April 2015 Developmental Disability Month: My Daughter -  as printed in Street Sense

It’s National Developmental Disability Month. One disability not only hidden but most frequently overlooked is Selective Mutism.

According to the SMart Center(https://selectivemutismcenter.org/): “Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure, and relaxed.”

Like mine at home with the immediate family where she talked a blue streak.

Until she was five people believed she was totally mute because she allowed no one to hear her voice. Her grandpa whom she loved died never hearing her speak.

“More than 90% of children with Selective Mutism also have social phobia or social anxiety.This disorder is quite debilitating and painful to the child. Children and adolescents with Selective Mutism have an actual FEAR of speaking and of social interactions where there is an expectation to speak and communicate. Many children with Selective Mutism have great difficulty responding or initiating communication in a nonverbal manner; therefore social engagement may be compromised in many children when confronted by others or in an overwhelming setting where they sense a feeling of expectation.

Not all children manifest their anxiety in the same way. Some may be completely mute and unable to speak or communicate to anyone in a social setting, others may be able to speak to a select few or perhaps whisper. Some children may stand motionless with fear as they are confronted with specific social settings. They may freeze, be expressionless, unemotional and may be socially isolated. Less severely affected children may look relaxed and carefree, and are able to socialize with one or a few children but are unable to speak and effectively communicate to teachers or most/all peers.”

My 12 year old has suffered with this since birth. Fortunately, today speaking in a classroom setting and some relax social events is doable.

I struggle constantly with the fact that my child cannot speak to potential rescuer in a crisis if her mother were attacked and rendered unconscious, would this child, incapable of ordering a pizza, Mighty kids meal or even movie tickets to tell a 911 operator details of the event? Coping with this is not easy for any parent let alone a homeless one.

Sadly in most cases it goes undiagnosed. No diagnosis, no demand, no community effort to provide aid to the suffering children. Children, who again, sadly, have no voice.

I cope through constant prayer and the acceptance that being a voice for this one in a thousand kids is my calling.