Silence – Adventures of an undiagnosed kid (Selective Mutism)

Afternoon Internet,

Its Wednesday… the week is moving along.

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Tessa using kintetic sand to model the “isthmus” landform.

The kids are busy with their numerous work that fills our days.

Having hit a wall,

wall

I’ve felt at a loss for words for writing and blogging

as well as feeling paralyzed in dealing with a stressful situation.

I thought today might be a good day to talk about “Selective Mutism.”

It is not a feature of autism but it is something that autistic girls and women do often report as co-morbid.

silence

“The Silence”  -John Henry Fuseli (1799)

My earliest memories of school were from “Capitol Christian Academy” a  13 year private school that boasted high academic performance and really itchy uniforms. Being grade levels ahead of our public school peers (if you live outside the U.S – “private” is your “public”) was an expectation.

My communication problems were apparent at this time, a time before our Dad left and life at home turned from stressful to abusive. It’s important to mention, because it is easy to assume many of my difficulties were because of abuse.

In nearly every school situation, I was without words. Where I would be talkative with my sister or others I felt comfortable with, I would have little or nothing to say in other situations.  This is called selective mutism. It s not that I chose not to speak, there is no choice in the matter. It is “selective” in that it is not in all environments.

I would get into trouble for it. I was considered obstinate most often. Other times it was assumed I was a snob.

One instance I remember was in music class.  I never raised my hand to speak or participated in class. One day though we had to “repeat the beat” with rhythm sticks. My teacher would walk along  to each student and beat out a rhythm the student then needed to copy on their sticks.

sticks

they were just like these, bright red glossy lovely-ness they had a nice smooth feel

When she got to me, I was lost.  I couldn’t no matter how I tried follow along nor would any words come out to explain that I didn’t understand. I felt hot and sick and am sure I was red.  She kept repeating it over and over getting angrier and angrier herself until I ended up in the corner with threats of a paddling. I was stupid and being difficult. (which is it? am I clueless or naughty, cant be both)  I would stay after until I followed her rhythm.  After class she kept me insisting I copy her but by then I just stood there.

Eventually, my main classroom teacher came to collect me, and I don’t know what she said but I escaped a paddling in the principal’s office.

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Repeat the beat can be a fun activity to encourage joint attention, as long as you aren’t a jerk about it.

THESE DAYS…

As an adult I have occasionally found myself at a loss for words in extremely stressful or completely unpredictable situations. I find myself unable to respond in a timely manner to stress, or feeling hurt by others.  In these cases my silence is taken as passive aggressive or “pretending everything is fine”   My ( ex) mother in law once said to me, “I know you don’t like some of the things I say, but you pretend you don’t care. I just want to make sure you know, I know, and I don’t care.” It’s more like, stress completely short circuiting the ability to put together a coherent sentence.  It sinks the ability to say what I mean. Not that I bothered to explain, (once again, no words)  I doubt very much she’d accept any explanation outside of her own theories.

Yet even friends don’t really understand.  “You speak at ease with me.” Sure I do. It doesn’t mean I can will myself to be at ease in other situations. I say this, but I don’t think they understand that its not something solved by a pep talk.

It used to be a source of shame for me. Its still quite frustrating, but I know its not a personal flaw.

 

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