I am an English as a Second Language teacher in Indonesia. Currently, in my class I have a girl who is in third grade who I think (I don’t know because there is no sort of diagnosis here) SM. I want to help this girl as much as I can but there are a few things which make it more difficult that perhaps someone here might be able to give me hints on how best to move forward.

First of all, I only meet her for 35 minutes a day teaching her and her class English. I have no opportunity to have any time on my own with her and I am under pressure to teach the whole class English as a second language so just not much time at all. Second, I have no chance what so ever to speak to her parents. Her form teacher just says she is shy and there is no need to speak to her parents or spend any extra time with her. Third, I can only speak to her in English so I don’t know how much she is understanding when I am reassuring her that she is in a safe situation.

The positives though are that when I give her instructions she seems to follow them so I think she is understanding a lot of what I say. Second, she seems to like me, she likes sitting close to me when we are all reading together and often tugs on my arm if she wants me to look at her work. Third, she has just started nodding and shaking her head (only about 25% of the time but I think that is great progress).

What I usually do (Please tell me if you think I am doing anything wrong!) I talk to her just in the same way as I chat to the other students, giving a pause if she wants to give me an answer but when she doesn’t just continue chatting, giving her praise for good work or commenting on her cute bracelet or whatever. Second, I try and tell her and her friends that she is welcome to speak at any time she feels comfortable but it is also no problem that she keeps her thoughts to herself. I try and involve her in anything I can as sometimes the other students leave her out but I have a very demanding class so I have to confess that sometimes she gets left out a bit since I am teaching communicative English and the majority of my lessons involve talking.

One more thing I want to ask, since she seems a little closer to me she has started wondering around more and not focusing on her work. Before, if it was something written she would sit on her seat and give it a try but since she has started nodding and tugging on my arm she seems to wonder more and not sit down as much. What can I do? I try to say to her calmly that she has to sit down and focus like her friends but I just don’t know what is the best thing to say to her.

I read on a blog that I could give her some cards for asking to go to the bathroom etc so I plan on doing that but I would love any other ideas from anyone who has them! Thank you for reading!


1 Answer 1


My 6yo has SM. First, if she has SM, you should give up any expectation that she might talk in your class. Without the chance for her to practice whispering in front of you, it is not likely she will make that leap.
Let her know that you will sometimes ask her a question but that she can find other ways to answer if she is not ready to speak. The less pressure she feels the better she will do. Writing answers, multiple choice, etc are her best bet to participate at first. Many SM are also painfully shy so that may prevent from even making eye contact.
The basic idea is to keep her as involved as you can without pressing her to do more than what she can at that moment. It's a very slow process and nearly impossible to make real progress if you don't have a chance to spend some quiet time with her playing a game like Uno or something that allows some interaction.

  • Agreed. Pressuring a child to do something they cannot do will poison your relationship with her and cannot succeed.
    – Marc
    Oct 7, 2014 at 0:47

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