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Effects of selective mutism on youth

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Effects of selective mutism on youth

Postby mrkiasume » Thu Mar 03, 2011 4:26 pm

Hi, selective mutism is a very big problem in the world. it affects a portion of us and many are suffering in silence.
does anyone know how it affects youths in general?
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Re: Effects of selective mutism on youth

Postby selectivemutism » Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:56 pm

sm is emotionally draining, and very frustrating, as we have lots to say, but literally can't. it's hard to make friends, although usually we have 1 or 2 close friends. it gets in the way of educational achievements (e.g. presenting in front of the class, or group work, bullying also is a big one), we have trouble expressing our feelings, even to close family members or best friends. For me, i don't even go out to eat at restaurants anymore, because: 1) i feel guilty since i can't order for myself, as i'm 16 and feel like it's my responsibility now, and 2) i don't feel comfortable eating in front of others, as i feel everyone is watching me, and it's very nerve wracking.
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Re: Effects of selective mutism on youth

Postby -Traveler- » Wed Oct 05, 2016 2:07 am

I wanted to share my story on this forum to hopefully help some of the parents whose kids are struggling with this. I stopped talking to everyone but family around age 4-5 and wasn't able to talk at school until I made a major life change at age 16. I'm now 30 and doing reasonably well and living independently. If you do not want to read all of this please just read the last paragraph.

For the first few years of school, I got by okay without talking. I had a group of friends, and teachers more or less just ignored the fact that I wouldn't talk, letting me get by without participating in class. When I was about 7 I had to start attending therapy at school, which I didn't mind at first.

I don't remember much of the early years of therapy, but I do remember the point at which I started to loathe being a non-talker. My friends had been invited to the therapy session to play board games with me while the other students were in class, and it seemed like they were having fun. After we returned to class the teacher told us that what the other students had done in class we would have to do for homework. My friends said they wouldn't have gone to play the board games if they had known they would need to do extra homework, and hearing that really upset me.

From then on I more or less ignored everybody, eating lunch alone and basically just sitting by myself during recess. As I got older I started experiencing more and more emotional turmoil, feeling disgusted at myself and apprehensive about a "new" person speaking to me and me not being able to respond. Other kids would get invited to parties and sleepovers but I wouldn't. I wasn't able to raise my hand to ask if I could use the bathroom or if I was sick and needed to go to the clinic.

By the time I was around 10 I definitely wanted to talk at school, but I felt like I couldn't just start. One year I was sent to a summer camp in another state and was able to talk to the other kids there, because they weren't aware of my condition. But the anxiety was always present at school, and it just got worse and worse. When I started a new school year and the teacher did the roll call, I felt like I could pass out from the apprehension. Especially in middle school where I had several different teachers. I would wonder whether each one had been informed of my condition beforehand or if there would be mass confusion when I didn't say "here" after my name was called.

About half of the kids I went to middle school with were sent to the same high school as me. On my first day as a freshman, I was able to summon up the courage to say "here" when my name was called at my first class. There were gasps from the kids who knew of my condition, and I felt petrified, like I could pass out. I wasn't able to say another word that year.

The following year I tried again, with the same end result. I was sent to another school therapist and given a multiple-choice personality test. Apparently the test revealed that I was severely depressed, and my mom became very irritated with me when she was sent the results. Before this my parents had ignored my condition. This was the lowest point of my life. In addition to the constant apprehension at school, I now felt ashamed that I put my parents through something that seemed so trivial at the time. After all, all I had to do was start talking, but I felt selfish for not being able to.

After my sophomore year of high school, I decided that I was going to change everything. I skipped the last two years of high school and started college at 16. Fortunately this was doable because my hometown had a college. I had no trouble talking in my college classes when needed. Everybody was new, no one gasped when I said a word. I was quiet (and still am), but I talked when I needed to.

In my senior year of college, I enrolled in a French class to fulfill a foreign language requirement. My first day I walk in and find that one of my new classmates is somebody who I went to high school with, who knows of my condition. I initially got anxious but found that I didn't have a problem talking in front of him. Why? Because if he gasped when I spoke, then it was him who would look like the crazy one, since nobody else in the class knew of my former mutism. And he in fact did not gasp or make any comment.

It might seem ridiculous to people who don't have firsthand experience with this disorder. But as an analogy, think about randomly standing up in church and yelling something out. I believe this would be comparable to what it feels like to suddenly start talking in front of people you have been silent around for years, people who have never heard your voice.

Even now, 15 years later, I feel the effects of it. I have nightmares about the kids I went to school with hearing me talk. My daily life is normal for the most part but I worry more than other people and have few friends. My friends of course don't know about my former condition, so I feel like I have a grave secret. I almost never start small talk with anybody, I get anxious making phone calls (since I didn't make one until I was 17), and I have trouble saying "excuse me" if somebody is in my way.

My advice for parents: Consider looking into whether it would help to put your child in a brand-new environment, where they can make a fresh start. When I was 10 I would have loved to be sent away to a new school with people who had no idea about my condition. By that point I believe I would have been able to turn everything around, but instead I suffered quietly for another six years.
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