Selective mutism/Verbal dyspraxia

My daughter Heidi has had speech difficulties since she was young. She was late babbling, she said her first words around 14 months which was dada, roo, mama. But after a few months she stopped saying these.

At her 2 year review the health visitor was a bit concerned about her speech and development, but put a lot of it down to her first months growing up in the hospital with her poorly brother. And thinking she didn’t get our full attention. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Heidi got talked to so much. She was often had her mamas house! and took around to family members house. They all cooed over her and interacted with her! and even the nurses on the ward would come and take her, and show her around. She was always interacted with.

We put her into nursery at 2 years old in hope this would bring out her speech. It didn’t in fact she was less vocal when out and about. i also attended a speech and language 12 weeks course with her so encourage talking. I attended this class twice with her. Me and her dad completed a makaton course to help Heidi communicate

When she was almost 4 she got diagnosed with autism, which we suspected. as well as her language delay there was a lot off other areas of concern. Two of her older brothers also have a asd diagnosis, and a rare chromosome disorder, so her having asd didn’t shock us. But iv never had a child with speech difficulties, so all this was all new to me.

Heidi is now due to go into year 1 in September. Over the last couple of years, we have learnt a few makaton signs that she uses. She also does a bit of picture exchange (pecs) at school but that is hit and miss when she chooses too.

She can say around 25 single words and sometimes 2/3 word sentences. some days she will say a new word and it will be nice and clear, then later she cant say it and it comes out wrong or will refuse to try again.

Heidi has selective mutism and cant speak in certain situations and to certain people. She doesn’t speak at school but as been heard saying the odd word to her classmate when in play.

Heidi not only as selective mutism but she struggles to form and sound words out. If it was just selective mute she would have a vocabulary of a 5 year old girl. So here’s where verbal dyspraxia comes in too.

Signs and symptoms of verbal dyspraxia 

The signs and symptoms depend on the severity of the problem. If your child has verbal dyspraxia, they may: 

  • have difficulty making sounds or repeating sequences of sounds or words 
  • make different mistakes when they say the same word 
  • have difficulty with normal intonational patterns (e.g. speaking in a monotone, placing equal stress on each syllable in words)
  • have a very limited vocabulary 
  • speak more slowly than other children their age, and use more pauses and fewer words 
  • make searching movements with their lips and tongue when trying to say a sound. and this is another video of Heidi singing.

Signs a Child Might Have Selective mutism.

Signs a child might have selective mutism include:

  • Being verbal at home, but completely or mostly non verbal at school or around strangers
  • Seeming nervous or scared when in public or shut down and unable to speak
  • Using gestures, facial expressions and nodding to communicate. (Note some children with Selective mutism struggle even with nonverbal communication and will not do this.)
  • Although each child is different, and one may be able to speak to peers at school but not teachers, or speak to one or two particular peers. or speak to one certain extended family member and not others. each child is different.

Tips for Helping Kids Talk

  • Wait 5 seconds: We often don’t give kids enough time to respond. Waiting five seconds without repeating the question or letting anyone answer for a child is a good rule.
  • Use labeled praise: Instead of just saying “Great job!” be specific: “Great job telling us you want juice!” This way kids know exactly what they’re being praised for, and they feel motivated to keep doing it.
  • Rephrase your question: Instead of asking questions that can be answered with a yes or no — or, more often, nodding or shaking her head — ask a question that is more likely to prompt a verbal response. Try giving her choices (“Would you like a puppy sticker or a star sticker?”) or asking more open-ended questions (“What should we play next?”).
  • Practice echoing: Repeat what the child is saying. This is reinforcing and lets her know that she’s been heard and understood. For kids who speak very quietly, repeating what they say also helps them participate in bigger groups.
  • Be a sportscaster: Do a play-by-play recap of what the child is doing: “You’re drawing a flower” or “I see you’re pointing to the picture in the book.” This helps convey interest in what the child is doing and is a good technique to fall back on when she is being nonverbal.

Here’s some useful link’s to information and support.

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