Living the lie … “He’s just shy”

“… his little arms clung tightly to my leg as his face paled and eyes widened. Fear seemed to be his guiding force. He stood there, frozen, like a deer in the headlights of a car, unable to move.”

I still remember that day, our first look into the crippling anxiety disorder of Selective Mutism. At that time, we had never heard of such a thing, we thought, “he’s just shy.” I mean, why else would my 4 year old hide behind my legs whenever anyone spoke to him in public? It had to be shyness, right?

I want to reach out to other parents with children struggling with anxieties, specifically Selective Mutism. This disorder crushes a child’s strength to use their voice in public. But unlike the title, they do not have a choice to ‘select’ when or when they do not talk. They are purely led by the anxiety.

Does your child seem abnormally quiet when in public but talks easily when in the comfort of your own home? Or maybe your child can talk in other settings, but only to a few ‘select’ people, usually immediate family members? What happens when someone new approaches your child and asks them a question? Do they hide their face? Do they look away, appearing to ignore the person? Do others often feel your child is ‘rude’ because they don’t say ‘thank you’ or any other common phrases we expect good little girls and boys to utter? If so, Selective Mutism may be the monster in your child’s closet of their brain.

My goal is to help at least one person who has a child suffering with this terrific disorder. Telling our story seems the best way to guide others, hoping you too can make it through to the other side. Each week, I plan to give an excerpt from the book I’m writing, retelling our struggles and how we learned to deal with them. Come along with me on our path to recovery from Selective Mutism.

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