Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A boy with Selective Mutism

I feel obliged to share the story of a boy very close to me, who suffered from a severe anxiety disorder for most of his life.

Selective Mutism is a strange, insidious, and endlessly frustrating anxiety disorder for all concerned. Effectively, the person has no problem in communicating normally - indeed, this child wouldn’t stop talking at home; everybody knew him as a ‘real chatterbox’ - but in some situations, and to some people, they simply cannot talk.

This boy in particular seemed perfectly fine until he started school at age five. It was then that the problems began. He would stop talking the second he walked through the school gate; not a word would be said to his parents, siblings, friends… and it was over a year before he was properly talking to his teachers, although thankfully he eventually was able to. Think extreme shyness and anxiety, but taken to the most extreme level it could possibly be. This goes beyond ‘shy’.

Within a few years he was able to talk to a few more people than he had done, however he wasn’t talking to many members of his extended family, and a number of close family friends. He wouldn’t answer the phone, nor would he speak to his older siblings who had since moved to other parts of the country or world on the phone for the first 18 months they were gone. Who he could speak to was very ‘hit and miss’ - if you were lucky, he’d talk with no problems. But more often than not, it was silence, with a smile or nod for good measure.

Often, SM is put down to the child being ‘naughty’ or ‘attention seeking’. But it’s neither of these things. They want to speak, they know everybody else wants them to speak, and they know they can speak. The problem is, they just can’t. The stress, heartache, and endless frustration on the child, their family, and those around them cannot be emphasised enough. And in this boy’s case, no amount of counselling, doctors, or alternative therapists could do much to help.
Until he started taking colostrum.

His mother introduced them to his routine each morning, three months ago, in mid-2009. And around two months after he’d first started taking them, the first breakthrough happened. Urged on by a few strong words about not looking silly from his mother, he finally started talking.

Within a few days, he went from silent and sullen to yelling and shouting over the Xbox Live (of all things!) to kids in other parts of the country. And a day later, he spoke to one of his cousins for the first time in five years. After this, within a week, came numerous other aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours, and close family friends, some of whom he’d never spoken to in his life.
The list of people he was working on talking to was thrown out the window when he sped through it in the course of three days and added people they’d dared not add, lest they stress him too much!

The change, and the speed at which it occurred, is mind-boggling. People cannot believe this beautiful little boy is finally speaking to whomever he wants to, after so many years of tears and frustration. With his ninth birthday looming, the family are hoping he’ll finally be free from the shackles this infuriating anxiety has put around his life, and he’ll at last be the happy, chatty boy they all see at home.

Whether it was the colostrum or something else is unclear, but whatever the case, something truly has worked miracles in this boy’s life, and he has recovered from a disorder most professionals throw their hands up at with the words 'good luck'.

I hope this story can bring some inspiration and hope to those other families out there struggling with this infuriating problem - there is a way forward, and please don't give up! With patience, time, perseverance, and good nutrition your child can look forward to a brighter future.

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