Suffering in Silence: Could Your Child Have Selective Mutism?

Suffering in Silence: Could Your Child Have Selective Mutism?

Chances are you know someone who has a child that’s been diagnosed as autistic, or you may have that child yourself. What exactly is autism, what is the autism spectrum, and why have diagnoses exploded so recently? Approximately one out of every one hundred and fifty children qualifies as autistic–and that doesn’t include ADHD, or another, less common, diagnosis of selective mutism.

My now nine-year-old son was diagnosed with selective mutism in the first grade. Selective mutism is a psychological anxiety disorder that most people have never heard of and is characterized by the sufferer’s inability to speak in certain situations, even though they are perfectly capable of it otherwise. It has no clear treatment, and like autism, has it a widely varying spectrum of impact in children. We had our son evaluated by the school district because he was a very late talker; by age four he only spoke a few words and some gibberish (I like to point out that Albert Einstein didn’t speak until age four, either). Although he was assigned a speech therapist, he wouldn’t speak to her, or to anyone else at school. By the first grade, he’d begun speaking “normally” at home, but during school would not utter a word, and would stiffen up and avoid eye contact if someone addressed him.

Once my son had been diagnosed with selective mutism, I was somewhat relieved, because at least I had a label. He doesn’t talk at school? Well, he has Selective Mutism. Won’t talk to strangers? Sorry, dude, he’s Selectively Mute. It can be very seductive having a label. But, ultimately, the label only tells you what, it doesn’t tell you why.

I think that my son’s not speaking in school or new situations and his lack of eye contact and stiff mannerisms when he’s anxious are part of the autism spectrum–he’s just on the very mild end of it. He speaks completely normally at home (sometimes way more than normal; I swear he saves it up) and around particular friends and family, but he won’t participate in a lot of social activities that I know he really wants to. I ended up taking him out of tae kwon do classes that he loved because the instructors eventually put so much pressure on him to speak (in spite of knowing the situation) that he would sometimes be in tears on the way to class. It has to be awful to be a little boy carrying around all that much anxiety all day.

Although we met regularly with school administration, nothing came of my son’s speech therapy or weekly counseling. He doesn’t speak at school. I’ve tried reasoning, bribing, pleading, ignoring the situation, deflecting other children’s curious attention, and all I end up with is frustration. I even switched him from public to private school after the administration wanted to place in him in special education classes so they wouldn’t have to deal with him, despite his above average test scores. As his silence persists, I’ve become more and more determined to find some sort of cure. I’ve researched, read, and spoken to doctors, therapists, teachers and nutritionists.

Selective mutism is not very well known yet, and is often misdiagnosed at first as autism because of similar symptoms. The most significant thing they have in common is that they affect the sufferer’s capacity for social interaction. Behavioral therapy is used in both, but only works to varying degrees, and only with some children. Other children have been treated with medication, but that only alters the symptom, not the cause, and at what cost to the child’s future health? As a parent, I find reading about or watching the news depressing because it seems to be all negative, about events I can’t control. At first, I felt the same way researching selective mutism and autism. However, I have found a lot of information on nutrition, environmental toxins, and biology that convince me that disorders on the autism spectrum are heavily influenced by these factors, giving me hope that there is further action that parents can take.

Did you know:

  • One of the causes of autism is mercury (heavy metal) poisoning.
  • Pregnancy & giving birth detoxifies the mother, as the growing baby draws its nutrients from her body (including any heavy metal toxins that are present).
  • The majority of children diagnosed as autistic are the firstborn.
  • Many families have used infrared saunas (which detoxify heavy metals from the body) to alleviate the symptoms of autism in their children, even to the point of being able to discontinue medication.
  • Are there precautions a woman can take before she becomes pregnant that will help prevent an autistic spectrum disorder in her child? Can autism (and therefore selective mutism) be alleviated or cured without medication?

Follow me in future articles, as I interview top autism specialists and explore treatment possibilities for my son, including diet changes, detoxification, and biofeedback. Perhaps this new generation will have the insight and Einstein-like innovations to adapt to the changing environment, if as parents we can help them make the transition by helping to lighten their toxic load.

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