Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Selective mutism: a personal story

Guest post by Natasha Dale

After struggling with Selective Mutism for many years, I finally found the courage to film and post a video of my story (see below)

 What is Selective Mutism? – Selective Mutism is a severe anxiety disorder where the sufferer displays persistent failure to speak in certain situations. I do feel that the label ‘Selective Mutism’ isn’t very accurate, as for me and many others it isn’t purely about the inability to speak in certain situations, it’s the inability to use many aspects of communication.

 Selective Mutism took control of my life for many years and resulted in me feeling extremely trapped, unhappy and guilty. During this period of my life I could only wish to be able to sing happy birthday to my parents, to give eye contact to those I cared about, to eat in public and enjoy social family gatherings, to walk to a nearby shop independently, to clap and congratulate people who deserved it, to be able to cough when I desperately needed to, to cry when in pain, to laugh when happy, to be able to ask to go to the toilet, to answer the register, to say thank you when I was given help, to tell someone if I felt unwell, to make friendships and to live my life as myself; instead of a tiny bit of myself with a huge amount of the disorder that is Selective Mutism.
 I began my journey into recovery at the age of 18 when I joined an agricultural college and worked alongside animals. Here I was given 1:1 support every second I was on the college grounds. This intense support along with being around animals, seeing a counsellor once a fortnight and of course the constant support from my family, allowed me to begin to recover.

It is now my passion to help those with additional needs and my ultimate goal is to be able to work with people struggling with Selective Mutism. I am not fully recovered yet, but I am so very close. I am happy to be able to use my experience with the disorder to raise awareness and to help others going through what I did for all of those years.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Support the Stafford NAS and have a great night too!

As most of you know, we are a specialist team of speech and language therapists working with children with ASD and we take this role very seriously. We do what we can to support families with children with ASD. As a consequence we are sponsoring the Stafford branch of the National Autistic Society for their latest fundraiser. Mandy Binns and her colleagues work really hard  so please help them make this night a success. It will be fun too!!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Let's Talk with your baby: great 8 week course for parents of babies aged 3- 12months

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Team work makes it so much easier...... the A Team!

On Tuesday I went to see a little girl aged 4 years at home, who I'll call 'A'. This time last year, she was at the 'own agenda' stage of development where she didn't really see the point of communication. Her attention span was extremely short and she was more interested in my bangle than me. I couldn't see any verbal understanding. Her only expression was echolalia.

This week, we have a bright, little girl who will be starting school in September: she has a developing attention span, can understand  short instructions, uses language to get what she needs and to express herself. She can even tell you what she doesn't want very vocally! Her social interaction is developing well with children and adults. She now has a diagnosis of ASD. The only thing I'm worried about now is that she will be overlooked as she is so well behaved. 

Is this a miracle? Yes in a way it is, but it's actually the result of fantastic team work. At the centre is a parent who has done absolutely everything suggested, even when that meant making life harder for herself e.g. as part of getting A from 'own-agenda' to the next stage there was no helping herself to chocolate, she had to request a piece at a time, which was in a clear plastic box which she couldn't open on her own. As you can imagine, A wasn't happy!
  • The key worker/SENCO who had worked tirelessly to achieve all the targets set, 
  • The nursery who allowed it to happen
  • The extremely knowledgeable, Early Years Advisor who co-ordinated everyone
  • The lovely and very patient, NHS SLT who reviewed, set targets and saw as often as she could
  • An excellent paediatrician who recognises ASD in girls
  • me: I've worked through individual coaching for More Than Words and then worked on components of language and communication.
We've all worked together for the good of A. Well done to the A team! :-)


0844 704 5888


Thursday, 16 June 2016

The delayed effect of anxiety on children: 'compete fabrication on the part of the parent'

My role is to see children with ASD, Selective Mutism and complex communication difficulties. I don't mean complex needs, I mean complicated profiles and even more complicated situations. Many of these children are very anxious. I know that the more complex the case, the more simple my explanation needs to be. Time and time again, I see parents who describe their child one way and schools who see something different and completely refute what the parent is saying, even if they have the scratches and bruises to confirm it.

It is described as a 'delayed effect' or the 'pressure cooker' situation. I like to see it as 'the bottle of pop phenomenon'. the child keeps it together, maybe doesn't like to draw attention to themselves or can 'just about manage' until 3.30pm. There might be small signs, that someone who who knows the child well or someone experienced in childhood anxiety can spot, such as slight eye or vocal tic or the picking at the skin on their thumb.Then when they get home all hell erupts. The bottle has been shaken all day and the top comes off at the door. The door where they feel safe and secure with a parent who understands them, won't judge them or hate them whatever they do.

I've had this reported 12 times in the last few months alone,  but there is little written about it which might help professionals understand that what they see isn't always the true picture:
  • the child with anxiety who smiles, so can't be worried at school
  • the child who is sweet and polite so can't have sworn uncontrollably at their mum last night
  • the timid, quiet child who can't possibly have inflicted those bruises because the lessons changed today
  • the 'normal' child who does as he's told can't be demand avoidant at home
  • The child who seemed happy for a new member of staff to take the class as he didn't say anything, can't have trashed the house when he got in
  • the girl who said nothing  in class can't possibly have had a melt down at home because they'd moved the cupboard to the other side of the classroom
  • the kind, helpful girl can't have scratched her mum so badly she drew blood when all she was trying to do was to give the ipad to a man to take to repair
  • the 'ideal pupil' who loves school can't really hang onto the door handle and fight both parents every single morning because he doesn't want a bath
These are all real cases and some of you reading this will know who I'm talking about.

It must be parenting, it must be the parent, the parent must be fabricating........ I think NOT!!! We need training for staff in spotting the (often well hidden) signs of anxiety. It can be directly related to language and communication difficulties as they struggle to cope to understand or fit in......bit like a swan paddling away furiously underneath. It's exhausting for the swan and he needs a break after  a short time. It may also be related to sensory issues or both.  One thing is for sure, the parents need support not disbelief.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Small Talk in Sutton Coldfield: Sophie Harding, Small Talk's latest recruit

We're delighted to introduce Sophie Harding who will work with the Small Talk team in Sutton Coldfield and other areas of Staffordshire

About Me:
My Name is Sophie Harding and I am the Small Talk Speech and Language Therapist covering Sutton Coldfield and surrounding areas. I have a BSc (Hons) degree in SLT and I am Makaton and Camperdown trained. I am married with two young children.

My Work:
My work focuses on children who have difficulties with communicating. This includes understanding language, using language, producing speech sounds clearly and interacting with the world around them.
I provide all children, families and teaching staff with the support they need to reach their potential.

How I can help:
I can provide detailed assessments, tailored treatment programmes, training and support for families, teaching staff and other professionals. We can be successful when we all work together. My time can be flexible to meet your needs and I work both in and out of term time.

Sophie Harding

0844 704 5888