Challenging Situations-The quiet child

I'm going to admit that this weeks child is fairly a simple case. In all reality, it comes down to respecting individuals for who they are (adult or child).

Samantha is a very quiet, reserved child. She joins in the group when requested to do so but doesn't talk at all in the classroom. When mom comes, as she is walking to the car, you can hear her babble away. Mom also says that she talks nonstop at home and is very surprised at how quiet she is at school.

Samantha has literally not made one sound in school. During circle, she will clap along with songs, but won't sing. She will point to things if you ask her where something is or which is the color blue, but won't say the words. She has even managed to create relationships with the other children somehow, but has never said a word to them. The children have accepted this and still find ways to play with her. She will nod or shake her head in response to yes/no questions or when she doesn't like something. She has created a way to communicate with her teachers and classmates.

The speech therapist wasn't able to get her to talk either, but after talking with mom, she wasn't concerned about her speech development and figured that she was just shy. We agreed.

When the teachers call for circle, Samantha comes and sits down. When it's time for lunch, Samantha helps set the table, serves herself food, passes things around, and follows the rules. After circle time, the teacher asks each child where they are going to start out in their play...Samantha points. The teacher will respond, "You're going to the art center?" Samantha will nod her head and get up and go.

If she is in conflict with a child (they took her toy) she will walk over to the teacher, take her by the hand, and lead her over to the trouble. Samantha has great facial and body expression so there is rarely a miscommunication.

Samantha is learning! She can count and then indicate how many there are of something with her fingers or even by writing the numeral. She can write her name and all the letters. She knows all her letters, too. She is actually very intelligent...she just doesn't talk. She seems to enjoy school, too. She comes skipping, smiling, running into school everyday greeting her teacher with a hug almost every morning. She waves goodbye to mom with a big smile...she just doesn't say goodbye.

The teacher understands that Samantha just isn't comfortable enough to talk. She recognizes that there doesn't seem to be any other problem; and Samantha is communication fine outside of the classroom. Samantha is allowed to take her time to warm up.

This goes on from day one of school. Fast forward to, literally, the last 10 days of school. At rest time Samantha is laying next to a girl she typically plays with. Children aren't expected to sleep as it's only a 15 minute rest. The teacher is on the other side of the room when she notices that the other girl is quietly whispering to Samantha...and Samantha seems to be quietly responding, but she isn't sure. She doesn't stop them because this is a huge breakthrough for Samantha if she is talking to her friend.

At 9 days left of school the teacher has them sitting at circle. Samantha hasn't said anything all morning. The teacher dismisses children and asks, as usual, where they are going to play first. Samantha say, "Dramatic Play" as if she talks all the time. The teacher, taking this cue, acts as if this is completely normal to hear and sends her on her way. Inside, the teacher is doing a happy dance for how proud she is that Samantha is getting more comfortable.

During free choice, Samantha is talking up a storm. Everyone, children included, are acting like this is just normal. No one makes a big deal out of it; and that seems to be the key. By afternoon circle, Samantha is talking so much the teacher actually has to tell her to quiet down so that she can get through the story.

At 8 days left of school, and almost a full day of talking, the teacher isn't sure how Samantha will be. Samantha comes skipping in, says "good morning Miss J", and says goodbye to her mom. Samantha now will not stop talking. Now the teacher knows what mom is talking about when she says she never stops talking at home. This is a great breakthrough!

Now, she has to get through kindergarten. Hopefully the teacher will be just as understanding and compassionate.

There was a point during the year that a different teacher came in as a co-op with Samantha's teacher. She tried to force Samantha to talk (not letting her go play for long periods until she finally gave in, trying to bribe her, etc...); this made days worse for Samantha and she would cry when coming to school. Once that was put to a stop, Samantha was back to her happy self. The other teacher thought she was being catered to; she thought that there was something wrong with her...there wasn't.

If Samantha wasn't talking at home or not showing any signs of learning anything, there would have been more concern. However, by respecting her for who she was (a quiet child who would talk when she was ready) the teacher was able to keep her feeling secure and comfortable. This would help her as she goes to kindergarten to maybe start talking a bit earlier...maybe 15 days before the end of school :)

Needless to say, it's been 4 years now, Samantha is going into 5th grade and talks at school all the time now...except when the teacher who tried to force her to talk is around. She still refuses to talk to that teacher.

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