SSP ASSOCIATE’S NAME & DISCIPLINE: Ali Peacock, Calming Minds Ltd, Taupo, New Zealand
CLIENT BACKGROUND: Steve, a nine year old male who has shown symptoms of very debilitating Selective Mutism (SM) and anxiety all his life
THERAPY USED: The Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP) for 5 consecutive days
Steve has been slightly known to me for two years. During occasional meetings over this time period he would generally hide in his bedroom, and had never spoken to me. On presentation at the clinic Steve was in what I would term “frozen” mode. He was very withdrawn, giving no eye contact, no facial expression and was totally non-verbal. In addition to the above symptoms his jumper collar and cuffs showed signs of being chewed, which his mother said was common behavior at home. It was also stated he could not sit still, but would do somersaults around the house, jump over the furniture and continually fidget when supposed to be sitting in a chair. Steve is home schooled because local primary schools were very unsympathetic to the non-speaking behavior and the problems of SM generally. Whilst Steve did not have an official diagnosis (difficult to achieve in New Zealand), I totally concur with his mother that SM and anxiety were the main presenting problems.
No previous therapies or interventions had been used mainly because they are not available in New Zealand. As far as is known, Steve was the first client worldwide to use this therapy for SM, so no formal aims were set, beyond a “let’s see what happens” approach. No other therapies were used during that week.
SUMMARY OF CHANGES:
Steve attended the clinic in Taupo for one hour per day, over five days for the listening therapy, mostly with just me in attendance. During the first three days of listening Steve would draw, colour, and play with sand. At the end of the third day he began to play with the jigsaw puzzle that was available. By the fourth day some interaction was noted, in that eye contact began and Steve was comfortable enough to want to play a game with me. We set up an available game, had a trial run to sort out what we had to do, rules, scoring, etc and then played “for real”. Steve tried really hard to win and became more outgoing and confident as the hour continued, with smiles, some words and eye contact. On the fifth day we again played the game and finished with Steve sitting down in the easy chair and going to sleep. (The clinic is set up with various activities and comfortable chairs, as well as ordinary chairs to sit up at the desk). I think it was fair to say that Mum was “very surprised” to see this unheard of behavior. (Please see notes above re his somersaulting and generally fidgety behavior.)
Steve is naturally a quieter person than client two, so I feel that no matter how comfortable he is, his speaking behavior will be less than that of many children. However, he is now involved with whatever is going on, eye contact is comfortable and smiles are regular. His fidgety behavior is largely a thing of the past, his clothes are not being chewed, and he is now able to watch a film quietly right. Steve can also enter a room on two feet rather than by a rapid succession of somersaults culminating with a flying leap over the back of the sofa.