As we approach the start of another school year, we have put together a comprehensive guide for parents to support their children with Selective Mutism as they transition back into the school environment. The strategies focus on gradually exposing the child to school-related activities, classmates, and teachers while aiming to reduce anxiety and promote comfort.
Below are a few tips and strategies to consider heading into the new school year:
- Contact the School:
- Educate school personnel about SM and your child’s needs.
- Advocate for your child’s needs and educate teachers about SM using resources from SMG~CAN.
- Participate in the teacher selection process and request a nurturing, understanding teacher.
- Discuss necessary accommodations for your child based on their anxiety level.
- Prepare for School:
- Determine your child’s teacher, classmates’ names, and classroom location.
- Encourage play dates with classmates before school starts.
- Spend time on school grounds to familiarize your child with the environment.
- Introduce classmates gradually to help your child build social comfort.
- Social Comfort Building:
- Gradually expose your child to new classmates one at a time.
- Encourage verbalization and interaction during activities.
- Practice school-related activities such as using the bathroom and eating in the classroom.
- Meet the teacher beforehand in comfortable settings.
- Discuss daily routines and practice school-related activities with your child.
- Bus Ride Preparation:
- Help your child get accustomed to taking the bus.
- Arrange for them to sit with a friend or near the driver.
- Inform the bus driver about your child’s SM and anxiety.
- Provide positive reinforcement and support during bus rides.
- Addressing Anxiety:
- The provided strategies aim to alleviate anxiety, not enable it.
- The goal is to help children adjust to school with confidence and reduced anxiety.
The start of school can be scary and nerve wracking for many children. For our anxious SM children, the start of the school year can be even scarier. Finding ways to each into school with the ultimate goal of relieving anxiety will help our children adjust to the start of the new school year with comfort, confidence and lowered anxiety.