The Bravery Box was a grand-slam, out of the ballpark, home run for my little kindergarten client. (See previous post for the details of how the box works.) When I gave him the Bravery Box, he was essentially nonverbal at school. Three weeks later, his language behavior at school is totally normal. Like he never had a problem with talking to his teacher and the other students. Like nobody was ever worried about selective mutism. In fact, his teacher sent home a sticky note for Mom on his folder: "Now we can't get him to be quiet"--with a big smiley face. I am not 100% sure why this was such an unqualified success, but here are some things that I think helped make it work:
- The client has a pretty benign history and a lot of family support. There didn't seem to be any big, lurking issues. And his mom was eagerly involved and ready to do whatever I asked.
- The client is 5 years old. Five-year-olds still have the charming quality of trusting the adults around them. So if I tell him something's going to work, he is more likely to believe me than, say, the 13-year-old client with a similar issue, who will look at me like I've grown two heads.
- Five-year-olds celebrate simple achievements more readily. They don't judge themselves harshly. This makes them better able to enjoy the small steps of the process, rather than being upset with themselves because they haven't accomplished the big goal yet. This reduces anxiety and frees up brain space for them to do what needs to be done. (Oh, to be 5 again...)
- The idea of bravery, and the example of other children who have been brave, somehow really connected with this client. He was eager to tell me each week how brave he was at school.
So this past week, we completed our six sessions of therapy together. I made a Medal of Bravery for him, out of construction paper and tin foil. He wrote "I am brav" on it. I told him how happy I am for him, and he said "Me too."