Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why Christopher Won't Talk

Have you ever had a student in your class who did not talk? A student who never smiled, talked out loud to you, classmates, to anyone? A child who would not even whisper, gesture, laugh, or cry? If so, that child may have been more than just shy, they may have had Selective Mutism.

A little over two years ago, my youngest son was about to start preschool as a three year old. I knew that he was very shy and rarely talked in public. He often would hide when relatives came to visit and would cling to me when his grandparents tried to talk to him. What I did not know was that he was petrified- beyond anxious- when he was expected to talk to anyone besides me, his father, and older brothers.

The first day of preschool came and I had no clue that this adorable little man was so, so scared! He was in a classroom directly across from his older brother who was in the four year preschool class. I was there all day, as I also work at the school. At the end of the day, he had not smiled, talked, whispered- no communication at all. He barely gestured and could not tell his teachers that he had to use the bathroom. He went all day without uttering a word or emotion.

Two months later, Christopher was diagnosed with Selective Mutism, a childhood anxiety disorder in which a child is mute in certain social situations, but talks comfortably in others. It is a very complex disorder that usually occurs before the age of five. These children have the ability to talk, but become so paralyzed with fear in some social situations ( usually at school), that they cannot talk or interact.

In an effort to share with parents and teachers, I plan to blog much more about this topic that is near and dear to my heart as a parent. A few weeks ago, I wrote a little book for my Christopher who is now 5 years old and is still not talking out loud at school. This simple little picture book, Jack the Duck, I wrote for him to let him know that there are other children who feel like he does. We printed the book pages, covered them with page protectors, and placed in a folder. The adorable graphics are from My Cute Graphics. He loves his little book, and as I was working on the draft, he exclaimed, "Hey, that is just like me!" Mission accomplished!
You can check out the little book above by clicking on Jack.

If you have experience with Selective Mutism as a parent, teacher, or therapist, please leave me a comment!


  1. My 5 year old daughter is like this, but her identical twin is not. She finally did speak and interact with classmates in PreK after 3 or 4 months. I was so worried. However, when we recently had lunch with people she has known since 5 months old, she kept her head down, would not speak to anyone and would only whisper to me. However, after she ate, she talked to them and even hugged them. I don't understand where this comes from as it comes and goes.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Susan! That is wonderful that your daughter started talking after just a few months! My son often needs to sit back and observe first with activities like going to a restaurant or the park- even if we are with close friends or family. After he has time to warm up and relax, his anxiety lessens and he may start to interact. If he sees a friend from school, though, he immediately resorts to no talking or just whispering. It is baffling, I agree! My son will talk to the doctor if we are there for his brother's appt, but if it is for him, he will not speak!


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