates.

2 Have a communication book that can go back and forth between home and school. It’s important to share important events that may have an impact on your child’s behaviour with your teacher, so she can help your child to the best of her ability. Even seemingly inconsequential events, like a flu shot or a dental appointment may affect your child’s mood. The teacher can report on what kind of a day your child has had.

3 Teachers are on a tight budget. Pick up some stickers, craft sticks or bubbles for the class. The teacher will appreciate your generosity.

4 If your school has a PTA (Parent Teacher Association), book fair or curriculum night, offer to bring a snack or to help out at the event.

5 If you want to talk to the teacher, ask to make an appointment. Trying to have a serious, private conversation on the playground is not appropriate. This ensures that you will have each other’s full attention.

6. Acknowledge Teacher Appreciation Week. Everyone likes to feel celebrated. Give your child’s teacher a thoughtful card between May 2 and 6 this year and let her know you appreciate her work.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

But It Hurts: Sensory Overload

Many times as a parent, teacher, aunt and mental health coach, I've heard these three words uttered by a child: "but. it. hurts!".

So what is she talking about? Sensory overload.

This is most recognizable to a parent when a child says, for example:

"This sock hurts me". You take the sock off, turn it inside out and show your child there's nothing in there. You put the sock back on her foot and she screeches again. You ask where it's hurting her and she points to the "toe line". And that's the last time you buy socks with "lines". Maybe she goes to school without socks that day.

You get your kid ready for school, but she keeps screaming that the tag in her shirt is scratching her. You tuck the tag in and press it down flat, but she insists that it's still uncomfortable. You take the shirt off her, carefully cut the tag out, and put the shirt back on her. She screams, "it still hurts!". Thank god we live in a world with tagless clothes! (It's just a matter of finding them and replacing her entire wardrobe).

Ponytails, pigtails. Thirty minutes later, your daughter insists that her hair still hurts. You loosen the hair ties, but now she is distraught because "my pigtails are uneven". After fixing the stubborn pigtails twice more, you're drenched in sweat. But at least sweetpie is satisfied. Or is she?

"The lights are too bright! I can't see! Please turn them down," she pleads.

Crowded places. Noise. The texture of certain foods.

Does any of this sound familiar? Your child might have sensory issues. Sensory issues are common among children with special needs, including Selective Mutism.

Sensory Overload Coping Tips

1. If it's too bright, allow your child to wear sunglasses (even indoors).

2. Try sensory activities to stimulate your child's senses in a more positive way.

3. If your child is hypersensitive or has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD; severe hypersensitivity), see an occupational therapist (OT) for Sensory Integration (SI). SI involves exposing children to overstimulating sensory situations in a healthy way.

4. Learn to prevent sensory overload- related meltdowns. Pay attention to your child's mood and notice their triggers. For example, you wouldn't take a child who is sensitive to noise to an especially crowded mall.

5. Remember your child is not misbehaving by having a meltdown related to sensory overload. She literally cannot help it.

Does your child experience sensory overload? Share in the comments below.