Selective Mutism and Berkeley Public Elementary SchoolExperiences

Dear Parents,

I'd be very grateful to hear from families who have kids in Berkeley public schools, especially elementary schools, who have kids with Selective Mutism, with either a 504 or full IEP.

I'm particularly interested in hearing how teachers and administrators have treated kids with SM and their parents. For example, what sorts of accommodations were, or were not made? Did teachers or others at the school respond appropriately when other kids may have been inappropriately aggressive, bullying, etc., towards kids with SM or anxiety disorders? Did teachers disbelieve the SM diagnosis and act as if they thought the student was willfully  uncooperative, instead of suffering from an emotional disorder?

Input on experiences at privates/independent schools are welcome too.  I can privately/offline share experiences with one private/independent east bay school.

Thanks in advance!

I'm posting anon, so in your public message, LMK you want me to contact you and I'll reach out to you!

Parent Replies

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I work at a BUSD school and have seen several kids with selective mutism over the years.  The teachers have all been very patient and accepting in the classrooms, finding the child's strengths and not pressing them to speak.  The child works on speech with a pull-out speech teacher. One family moved to a private school after kindergarten, so I can't speak for them, but the other children all improved greatly over the years.  They first begin speaking only to one or two trusted adults, and slowly their circle of trust and speaking widens.  The other kids in the school understand and accept the mutism for the most part.  The SM is generally explained to the other kids so they understand that the child can hear, and can understand, but just does not speak.  Knowledge is power; if it's age-appropriately explained, there is no fear nor mystery.  Our SM kids had friends, and were accepted socially.  

It's been several years since we had a child with SM in the Berkeley public schools. Our kid has overcome SM and is now a graduate student. I fervently hope that things have changed for the better since we were directly involved with the district, but I'm still connected to SM resources and am happy to be contacted about our experiences. Our child's IEP specified many accommodations regarding social interactions, alternative means to demonstrate academic accomplishment and to participate in class discussions, participation in music and drama, reticence affecting self-expression in writing, and social anxiety issues around eating and modesty. We also negotiated provisions for educating teachers and staff about SM, some of which were more successful than others. We also had experiences with some independent schools in the east bay. Willing to discuss any of this if you want to reach out.