When Cambria (5) started at the YMCA Preschool University, she didn’t speak to anyone. At first, everyone assumed she was just shy as she quietly watched the other children, never engaging or playing even when invited. One of the clues that Cambria’s silence was more than shyness was that she was reluctant to communicate even nonverbally. Cambria’s mother, Diana Fromm, was soon on her way to finding help through a diagnosis, Cambria had Selective Mutism.
A complex anxiety disorder that is most commonly diagnosed in children between 3 to 8 years old; Selective Mutism is characterized by a child’s inability to speak in one or more social settings, such as school despite being able to talk comfortably when at home. During social settings, children with Selective Mutism will experience not reluctance but an inability to speak and may have difficulty even communicating in a nonverbal manner.1
When Carolyn Leyva, lead teacher in the tiger classroom at Preschool University, learned of Cambria’s diagnosis, she knew she had to help. “It started with me and Cami having a one on one sit down. The first few days were hard for Cami.” Mrs. Carolyn removed the pressure to speak from Cambria, and instead offered incentives and positive reinforcement.
“I told Cami that she didn’t have to sit and talk with me if she didn’t want to but that everyone would be so proud of her if she did and that she would be so happy and proud of herself.” Taking time to build her confidence, Mrs. Carolyn worked with Cambria personally.
Preschool and early childhood education play an essential role in children’s health, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes. One way is by providing time for early interventions. Studies show that the earlier the intervention among children and adolescents, the better the outcome. Critical development, such as behavioral and emotional skills, academic cognition, and health, happens in these early years and can lay the foundation for childhood and beyond.2
“Mrs. Carolyn has been really great with Cambria, just getting her to open up and talk,” Diana shared. At their second one-on-one chat, Cambria started to communicate with Mrs. Carolyn with nonverbal cues like shaking her head, which she had never done before.
“So we began our daily chats, we had to be sitting far enough away from all of the other kids and teachers so they wouldn’t be able to hear her speak,” shared Mrs. Carolyn. They would talk about their favorite colors, what movies they liked, favorite songs to sing, and more. “Every day, I took the time to show Cami that she is important, and her voice matters.”
With limited access to affordable quality preschool opportunities, many families face educational gaps opening before children even reach kindergarten. Early childhood education not only offers care at a critical time to cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development in children, it also creates time for early interventions. From spotting learning disorders and cognitive delays to behavioral and health issues, early interventions include receiving support, therapies, and other services that can have a profound impact on a child’s development.
Working with a therapist and Mrs. Carolyn, Cambria continued to make progress; she started to participate in music and movement, answer questions in front of the class, and even began to connect and form relationships with her peers. “Watching Cambria blossom was very rewarding. I saw a huge change in her,” shared Mrs. Carolyn.
“She showed us her sweet and silly personality, and she even made a few ‘best friends’ along the way.”
Quality early childhood education has been proven to have long-lasting impacts. Children who attend a quality preschool program have greater success in school academically, emotionally, and socially throughout elementary school.3
Without assistance, Diana said the cost of preschool would have been tough to afford on her own. After her time at Preschool University, Cambria is now ready to head to kindergarten this fall. “It has definitely prepared her for the structure, being around routines, and socializing with other kids.”
At the Y, we believe in nurturing children and families through affordable, quality childcare.
By removing the financial barriers of childcare, we ensure that all children in our community have an equitable start. Together, we can bridge the gaps in early childhood education by providing financial assistance and opening up access to quality care to all in our community.
1 in 4 working families has access to a licensed child care facility.4
- “What Is Selective Mutism”. 2020. Selective Mutism Anxiety Research & Treatment Center | Smart Center. https://selectivemutismcenter.org/whatisselectivemutism/.
- “What Works in Early Childhood Intervention Programs.” Early Childhood Interventions: Proven Results, Future Promise, by Lynn A. Karoly et al., 1st ed., RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA; Arlington, VA; Pittsburgh, PA, 2005, pp. 55–86. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg341pnc.11. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020.
- “Availability Of Child Care For Working Families – Kidsdata.org”. 2020. Kidsdata.org. https://www.kidsdata.org/topic/99/child-care-availability/table#jump=research-links&fmt=262&loc=2,366&tf=95&ch=1247,1248&sortColumnId=0&sortType=asc.