Imagine being a hyper active three year old child running around, talking a mile a minute, playing with your older siblings, loving on your stuffies every chance you get and in general being a happy go lucky little person. Then you start preschool and so ends your carefree life. Apparently your family hates you so much they send you off to spend the day with people you don’t know and quite frankly don’t want to know. Your world becomes dark and cold with very little light shinning on your face. There is no where for you to turn for help and no where for you to escape.
Fast forward to Kindergarten and we start year 3 of NO talking in school. This year we have a fool proof plan. We hand picked your teacher, your older sister had her first, you know her so we think that you will be ok. Yet you still won’t talk. We take your security blanket to school and give it to your teacher, when you talk you get to bring your blanket home. Still nothing after two weeks and for you that is a LONG time without your blanket. Next we take Ord, your rat. Your teacher is not happy about this. She doesn’t like his tail. We promise to come in and take care of him so she doesn’t have to. Still nothing little girl, you are holding out. I have no idea why you need to have such control over your voice. Why are you so unwilling to talk to anyone that you haven’t had a three year relationship with? At this point we are at two and a half years of no words coming out of your mouth in a school setting. The next call from the teacher was asking me what she should do, you need to go to the bathroom yet you still won’t ask. I am tired and at my wits end. It is so hard to be a single mom raising three kids all with three different sets of needs, wants and desires. I failed in this moment and I am sorry for that. My response was simple if she doesn’t ask then she doesn’t leave the room. You came home in different clothes that day. Now the teacher and I are both distraught. As luck would have it one final person stepped into our equation. The school psychologist came in to observe you in class one day and within five minutes said give her back her things and talk to her doctor about Selective Mutism.
The diagnosis was simple. We went to your doctor who then referred us to the psychologist. The psychologist also did an observation that we were unaware of. After ten minutes of observation he took us back to his office and asked some questions. He determined that you did indeed have Selective Mutism and provided us with some treatment options. Then he told us he would forward all his notes to our regular doctor and we would work with her on the continuing treatment. Together we have learned so much over the past twelve years since your diagnosis. I wish we would have had answers when you were three instead of five. Perhaps had we known what we were dealing with your life would have been less scary.
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Selective mutism is characterized by a consistent failure to speak in specific social situations in which there is an expectation for speaking. Children with selective mutism have the ability to both speak and understand language, but fail to use this ability as a result of what we would consider to be social anxiety in adults. Most children with selective mutism function normally in other areas of their lives.