“In 2005 my husband and I heard the words, “your son has selective mutism?” Your first question might be the same as ours was at that time. What is selective mutism? What does that mean? Does he need treatment?
What is Selective Mutism?
Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder and at that time not a lot of research had been done on it. Many practicing physicians including our own had never worked with a child with selective mutism. My son’s physician was my pediatrician when I was a little girl so, it wasn’t like he was new to medicine. He said, “Let me do research and I will call you in the morning with the course of action were going to take.”
The course of action was to see a speech pathologist twice a week, a psychologist once a week, and we also saw the physician once a week.
We learned coping methods on what to do and what not to do. Selective mutism paralyzes a child’s throat when they try to speak they are unable to get the words out. However, it is selective so, at times a child with selective mutism is able to talk and communicate just as anyone else would. My son would talk to his father, myself, and his Mema (my mom). He would not utter a word to aunts, uncles, or teachers. He is able to talk to his friends. Some children with selective mutism are not able to talk to anyone at school including peers. The only time he would speak at school is lunch or recess when his teachers were not in eye sight.
Imagine driving in the car with your child in the backseat talking away. The moment you pull into the school parking lot they completely shut off. When getting out of the car you can see the anxiety build up in the child’s eyes. Should I home school? I should home school this child, so he doesn’t have to face this every day. Heart racing, palms sweating, and sometimes nose bleeds from panic. Why did I torture my young child every day and make him go through this? It was what was best for him. Even though it was awful watching him go through this, by the time he was in fourth grade, he was able to whisper to the teacher. He has loved all of his teachers and they have all been absolutely wonderful, and understanding.
Understanding Selective Mutism
If a child with selective mutism does not say hi to you, it is not because they are being rude or they are just shy. They physically are not able to mutter the words. I will not tell you in front of my child that he has selective mutism not because my child does not know, but because I do not want to make a big deal about him not talking in public. This would only increase his anxiety.
There are now many websites about selective mutism. While it is still not common, more and more research is being done.
I hope one day my son will be able to talk in public. Every day is different and it is different person to person as well. It is a struggle and it has been a lonely one for our family, because people do not understand why he won’t talk to them.”
I asked my friend, Sandy to share her story. Selective Mutism is also silenced by sharing the month of October with Breast Cancer Awareness. Thank you Sandy for sharing your story.
I invite you to share your story in the comments. Let’s show Sandy some appreciation for sharing her story to raise awareness for selective mutism.