Why can’t my child speak?

Learning about Selective Mutism

When my son was 3 and a total chatterbox, I had absolutely no idea there was something wrong. Being this young age, we didn’t have many opportunities for the problem to show its ugly face. But with a new babysitter, that changed. Having two of her own school-age children, Julie was quite aware of my son’s non-verbal issue within that first week.

She noticed his older brother answering for him every time a question was directed his way. At first, she fell into the ‘making excuses’ category, like me… ‘he’s just shy’ or ‘he needs time to warm up’. But over time, she realized he wasn’t like the other kids. He did not warm up.

Here’s a section from my upcoming book, the day I learned about the voice-paralyzing disorder, Selective Mutism…

One day, when arriving to pick up my son, Julie greeted me excitedly at the door. Thrusting a small piece of paper into my hand, she eagerly explained the day’s talk show she saw on tv. My heart raced in response to her heightened emotion. There was a brief mention of Selective Mutism among all her chatter. She explained, while watching the talk-show, she had jotted down the words as fast as her fingers could manage, which looked something like ‘Sandnotes Mints’ to me. Apparently, my dumbfounded expression tamed her frenzy, as she then repeated the words slower … S e l e c t i v e  M u t i s m. Trying to follow but lagging greatly, I asked her ‘what is Selective Autism?’ “No, not autism, Mutism” she answered. “It’s an anxiety disorder where a child doesn’t talk in one or more settings for at least 3 months of their life.”

Little did I know, this conversation was going to change the course of our lives. By age 4, our son was officially diagnosed as having Selective Mutism and we were on the path to recovery. There truly is hope for breaking the silence and learning to overcome the silent anxiety.

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