I have to admit, this year something has changed, he isn't the bubbly happy go lucky average 1st grader you'd see nowadays. He talks at home with myself, his dad and his brother, but yet at times he gets very quiet and just doesn't talk or communicate his feelings well, sometimes he looks down or sometimes he just begins to cry. His teacher says she can not get him to speak anymore in class, I know in the beginning of the year she was concerned about his shyness and almost 'blank' stares as she called it. I thought maybe since there seems to be some 'spirited' kids in his class this year, he might just be getting preoccupied and I suggested maybe sitting him near peers that aren't so active. He is a very smart boy, he excels in math, spelling and his reading level is way beyond his years. He is an amazing artist already in 1st grade, he is very detailed with his drawings. He does well with comprehension too for his age. He got his report card a few weeks ago and I did notice an entire grade lower in many areas such as participation in class and music. Basically any subject or area where you need to speak or actively participate verbally he got a grade lower than the previous quarter. In all the years of Morgan being in preschool and school concerts, I have never seen him sing, he won't even mouth the words, he will do everything but sing up there on the stage.
Morgan was a very happy and sometimes class clown like boy last year in Kindergarten. He had so many girlfriends he would talk about all the time. He was voted the most liked classmate in his class, everyone wanted to be his friend. This year something has changed and I just can not put my finger on it. He is a very likeable child and makes friends very easily, I noticed last year he played with the girls mostly and this year he has ignored the girls and plays with a few boys. Earlier in the year, he had told me a few of the boys in his class were being mean to him and the teacher called me to tell me a boy had hit him on the playground at recess. I immediately did what I could to make sure that this did not happen again, I called the teacher/principal etc, to get the boys to all talk this out and work out their differences if any and for them to understand hitting and bullying with words or actions is just not acceptable. It seemed as if things got better, but Morgan would come home saying so and so said this to me still. I told him to tell his teacher when things like this happen right away. Obviously he isn't talking whatsoever in school at all now. Has the bullying this year sent my son over to this dark side of refusing to talk in school? Has he lost his confidence and wants to remain silent? He still does his work as told and loves school and learning, but just does not want to talk.
There were a few more phone calls of Morgan crying uncontrollably and they did not know why, he wouldn't say or he just was so worked up he was not able to. They did ask him if he was hurt and he nodded "NO" so at least they knew he wasn't in pain, that just something made him extremely upset. There were also phone calls from the nurse this year saying Morgan was crying saying his head was hurting. He had several more times where he complained of a headache, so I took him to the eye doctor and his eyesight is close to perfect. The doctor said he has dry eyes and astigmatism, both were nothing to be too concerned about. The doctor gave me some moisturizing eye drops and suggested Omega 3's for him to take to relieve the discomfort. He has complained a few more times of headaches after that.
I also recall a phone call from his teacher saying he had soiled his pants a few times, he did not ask to use the restroom and he did not tell the teacher he had indeed had an accident. I don't remember Morgan having an accident since Preschool. The teacher and students only found out by the odor coming from Morgan. I had gone to the school both accounts and got him. He vomited a few times this year, not sure if he indeed had gotten that dreaded stomach virus that seems to not have died down even now at the school or if it was just his anxiety and nerves. Once a child vomits, you must come and get them, although I secretly thought with him only vomiting once it was more a nervous thing than a virus, but I took him home. Something has changed, but I don't know what. He isn't even that interested as much in Cub Scouts, he will do an activity a few times and then move onto something else by himself and not want to try again at it while all the other kids just can not get enough of the activity and would do it all night if they could. He talks at home, he'll talk to me at the grocery store, but if someone we know like a teacher sees us and says hello, he refuses to talk, he hides behind me, he looks down.
Yesterday it was just he and I out and about. I told him it makes me really sad that he does not use his words and that it is affecting his school and learning abilities and he needs to start talking more. We were at our favorite Pizza place for lunch and I urged him to order his own food, which he never does. He will usually sit as still as he can not even looking at the waiter and refuse to order. Yesterday he did order with some prompting by me, it was only a little louder than a whisper tone and I had to remind him to look at the waiter, not myself. Luckily, we went at non busy hours and the waiter really did not have other customers to wait on and he was very patient and understanding with Morgan. Morgan had ordered a pepsi to drink and wanted pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms on his pizza. He had asked me for a pizza cardboard round to draw on like they usually give the kids, I had directed him to ask that question to the waiter when he came back. I set up the conversation with the waiter saying my son wanted to ask you something and it did take quite some time for him to get the words out. I had given him a high five and told him it makes me so happy that he talked and used his words. You could tell he was petrified and it took all that he had to do that.
He and I made an agreement that this week at school, he will share at least 2 times with the class. In the mornings when it is circle time, the classmates get to share anything they want, something they did over the weekend or whatever is on their minds currently. He told me he would try to share and talk more. I asked him who the most talkative classmate was, he told me and I said I want you to talk as much as he does! His response was, mom, he really talks a lot though! haha. I don't want to pressure him because I know I was very shy at his age as well, but I want to know effective ways of encouraging him to speak as it is a way of life and I told him if he wants to learn and do well in school, he needs to use his words at all times.
I was a shy student in school and out and about, now I don't think I was quite as shy as Morgan is now, but I do know what it feels like, the emotional toll it takes on you. To this day, I get nervous when talking in front of a group, even a group of friends on the PTA Committee. I have never liked public speaking and often in High School would take zeros on oral reports and have to do extra credit later to make up for it. I have been thinking of going back to college and I second guess myself because I wonder if I will be able to get in front of the class. I know it felt like pure torture to me 20 years ago, can I do it now as a 35 year old student? If indeed my son has some anxiety issues, you know where he gets them from.
My sons teacher and a Special Education teacher are going to bring my sons symptoms up in an EIT Meeting at the school this week and I guess we will go from there. The school counselor agreed to meet with him this week and feel him out so to speak and try some Play Therapy. I got a book from the library called, Nurturing the Shy Child and I've read a little so far and it most certainly sounds like he has some form of a Social Anxiety Disorder. A teacher I was talking to at school brought up Selective Mutism, which I do have some familiarity with as the classroom I work in now as a Special Education Paraprofessional there is a student with this disorder and sadly I see a lot of similarities between my son and this student. Now, I'm not big on labels and I do recall when Aaron was in process of getting assessed for Autism, many people including family members gave excuses like, he is just a slow learner, boys learn things later than girls, he doesn't have Autism, just let him be! I am happy I listened to my gut and continued to see what the professionals thought was wrong with my baby. As I am reading and trying to figure out what indeed I can do for Morgan and his inability to speak in public, to my understanding in what I've read so far is that Autistic siblings have anxiety issues. I am still in the very beginning of this book I am reading and trying to absorb as much information as I can to help my son. I do not want him to move onto 2nd grade and his next teacher take his inability to get his words out as being defiant and that set the tone for the entire year. Aaron was assessed and luckily we had gotten early intervention started with him at age 2.5 years old. He was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum of having PDD-NOS and immediately there were extra help with teachers at preschool and at home visits and therapists to try to get him on the right developmental path to catch up with his peers. My son Aaron has an IEP in school and gets para support, speech therapy and special education services provided for him for his Autism. He has been getting services since before he was 3 years old and has come a long way and is doing quite well. If indeed Morgan does have some kind of Social Anxiety Disorder, I hope it isn't too late at almost 8 years old for effective treatment and therapies. I hope I didn't delay too long in waiting for him to come around and think it was just a phase of some sort.
I sit here thinking, did I miss some symptoms when Morgan was younger? Could he be on the spectrum as well? He developed right on mark with all of his milestones for his age, no speech delay, he pointed at objects, he was a happy and talkative toddler, he crawled when he was supposed to, he walked when he was supposed to, he was quite the chatterbox as a young toddler, but once we got him into Preschool the shyness came out. He never had the stereotypical symptoms that children with Autism or anything that Aaron has done that is symptomatic with Autism Disorders. He was in preschool for two straight years with the same teacher and assistant teacher, both of which said Morgan is so quiet and every report card/conference the teacher urged me to try to work with Morgan to get him to talk more and share more. I had hoped Morgan could say his ABC's for his teacher of two years before he 'graduated' preschool, but he did not give her that wish. We just thought he was stubborn because we would hear it all the time when he was at home, when he thought no one was listening of course!
In the next few weeks, I will be making some calls and trying to get Morgan seen by some specialists. I suppose I need to start with his Pediatrician and go from there. We just switched Pediatricians so that might be a little tricky since he doesn't really know my son, but I think if I and his teachers are expressing such concern about his lack of speaking in public, maybe he will not hesitate to make a doctor referral.
So I am asking you, my blog readers, family and friends to keep us in your thoughts, let this inquiry be smooth sailing and progress without a hitch. If you have any suggestions on who we should see in the Central Minnesota area for a medical professional to test Morgan for anxiety issues, please leave me a message in a comment or leave your email address and I will contact you. Or if you have had any experience in such issues with your child, please give me some advice, any suggestions are welcome!
This photo is of Morgan while he was filling out Valentine Cards this year. He is always super silly for the camera, I rarely get a genuine smile from him nowadays.
and a photo of my two boys together, they are best friends at ages 7 and 10. I hope it stays that way forever!