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How You Can Help Me, a Person With Selective Mutism

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Selective mutism is a disorder preventing someone from speaking in at least one social situation.

Symptoms of selective mutism include:

  • incapable of speaking in social situations
  • withdrawal
  • no or little facial expressions
  • avoiding eye contact
  • stiff movements
  • isolating
  • worrying more than most people their age
  • difficulty expressing feelings
  • fear of social embarrassment
  • social anxiety

My name is Alysia. I have had selective mutism all my life. I have faced many challenges in this time. The most difficult thing I have had to deal with is people who do not understand. From teachers and students to “professionals.” I have been told/forced to speak on numerous occasions. Here are a few things someone has said to me:

“Has the cat got your tongue?”

“Are you lethargic?”

“Are you lazy?”

“You need to get tougher skin.”

“Do you not understand English?”

“Just say one word.”

“How are you going to get from point A to point B if you don’t speak?”

“If I do the chicken dance, you will have to speak to me.”

“If you are a lonely character, let’s put you in a corner.”

“Hi… Oh, I forgot, you don’t talk.”

And many more.

Situations where I get forced to speak are uncomfortable and upsetting. Therefore, I ask you to have full understanding of this condition to decrease the amount of times a selectively mute person is put in this situation.

Here’s how to help me as a person with selective mutism:

  • do not force me to speak
  • stay calm around me
  • do not talk about my anxieties/struggles in public
  • include me in activities
  • treat me as you would if I didn’t have this condition
  • don’t ignore me
  • ask me indirect questions that don’t require verbal speech
  • if there is a verbal response, don’t make a big deal of it
  • never give up on me because one day I will feel able to speak to you; do not rush me!

Knowledge and understanding are necessary. Let’s raise awareness of selective mutism!

Get informed, educate yourself and tell someone about it.

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Thinkstock photo by Kuzma

Originally published: March 25, 2017
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