SELECTIVE MUTISM STORIES
In school, I run around and play like all the other children, but there's only one thing that separates us...Selective Mutism. At school, I so badly want to talk and answer all my friends and teachers but when it's my turn to talk, I just freeze up. I feel like I can't talk and even though I make the words out in my head, I can never get them out. Especially now in high school with all the different teachers, it's been so hard to get used to everything. So far, I have only talked to two of them. Although I have some close friends I do speak to, there are some who make fun of me for not talking. They just assume that I can't talk, which is so frustrating because I can and want to. With family, I get even more uptight because they all take it personally. They know I want to talk, but it's pretty obvious that they think they have done something wrong. I often go around to my friends houses which has made it a lot easier to talk to a few of them. When I'm out in public and need to let my parents know something, I do it with a tiny whisper. When anyone I know comes up to me, my heart suddenly starts pounding so fast! I think that people should become more aware about Selective Mutism, because many people don't know about it and where I live there are very few specialist. Even though it might seem impossible, I'm sure that some day we will all get over this and be able to talk freely. You might feel devastated and terrified, but you just have to convince yourselves that you can do it and slowly you will take steps forward and will get over it!
My daughter is seven and has always had an anxiety with social attention. It became clear to us that it was more than shyness when she went to pre school and would not say a word. By kindergarten we were told about Selective Mutism and we started gathering information and learning more about it. We made the mistake of having a meeting with our daughter there to talk about how to go about helping her. Our daughter thought things were going to change and she started not wanting to go to school, so I backed off. I decided to work on her anxiety out of school, and finally got her to the stage she could speak in public (quietly) to me.
This year, we had her diagnosed and she started with a therapist which was a step forward. This therapist comes to the school every morning for about thirty minutes, and she works through brave charts. Our daughter enjoyed the challenge, and was able to make animal noises and letters sounds alone with the therapist. I started coming in and playing games with her. The therapist would sit outside the door with it closed and we would play. Slowly, we started to move the therapist into the room, until she was at the table with us, and she was able to keep playing with a whisper. We would then finish with a game of saying numbers out loud in turn. We have a learning assistant lined up for next year that she already knows to help her in class. Now, she is able to speak freely and normal at home, and can talk in public places without hesitation if there is no direct attention on her. At school and around certain friends and family, she is frozen and unable to speak. At times she can't make eye contact or use sign language. She will even hold back any noise like laughing. She does however, have great support with her classmates that look out for her. Her friends take special care of her and stick up for her if someone is not aware of her condition. At times, it has become a problem as some of her friends actually stop her from trying new things. She is very aware of her condition, and at the moment is happy not to talk. I really don't know how to take the next step to break down her anxiety with social contact with people. The information packet that your offering would be highly valued and I would be grateful for it, as I could start educating the school. If we can help my daughter, I have heard that there are a few other schools trying to work out the best way to help these kids find their voice.
I grew up in the 90's, when Selective Mutism was pretty much unheard of. Elementary school was the worst for me. It started when I was in pre-first. I was placed in a pre first class after kindergarten because of the fact that I was so shy. They thought I wasn't learning and maybe needed some extra time before heading into first grade. My pre-first teacher was cruel and insensitive. One of the most traumatic memories I have of her was on a day when she was handing back papers that each classmate had completed and when she handed me mine, I didn't say thank you, but I did smile, as if to say thank you without words. She knew my situation, but still made a big deal of my not thanking her in front of the whole class. In conclusion, I ended up having to stay in from recess that day, which to a 6 year old is devastating.. especially when I did nothing wrong!
In this new school, I made lots of friends and was rarely picked on by students. The teachers and principal on the other hand, were a different story. I remember having a meeting with my mother and the principal one morning, and after my mom had left and gone home, the principal had asked me to stay for a minute, so he could talk to me alone. I don't remember all of what was said, but one thing I'll never forget was when he told me that my friends wouldn't like me if I didn't talk. I was devastated and went home crying. Another day in gym class, because I didn't say anything during roll-call I had to spend the class time with my nose against the wall. That's only a few examples of my childhood experiences with Selective Mutism. After third grade, I moved once again. The only difference this time was that my classmates weren't as understanding. I had a much harder time making friends... and I think because the teachers had no idea how to deal with my situation, they had nothing to tell my classmates about what to think of me. Middle school wasn't much different. I went through a lot my entire grade school life. There was a lot of pressure on me to talk when I wasn't ready to. The more I was pressured, the less I wanted to talk to anyone. To this day I have insecurity issues that I blame on all of this. For a majority of my childhood I had teachers and classmates trying to change who I was and never once saying that the way I was, is ok or acceptable. I have a hard time sometimes believing if someone actually likes me for who I am, because who I am was not excepted for the longest time. I felt like a freak... a total outcast. The summer before I was to go into high school, I made a promise to myself that I was going to talk in school. I wasn't about to go into a brand new school with all kinds of potential new friends and be the same old Jamie I was. I was tired of being picked on, picked apart and questioned all the time. It took all summer long to psych myself up for it, but I did! One thing I can say, I am extremely proud of is that I did it on my own and on my own time. I did it for myself and no one else. I did it to make me happy, not them.... A lot of strength and confidence came from the way I accomplished this hurdle in my life.
Today, I am a completely different person than I was so many years ago. No one would of guessed that I am or ever was any different than anyone else. Its taken a lot to get where I am today. Many people may look at my story and think its nothing... but to someone who once couldn't even talk to certain family members... this is big!! I'm still a pretty quiet person, but that's just in my nature. I'm not afraid to do things on my own that I wouldn't have been able to if I didn't overcome my Selective Mutism. I still struggle from time to time with being my complete and honest self around people, but I'm working on it. I just want to say how great it is that there are people out there now who are coming forth with information regarding Selective Mutism like yourself and other associations. The more people know, the better! I would hate for any child to go through what I was put through due to a lack of education of this disorder. You need to be patient with children with Selective Mutism, and let them take steps on their own terms and comfort levels. The more you force them to talk, the less they will want to or feel comfortable doing so. I hope my story can help you (or anyone) in anyway possible... even if it's an example of how not to handle children with Selective Mutism.