• Review: The SM Treatment Guide
  • Emotional Regulation in SM Kids
  • Do’s And Don’ts of Working with Children with SM
  • 22 ‘Brave Buddies’ Find a Voice
  • Selective Mutism vs Shyness

Letter from a reader

October 6, 2013 in Selective Mutism

This is a letter from a person called Blue Bird, who is in college, but is also struggling like many of us. If you would like to give some encouraging words, be sure to leave a comment!

Hi everyone! I’m a Junior in college who has never been diagnosed with selective mutism, but I know for a fact that I have it. Like many here I’m pretty sure that I had it before it was ‘discovered.’ I have always felt that I was different from the rest of kids, but I had never known why. All I knew was that I couldn’t do what they could do, because I could never understand it. What I mean is actions like; hugging, laughing, crying, or showing any form of emotion. It seemed physically, mentally, and emotionally impossible for me to understand how to feel what they would feel and act as immaturely as they would. I always thought to myself; “What are they doing” or ” How can they do that?”.

Now I’m in college and functioning successively academically, but falling socially. The thing is, I transferred to another school my Sophomore year to this school now… and it’s proving to be a challenge. I had a few very close friends at my old school that were also, in a way, different like me. But now, I’m at a school where I can’t make that connection with anyone. It seems impossible, but it’s true. To me, the people here are all the same (I hate the way that sounds but I seems so true to me). As a terrible throw-back to high school, they are the ‘rich preps.’ As a disclaimer, I have no ill-will towards them because they are rich; that’s not fair by any means. It’s just that I feel like as soon as I talk to them, they see that I’m not like them. The conversation goes like this; I talk, she/he talks, I say something else, he/she says ‘oh’, and leaves. I just don’t get it.

I need help is what I’m saying or actually not able to say. This is a painfully lonely condition that I have never been able to speak to anyone about, because they just couldn’t understand it. Or in my parent’s case don’t want to hear it. I just want to talk to people who know what it’s like and give me some advise. Sorry if there are any spelling errors.

Thanks for reading!

Blue Bird

——————————–

Hi Blue Bird,

Talking is hard enough. But even after you manage to get any words out, it’s an effort to go that extra step towards an actual conversation. It just takes practice.

Remember that what you have to say is important! You have a unique point of view that no one else has, that you should share with the world. With time, people will see that you are a diamond waiting to be unearthed.

Also, you don’t have to say the perfect thing. Nobody can do that all the time, so loosen up and you will realize that you can say whatever you feel like (as long as it is not very offensive). If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve accomplished so much already!

Stay positive! Try to give off a good vibe, and people will want to stay with your energy. The easiest way to do this is to smile and laugh (when appropriate). =]

And a lot of it depends on what you say, but try the “yes, and” technique: whenever you want to add to a conversation, agree with whatever they said (yes) and then add to it (and). For example, if a rich prep at your school says “my dad bought me a mercedes this weekend,” you can reply “yes, and I see he bought you a great work ethic too!” Or you can say “yes, and it’s very beautiful. What do you like most about it?” etc.

Don’t let it get you down. If you can find some friends who have similar interests as you, then that will be great. But no matter what, just practice talking and try to improve. That’s the best way. =]

I hope this helped, and good luck!

-Seth

Growing Up with Selective Mutism

June 30, 2013 in SM Blogs, Selective Mutism

Today we have a special guest writer. Her name is Julie, and she grew up with selective mutism. For most of her school life, she was shackled by silence until a kind family took her in and guided her to break those chains. The most striking thing about her story is that after she graduated from school, she could not fit in with the rest of the community because of the long term effects that SM had on her, and she became very depressed.

For those of us who have been through hard times, this could very well be a snapshot of a time when we were uncertain about where our lives were headed. It is a frightening thought. But there is a happy ending. She is now much happier and speaks with confidence in her work life, with her friends, and with her adoptive family. By her request, here is Julie’s story, in her own arrangement of words, of what it was like living with selective mutism.

“My experience growing up with Selective Mutism”

By: Julie

I had always been an anxious child. When I was a toddler my mum would take me to play groups and dance classes. But each time I would become crippled with anxiety, and she would take me back home. When I had to start school it was a different story – going home was not an option. This was when my SM symptoms became really obvious.

When I stepped outside the door to walk to school, I would get a knot in my stomach, and feelings of anxiety would rise up within me. At the same time, heaviness would descend on me, causing me to move slower and weigh me down more and more as I approached school. Once at school I would find myself standing still. I would walk to wherever I needed to go if I had to, find the nearest corner or seat, and then either stand or sit watching others talking all around.

As far as speaking, the nearest thing I can compare is like an anesthetic injection you get at the dentist where your face goes dead and the muscles won’t work. It was like having one of these injections in the part of my brain that controlled my speech function.

I would stay like this all day. I couldn’t ask to have my basic needs met such as putting my hand up to go to the toilet, to get a drink, if I had forgotten my lunch money, or if I was hurt or bullied. I couldn’t participate in lessons, or play with others in the playground. Then as if by magic, as soon as I came out of school to walk home, the heaviness lifted, and I would come back to life, playing, talking, and doing everything normally.

As a 4 year old, you can’t really explain what is happening when an adult asks you why you won’t talk at school. You think how you feel is how everyone feels. You think what happens to you is normal, even if it isn’t. At that age you don’t know any different.

I can see how others would have seen this as stubbornness. They encouraged me, disciplined me, got frustrated with me, asked me why I behaved that way and got no answer from me. They sent me to the educational psychologist and the behavioral-emotional unit, and the didn’t know what was wrong either. Back then, selective mutism was not an official diagnosis, so they had no checklist to match my symptoms with. I was trapped in isolation, and I didn’t know how to get out of the trap. It felt beyond my power to escape from.

I don’t think any child would choose to be that stubborn for that long, especially if it forced them into this much social isolation; especially if it meant they could go hungry or thirsty, or couldn’t communicate all day… especially if it caused them to feel overlooked and invisible. Deep down, all children need recognition and want to fit in.

Teachers would try and encourage others to include me, and in the end they resented it because they couldn’t get a response from me. As a result, I spent lots of time clock-watching in empty rooms whilst others went off to chat with friends. I saw others get recognised and rewarded for achievements, sung to on special occasions such as birthdays, invited to parties, but I couldn’t show anyone my personality or abilities because they were locked inside. People gave up inviting me places because I would just stand silent and make them feel awkward.

I was still stuck when it was time to leave school at 16. I had seen my peers develop, grow, make friends, have fun all around me, but I hadn’t passed “GO.” I had spent my school life going to school, not communicating, and going back home at the end of the day not having engaged or spoken with anyone. I was very delayed in my social and emotional development compared to others of similar age. As I was approaching adulthood, my chances of getting a job and having a normal life hung in the balance, and I was also becoming very depressed because I was fully aware of my inability to function in the adult world.

It was a family who helped me on my way to recovery. They felt it was right to have me come and live with them when I had just turned 19. I had very little communication; I mainly used shoulder shrugs and gestures, body language and facial expressions although I did speak the odd word. Things like saying hello, goodbye, please and thank you were incredibly difficult. Their response to this was unlike any I had experienced, in that they sent me constant messages that I was loved and accepted unconditionally, and they didn’t feel awkward around my silence. After a couple of weeks the heaviness and paralysis began to lift. This was due to them reducing the pressure to speak, and I felt safe around them.

One day, I managed to say my first sentence to them – “I want to be able to talk and be normal.” It was a desperate plea that I had wanted to make known for all those years, and I had managed to verbalise it for the very first time. This was just the beginning of a long road where they were to support me, nurture me, and teach me to interact, and learn all the skills I had missed out on learning whilst growing up. Eventually they unofficially “adopted” me as part of their family. They supported me through many anxiety issues which arose as a result of my past isolation, including anxieties so severe I couldn’t visit my own family or be left alone without supervision. They are still my family now, and we are as close as ever.

It has taken me a lot longer than others, but gradually I got to the place where I can live independently, and I have come further than I ever expected. I now have a job where I have met very lovely and supportive colleagues who have helped me more than they will know. Anxiety is still part of my life, and a battle I will possibly always face, but I now have friends and family behind me, and most important of all I have found my voice. It is a great feeling to have friends and colleagues who I feel part of and included. I feel they genuinely want me around and don’t feel awkward around me. No more hours of isolation in empty rooms, no more clock-watching and people-watching; now I no longer feel isolated when I come home, because people are just a phone call away – all because I can talk :)

Review: The SM Treatment Guide

July 27, 2012 in Selective Mutism

Here is an exciting new book for people searching for answers about selective mutism.

A veteran clinician named Ruth Perednik has recently released a manual on how to understand and help the SM child. The book is called The Selective Mutism Treatment Guide.

According to Perednik, “Children with SM usually respond well to the appropriate treatment and break free of their silent shackles in a relatively short-term intervention program. What’s more, most of them become regular, normative children once they overcome selective mutism.”

Her book is divided into three sections: one manual for the parents, one for the teachers, and one for the therapist. Using all three parts of the book creates an approach that is very powerful. There is some repetition and overlapping information when these different manuals are juxtaposed, but the information is valuable and it is easy to read and understand. So even if you are a parent and read the section written for parents, you’ll want to read the rest of the book to really grasp the whole scope of the treatment.

There is also a section for the treatment of older kids with SM. Although it’s shorter, the techniques are explained clearly and shows the differences in the treatment once SM children grow up.

Perednik’s book is a concise and useful manual for anybody interested in finding out more about treating kids simultaneously in all their environments – at home, at school, and with the therapist.

Be sure to check out The Selective Mutism Treatment Guide (this link will take you to amazon.com), and come back here to post your comments about it. We’d love to hear your feedback on her book.


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