When Toyam was younger, his parents began to notice that he was mute in select settings. This is when they discovered the SMart Center. Later on, Toyam was diagnosed with Selective Mutism. He began working with our center with a 2-day individualized intensive treatment, followed by CommuniCamp™, and continued follow-up care.
Now, after all of his hard work, Toyam is verbal and his confidence has skyrocketed since starting treatment! According to his teachers, “We have seen such growth! Toyam is verbal, jokes & plays with his peers, and can talk easily to his teachers. And, he recently presented a research project to his entire class!”
Toyam’s parents, Nicole and Pushkar Marathe, were inspired by the progress their son has made in his social communication challenges. Their experience has made Selective Mutism a cause close to their hearts. Pushkar is the chef at Stage Kitchen and the Marathe family has created a charity dinner to raise funding for group treatment programs, research funding, and to spread awareness about Selective Mutism.
Read more about Toyam’s SM journey and how his parents are giving back to the cause below!
How old was your child when you first noticed he/she was mute in select settings?
3 years old.
Please briefly summarize where/when your child was mute/not mute.
Starting when Toyam was 2 he went to pre school. The teacher noticed he was not talking. She suggested hearing checked, speech therapy, etc.. At age 3 we started speech therapy and the clinician said his palms would sweat when he came around other children. She did some research and asked if I knew what Selective Mutism is. I read about it and wasn’t sure because Toyam always seemed like a normal kid (apart from the sensory) until he was in school.
Was your child in treatment for Selective Mutism, Social Anxiety, or related disorders before finding the SMart Center? If yes, where?
Yes, he was working briefly with a psychologist in Florida.
What brought you to seek treatment at the SMart Center? What makes S-CAT® treatment different from other methods you may have tried before finding the SMart Center?
It just wasn’t working with the previous psychologist. She did diagnose him but the treatment was really hard and my husband read about Dr. E and the SMart Center. I loved it mostly because Dr. E does not just treat the child; she educates the parents and gives them the tools to help their child.
What SMart Center services did you use?
- S-CAT® Individualized Intensive Treatment Program (One- or Two-Day)
- CommuniCamp™ Intensive Group Treatment & Parent Training Program
- Parent Training & Coaching
- School Consultation
- Treatment Professional Consultation
- Medication Consultation
How often do you consult with the SMart Center?
What changes have you noticed? Please describe your child’s overall progress, including functioning in school, at home, with friends and teachers, and any changes you have seen since starting treatment.
Overall progress is still happening. Toyam went from being mute to being Stage 3 and verbally responsive and initiating. It is four years later and it still is a work in progress.
What S-CAT® strategies helped the most?
Following and practicing the skills that are taught to you from the camps, working with clinicians, podcasts, and books. What I learned is there is not a magic book of how to do this. Each child is different and what helped us mostly was accepting who my child is and to keep trying all the techniques suggested. Some work, some don’t, but you have to find what works best for your child.
Do you have any “key” advice for parents going through it now?
The process seems long but it’s worth the time, money, and investment for your child. It’s hard, and it still is. Surround yourself with friends and family who understand the process and are supportive. Get rid of the ones who don’t!
On November 30th, Stage Kitchen hosted the second annual fundraising event. With the dedicated efforts of Chef Pushkar, Nicole, and the Stage Kitchen staff, over $50,000 was raised towards the Selective Mutism Research Foundation. Part of this funding is being made into a grant dedicated to Toyam and all of his hard work that will help send other families to CommuniCamp™.
We asked Nicole some questions about what this fundraiser and Selective Mutism as a cause means to her and her family:
How does it feel to fundraise for this cause?
When I started this journey helping Toyam I didn’t think about what I can do to help others, I just wanted to help my son. Fast forward four years, and I want to be able to continue with Toyam’s success and progress, however, I’m at the point where I am ready to start to spread awareness, give to other families in need, and continue the research. We want people to know what Selective Mutism means when they hear the term. We wanted to also be able to help families that are seeking help for their children but financially cannot. There also are so many why’s (“Why my child?”) about this and then so many how’s (“How do I help my child?”). We wanted to help dig deeper into the research part of this. We are hopeful that this will inspire other families to do the same.
What does CommuniCamp™ mean to you?
I feel like CommuniCamp™ is imperative to starting this process for helping the children. Listening to Dr. E and Jennifer was like music to my ears during the parent education. You couldn’t hear a pin drop in the room. It was then that I learned the tools and education to help Toyam. I feel like I want everyone to be able to obtain all that information. It’s imperative. I have been there multiple times and always learned something new. It also felt like such a relief almost to meet other families who have the same struggles and understand what you’re going through when you feel like nobody else does!
What does it mean to you that a scholarship to help send families to camp will be in Toyam’s name?
I just still am so proud of Toyam. He has worked so hard and continues to work every day. Just walking in the classroom was such a process. Now he fist pumps the teacher as he walks in! So this is all dedicated to him!