Meet Emily

When Emily was 6 years-old, her parents realized that she struggled to interact with anyone outside of the home. Soon, Emily’s  family discovered the SMart Center! She began treatment by attending CommuniCamp™ and continued with a follow-up appointment. Now, Emily has more friends, talks in school, and has even started lessons to learn piano and a second language!

Read more about how Emily overcame SM below!

How old was your child when you first noticed he/she was mute in select settings?

I first realized it when she was 6, but in hindsight, she was born like that!

Please briefly summarize where/when your child was mute/not mute.

Every day at daycare drop off at 1 years old through 2nd grade, she would stand in the room as if it was the first time she was there and just freeze. She couldn’t respond to new people or in front of a crowd. Even if we went somewhere exciting like a birthday party, she would be so happy and once we got there she would freeze and cry on the way home. Around close friends and family she was totally herself. It was hard to tell especially during COVID when we only saw people she was already comfortable with.

Was your child in treatment for Selective Mutism, Social Anxiety, or related disorders before finding the SMart Center?

Yes, she was taking anxiety medication prescribed by a psychiatrist. His thinking was that she wouldn’t even talk to the therapist and we’d be spending time and money for her to just sit there. He felt her medication would make her more respective to trying what she would learn in therapy. He never said not to do therapy he just felt he wanted her brain to be able to use it and participate.

What brought you to seek treatment at the SMart Center?

After about 6 months of medication, she was ready to start learning the techniques. I had already been researching programs and had my eye on SMart Center for a while. I read about the approach, and I liked the immersive treatment of camp. Your program included the parent training which at the time was important to me, but once I was doing it I realized it was the most important part! Other methods I was told were to bribe her to talk to people and to not give her what she wants unless she talks…all of those slowed her down.

What SMart Center services did you use?

  • CommuniCamp™ Intensive Group Treatment & Parent Training Program
  • Follow Ups
  • Webinars
  • Podcast

How often do/did you consult with the SMart Center?

We did the consultation before camp and one follow up after camp.

What changes have you noticed?

Emily was determined to use her skills, and knowing how to help her use them was the key to her success!
Emily has more friends, talks in school, has started lessons for piano and a second language which she was putting off because she didn’t want to be in those situations. People who knew her before cannot believe she is the same child. They used to say “wow she’s so serious.” But really she was funny and goofy… She used to beg me to sign her up for classes and then cry and beg not to go in. Now she runs inside and I barely get to say goodbye!

Our biggest moment of success and excitement was at a recent trip to Disney, she enthusiastically volunteered to be in a show! She was in front of a huge audience in a stadium and said her name and helped perform a trick! The crowd cheered for the trick but you can imagine our family was cheering for her bravery and ability to do this! Before she would have cowered and tried not to be seen! Or she would have been in “statue mode.” She said it was her dream come true and best day ever! I feel more and more that while she still has her moments, we can say she WAS selectively mute or is shy sometimes rather than she IS selectively mute.
SM isn’t something to get over, it’s something to go THROUGH. For her, knowing at a young age there is no magic button you have to put in the work to get results is a lesson that will serve her well in all areas of her future.

What S-CAT® strategies helped the most?

Where to begin!!! S-CAT taught me to take a step back and focus on comfort rather than talking. Allowing gestures and accepting any form of communication she could do was what Emily needed. Through bribes I could get her to talk but she’d often lash out later or get worse the next day. I learned she wasn’t ready for that. We backtracked and hung out in stage 2 and then she was ready. Gestures, handover takeover, whisper buddies, and forced choice are our top go to’s when she is having a moment… sometimes I’ll even say “tell me” if she’s stuck, but simply hearing that or maybe just knowing she can… she just starts talking to the person. Other times I’ve told her to point on a menu, when the server confirms, she verbally asks for more and shares her four allergies! It all started with a gesture. I wouldn’t have thought it was ok before but now I realize it’s an ice breaker, and one most others don’t even notice we use. I used to put her in activities where she didn’t already have a friend so she would have to talk to  others but I learned that she NEEDED a whisper buddy to open up. Now she doesn’t need that anymore but I’m glad we backtracked and applied it!

Do you have any “key” advice for parents going through it now?

I wish I could time travel and tell myself she will be here. Be kind to yourself. If you are reading this then you are already trying to help. It’s a learning process, it’s not magic or fast.

The first thing I did the very first day of parent training was apologize to her for pushing too hard. She forgave me and told me at least I found communicamp and kept thanking me. That was a fresh start. When we can tell she is being resistant we step back on the bridge and soon she moves forward on her own. My key advice is don’t miss a moment of the parent training, take refreshers, and don’t focus on talking! Practice as much as possible!
Don’t see moving back on the bridge as a regression – I see it as turning my computer off and on again 😁. I was scared to go back on the bridge but sometimes it’s only for a minute.
Also as they say in training, be a detective, learn the triggers. “Loud and new” are my daughter’s so sometimes we go for a break where we can reboot and then she’s fine.

My favorite trick is I always keep something in the car for shared task. She likes rainbow loom, and if we ever go somewhere that she won’t know anyone, I pull it out. She gets comfortable fast and other kids join. Now we added things like mad libs, blank paper and markers, or a simple small boardgame to keep in the car for “social emergencies.”

How does Emily feel since working with the SMart Center? 

After her participation in the Disney show, she said she really wanted me to reach out to the SMart Center, “I want them to know everything is working!” I think that says it all!