At 3 ½ years old, our son went an entire month not speaking to us. He communicated only with gestures and signs. He had gone from typical communication to nothing, just like that.
He had always been a shy child and did not speak to strangers, but standing in the middle of Disney World with my son screaming when I tried to put him on the carousel, and no words to communicate what was wrong, I knew in my heart that something just wasn't right. I have been a special education teacher for 15+ years and have lots of experience with children with communication difficulties, but this was so different from anything I had ever experienced.
He didn't have communication delays. He was able to speak in complete sentences and paragraphs, but just wouldn't. He did not speak at school, and the teachers described a child who would come into the school with shoulders bent forward and eyes down. It was quite the opposite from the child we saw at home. At home, he was loud and boisterous and smiling and happy.
The pediatrician said "selective mutism, and my research began. At first, I really focused on the mutism, and not so much on the anxiety. Over the next year, I would come to understand that the anxiety was the much bigger piece of the puzzle. We learned that much of the challenging behaviors that we were dealing with (tantrums, aggression, anger) were all a direct result of the anxiety and our little boy trying to find control of his little world.
We had to change our parenting style and learn a different way to reach him. It has been a long, long road, and I know that we are still at the very beginning. We went to numerous different people; psychologists, social workers, and counselors, all of whom who were very well-meaning, but they all gave me the same look that said "we don't really know what to do. Sure, my son can come sit in your office, but not a chance is he going to talk to you. We struggled with what to do. I knew that we needed to find the right intervention.
The problem is that selective mutism is very rare. Less than 1% of the population is diagnosed with this disorder, and that means that no one knows how to treat it.
My sister who is a Marriage and Family Therapist was meeting with Lynne Robertson at Word of Mouth one day. She was talking to her about Grayson. Lynne said she had a therapist who worked with kids with SM. To be honest, I was not all that hopeful; I had been down this road before. I talked with Kristin Davis, and she told me that she had worked with 7 other kids with SM. She told me that she pretty much always has the child talking to her by the end of the first session.
I was skeptical that would occur with my son, but I was wrong. We started therapy with Kristin 5 months ago, and the progress that we have seen since then is quite amazing. Kristin uses exposure therapy that is so appropriate for children with SM. She started in the clinic getting him to talk to her, and then we gradually introduced other people and settings.
A child who would speak to virtually no one outside of our family, has recently spoken to strangers at the grocery and the dental office.
He didn't speak to his swim teacher for 3 years. Kristin came to one session and his swim teacher actually had to ask him to be quiet so that he could hear the instructions at his last lesson! He also started speaking at school after his teacher came to a therapy session. I am so thankful that we found Kristin. Not only is she Gray's speech therapist, but also she is his cheerleader. She is just as happy when he makes progress as we are. I know that we are still at the beginning of this road, but I know that we have the right support, resources, and people in place now to help him grow up to be healthy, happy, and to meet his potential! ¢