Yesterday we met with the speech therapist recommended by our family doctor.
She works with the local school system and sees kids for all sorts of speech/language issues. She has even worked with a few kids who had/have selective mutism. She admitted that the kids she’s worked with in the past with this issue were older. They could write or type and so had another means of communication.
But she was pretty confident that we can help Olivia.
I say we because she also admitted that with a ‘selective’ issue, the best therapy comes from situations she’s going to encounter in real life rather than sitting in a room with a therapist. We need to get her away from using me as her voice since I can’t be with her in every situation and so she needs to learn that using her own voice really isn’t a scary thing.
So Miss D sent us away with homework. She wants us to work on the things she suggested for a month and then call her. She thinks seeing Olivia (and me and probably even Alyssa) once this month, once in July and again one more time in August will help Olivia be even a little more ready for this coming school year.
So…the homework: We need to come up with a reward system for Olivia and make it very visual so she knows when she’s doing something we want her to do, like smile at a peer, or even hold hands with a cousin she only sees twice a year.
We also need to take this very slowly. We can’t expect Olivia to go from hiding her face against my hip the minute someone makes eye contact with her and asks her a question to her going up to strangers in the grocery store and striking up conversations.
The first step is to get her to communicate, not talk, just communicate with her peers. And by peers, we don’t mean Alyssa and Jaxon, two people she sees almost every single day.
The next time my mom has my step-sister’s daughters over, we’re going to give Olivia a project. We’ll tell her that in the next twenty minutes (a timer will be set) each time she simply acknowledges Joz’s existence, Olivia will get a post-it. If she gets three post-its in those twenty minutes, she gets a treat or a prize. All we want her to do is smile if Joz speaks to her. Hold hands with Joz if they’re going to run around the house. Play a game beside her and eventually, nod or shake her head in response to a question that Joz asks.
The next task is to send Alyssa and Olivia out for ice cream with one my brothers. Olivia know her uncles quite well but she won’t speak to them. So sending them out with them will mean she needs to talk to someone to say what she wants. Even if she just tells Alyssa, it will take me out of the role of Olivia’s voice.
We’re totally willing to do whatever it takes to get Olivia out of her own head and help her find her own voice. This will probably take years and you know what? That’s okay too because all we want is progress, even if it is minute, tiny little steps toward her independence.