This is Kason, my oldest child.
He was born on October 13, 2015, and he changed my whole world. He was a cuddly 8lb 12oz bundle of joy with the most beautiful red hair I had ever seen. Kason hit all of his milestones perfectly. He was what we considered a timid baby and toddler. He was very standoffish towards people, even people he knew well. Looking back, we now see the signs from a very young age, but it was always brushed off as him having a shy personality.
When Kason was around 2.5 years old, he started behaving differently.
He would have tantrums that were way worse than what is considered “normal” at that age. He would freak out if I were out of sight. At Parent’s Day Out, he would cry so hard for me that he would throw up or pee his pants because he knew that I would come back for him if he did. It was more than just being 2. I finally did a parent referral to SPECO to have him evaluated, mainly for my own sake, to know I wasn’t overreacting. In May of 2018, he was diagnosed with Selective Mutism.
I had never heard of Selective Mutism, and honestly, I thought it sounded made up.
How does someone selectively decide to be mute?! Kason would talk our ears off daily, but he acted as if he didn’t know how to speak if anyone else was around. He would immediately shut down. He had a few friends and adults he would talk to, but there was never any rhyme or reason to who he chose. People he had known his whole life he would not speak to, while some he didn’t know well he would. He went through 2 years of PDO without ever saying a word to his teachers. When the pandemic happened before he started public school, I was so worried for him. I so desperately wanted him to go to in-person school to work towards breaking his social anxiety.
In August of 2020, my prayers were answered.
He was able to attend school in person. I prayed daily that this was what he needed to break through the SM. The entire first semester of his pre-k year, he did not say a single word to his teachers. To communicate with them, he talked through other students. Every day I would encourage him to use his “brave voice,” but he never did. The first semester ended, and I found myself discouraged. Anxiety is horrible, and to feel severe pressure every day to the point of not speaking was exhausting to him. His brain was constantly working and never rested. By the time the second semester started, I was sure God was tired of hearing from me daily about this issue. HA!
I will NEVER forget the day I got a message from his teacher. It was a video. They were in the cafeteria for lunch. She asked him a question, and he answered her verbally. He used his “brave voice!” I cried so many happy tears that day. When he got in the car that afternoon, I didn’t ask him about it; I waited for him to tell me. “Mom, guess what I did today? I used my brave voice!”
Those words gave me chills then, and they still do today. Kason was so proud of himself – he conquered his fear and anxiety. From that day on, he continues to use his brave voice and add new people to his list of conversations. By the end of the school year, he was verbally communicating with his teachers. He climbed mountains this past semester and was so brave. I am so proud of his progress and how far we’ve come. He still tells me that he is afraid he will be shy again when he starts Kindergarten. I don’t know how the first day, week, or semester of next year will go. But I know that he can and will conquer it again.
Selective Mutism is real.
It affects more people than we know. Statistics show that 1 in 140 young children have a form of Selective Mutism. How many of these children are being labeled as just being ‘shy?’ How many kids live with the absolute FEAR of speaking daily, and no one thinks twice about it? It is said that without proper recognition and treatment, most of these children affected by Selective Mutism will not outgrow it. I am so thankful that I listened to my instincts when I knew something was happening with him. I was told regularly I was overreacting and that he was a two-year-old. If you think that your child may be struggling with SM, I urge you to reach out. As a parent, you have to be an advocate for them!
If you want to chat or pick my brain, I am always willing to talk about this.
I have researched, I have prayed, I have read every article out there. I am here for you. This diagnosis is not common in our area. While most cities have specialists specifically for SM, the Lubbock area does not. Do not let this discourage you; there is help out there, and your child deserves it.
October is Selective Mutism Awareness Month; I encourage all of you to familiarize yourself with this condition and not just assume that every child you see that won’t speak to you is just shy or rude. There is likely an underlying cause to the reason they aren’t communicating verbally.