Finding the keys to unlock their voice …

“The lead preschool teacher asked me one day, “how do you get your child to talk to others?”

I’ll never forget my instinctual reply, “when you figure that out, will you tell me?” She seemed surprised, then doubtful he had the ability to make any sound at all.”

It is common, even in this day and age to run into people of all walks of life who have never heard of Selective Mutism. We expect teachers and other professionals who work directly with children to know everything, but that is an unrealistic expectation. Often, we find we need to educate those involved in our lives on this silent anxiety disorder. Trying to find patience and understanding while educating is a daunting task, but if you want the best treatment for your child, it is worth the effort.

Research Selective Mutism and read everything you can find, that’s what I did when I first learned the term. I believe treatment must first start in the home. How we respond to their anxiety disorder may directly affect the length of their personal recovery. Your child needs to know they are loved for who they are and not expected to be like someone else. They are individuals. While it makes life easier if they speak with their voices, this may not ultimately be their path. Removing expectations of your child talking should make it easier to allow them to grow and learn without that added stress. Most likely, they will mature and improve their confidence in order to use their voice. But if they are pressured to do so, it may take longer to reach that point. So, try not to force your child into talking, rather, give them an opportunity to speak. If they do not verbally respond within an acceptable time frame, then accept their body language or other communication skills as their answer.

Have you ever watched a horror film where someone is being chased? They’re trying to unlock a door (car, home, whatever) to get away from the evil and they fumble with their keys, sometimes dropping them? Why do movies portray this act? We rarely drop our keys when unlocking a lock in real life. I’ll tell you, it’s the fear and stress placed upon us in that particular moment that causes us to fumble and fail. We struggle to respond as quickly as normal when anticipating this scary thing after us. If you say to your Selective Mute child, “why don’t you talk?” or “You need to use your voice,” then you are placing that child in a state of panic. They are scrambling to find their “keys” to unlock their voice. Most times, they shut down because of this added fear and cannot respond at all. So, we as parents, need to reduce or better yet, remove this added stress all together.

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