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.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 Wrap Up & Exciting New Things

2015 was a big year for The Selectively Silent Child!

We reinvented The Selectively Silent Child. TSSC started in 1999 as monthly support group at the renowned Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, ON, Canada. Our first website went live in 2004. After a few years' hiatus to focus on our education, we officially launched our sparkly new site and mental health coaching business in 2015. Thank you for joining us! We're glad to be back.

We returned to our passion. Raising awareness and educating people about how to help kids manage anxiety (especially Selective Mutism) is what we truly love to do.

We attended the Selective Mutism Group's annual conference in Philadelphia this past October. It was our first time, but definitely not our last.

We started vlogging. YouTube videos are an amazing way to engage and educate, so we made our first one this December. Subscribe to our channel, and you'll never miss a new upload!

We launched our first product. The Selectively Silent Night is a set of informational videos about how to help anxious children thrive during the holiday season. (It's a steal at only $15, so get it now and be prepared for next Christmas before the price goes up!).

Looking Forward to 2016

We have so many exciting things planned for this year, including:

Periscope: We broadcast on Periscope for the first time yesterday! It was a great experience and we will definitely do it again soon. Follow us here. (For the uninitiated: Periscope is a free streaming app and website that lets you view content live and for 24 hours after). Be sure to join us next time!

Launch more products: We love helping you help your child. Having lived with Selective Mutism (Becca as an SM child and Lin as a parent of), we've been there and are ready to take your hand and help you through.

Blog: Watch this space for more free, timely and vital information about SM. In the meantime, check out our most recent blog posts: After We've Made Merry: Post- Holiday Stress Relief For Kids & 5 Ways To Raise SM Awareness All Year Long.

P.S. Our newsletter will be launching before you know it! Sign up below:

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

After We've Made Merry: Post- Holiday Stress Relief for Kids

The wrapping paper is strewn about the house. Toys are scattered here and there. Your company has gone. Leftovers are eaten. You are alone with the dirty dishes and you want nothing more than to get out of the house and spend quality time with your child. 

The holidays can be a stressful time for children and adults alike. Not being able to speak while around company can fill the selectively mute child with anxiety. 

Here's how to ease your child’s frayed nerves after holiday celebrations:

1. Many children find comfort in listening to their favourite music. 

2. Paper, scissors and craft materials can settle your little one down. Add feathers, different textured fabric and tissue paper. Kids love scrunching it up in their hands. 

3. If you have snow, go sledding, make snowmen and finish off your adventure with a thermos of hot chocolate. 

4. If you do not have snow, revel in the warm weather. Take some bubbles with you. They are a great tool to use when your child is feeling anxious. 

5. Many children find sensory materials soothing. Try making homemade playdough or snow dough. You can use cookie cutters or let your little architect use their imagination to make buildings. Alternatively, get some towels to cover the table and fill different size bowls with water. Add funnels, cups and spoons .Bring their favourite toys and have them join in on the adventure. Encourage your child to make up stories.

6. Colouring is all the rage now. Pick up some colouring books at your local bookstore for you and your little Picasso. Make use of different markers, crayons and pastels. 

How do you wind down after the holiday season? Share in the comments below!