This article is a continuation of part one to a mother’s journey with selective mutism…
Cathy was not able to get in to see the doctor for three months. This was a very difficult and lonely time for her as a parent. It broke her heart that her own daughter wouldn’t speak to her. Cathy recalls, “Every night when I tucked her in I would say, “Just say, ‘I love you Mommy”; I was so afraid that I would never hear that again.”
A few weeks into the silence, Avalon began making some sounds. She had an interesting way of communicating with her older sister, Aubrey. She was able to replace all vowels with one vowel or switch beginning and ending consonants to make her words. Cathy could not understand it or duplicate it but her older daughter could. Cathy thought it was a start.
Then one day it happened. While tucking her daughter into bed Cathy heard Avalon say, “I love you Mommy.” Cathy was in tears, so overjoyed to hear her daughter speak. The next day she was talking to the family again.
It took six months working with the doctor before Avalon began speaking with him. Cathy recalls, “She started by making noises, laughing, and then animal sounds. One session was spent just making a lot of noise with noise makers – walking through the offices he worked at. Avalon had been really nervous to wear any shoes that made noise as she didn’t want people to look at her. She learned, through this session, that usually people don’t notice if you make a little noise. She then started talking to a Curious George puppet that he used. He eventually put George to the side and she started talking to him.”
There is a lot that has happened since then. Avalon is now 11 years old. She still does not speak at school or in church classrooms. She works with a psychologist at her school but doesn’t talk to her. They are working on anxiety reducing exercises. Avalon keeps a list of people she wants to talk to. It is very had for her but Cathy says she is making progress.
Cathy would say this to parents who have a child with selective mutism: “I would tell them to get early intervention. Studies show that children with early intervention have a better chance of talking earlier. I would tell them to be an advocate for their child. I would tell them to find someone to talk to, if they feel the need. This is not something I ever did – and in the early days – I sure wish I would have. I felt very alone in this. Most people still don’t know what selective mutism is and think that my child is just being obstinate.”
Cathy does believe that someday Avalon will be able to speak in most situations normally.