Decca and selective mutism

Decca October 2009 002

Decca struggles with selective mutism. SM is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to physically shut down, and because of this, they are unable to talk. People with selective mutism usually suffer in social situations, especially in the school setting. Others, like Decca, have a more severe case and struggle even with people they know. Decca’s selective mutism was brought on by a traumatic event (I went away for a night, and he thought I had died), and for the first 6 months he stopped talking to everyone but the twins. That was an extremely hard time for us all. The twins were young (7 going on 8), and they didn’t understand why he had stopped talking. They were also a little unsure about the added responsibility suddenly given to them. Autry especially resented it, and she was terribly upset with him for not talking to anyone else. I didn’t know what was going on with him, and I just kept waiting for him to talk again. After a few months, when I realized he wasn’t going to talk again, I finally took him to the doctors. They recommended a wonderful therapist who immediately diagnosed him, worked with him, primarily through play therapy, and got him to open up to her and tell her what was going on in his mind. Within a few months he had progressed to the point of being able to talk to me and some members of the family. In the two years since this time he has made great progress and now talks to almost everyone in the family, to his close friends, and to my great surprise, to waitresses and librarians.

Yet there are still many situations that he can’t talk in, and because he is homeschooled, sometimes I forget this. Group settings terrify him, classes are hard, and he struggles when people approach him unexpectedly. When I took him to Disneyland for Halloween, he dressed up as Luigi. People kept saying hi to him and asking him where Mario was. Little kids dressed as Mario would try to talk to him. Decca didn’t smile or say hi to any of them. The whole thing took him by surprise, and he was terrified.

But he is making progress all the time. A year ago we took a field trip to a pumpkin patch with a homeschool group. We were new to the group, and he was overwhelmed with the situation. He didn’t talk, and he didn’t open his eyes.


At the pumpkin patch 2008

I forgot that he use to do that because he doesn’t anymore. I found that picture today and felt so happy that he is doing so great. Disneyland may have scared him, but he kept his eyes open and kept walking. That is true progress, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

halloween disneyland 027

Decca at disneyland with his eyes open.

For more information on selective mutism check out this book at amazon –

Helping Your Child With Selective Mutism: Steps to Overcome a Fear of Speaking


~ by Jill Harper on November 2, 2009.

3 Responses to “Decca and selective mutism”

  1. Wonderful post. I know a child who suffers from selective mutism, and it is very hard for her. Your son seems to be doing well.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. I have never really heard of or thought much about selective mutism– thanks for educating me!

    What a joy to see his progress! (Disney can be quite overwhelming for anyone!)

  3. That’s great.

    Great to see him getting better!

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