My challenges with mutism

Melody Rain

Understand if the person with mutism is communicating to you in some way then they want to communicate.

By Melody Rain

In the past I have endured a lot of judgment when I am experiencing mutism in some places.

I want to say that like others who have selective mutism… My mutism isn’t controlled. I can’t just turn it on or off. For me it begins when I for whatever reason experience a heightened amount of anxiety in a social situation or place.

It usually has nothing to do with anyone and it is no ones fault that it occurs. It is fear that has developed inside of me and I sort of freeze verbally.

The longer it goes on the harder it is for me to break out of it and speak. Usually if given a lot of support and enough time and interaction I will slowly begin to break out.

For me it may begin with sounds or whispering words or sounds. I may laugh out loud instead of being completely silent. Any sound I make whether it’s a sneeze, a laugh, a hum noise or the sounds of words shows that I am truly trying. And it also shows me fighting the best I can to keep from sinking completely under.

I have been at places where I was judged because I would sing but not talk. I have been assumed that I control my mutism because I can speak other places or to other people where luckily it has not occurred.

I had one lady take my phone away where I would type to her and she told everyone to not even speak to me .. “she cannot talk.” She laughed when my phone died and said well now you have to be a big girl and talk! She also refused to read what I typed. She walked away leaving me with no way to communicate. These things would frustrate me. And it made my mutism worse. Eventually I was able to break out of my mutism in that particular place. It took 2 years. But never have I been able to speak to this woman because of how she treated me. Her actions just continued to maximize my fear.

I guess what I’m getting at is…. Try not to misunderstand mutism. Research it instead. Like other disorders each person may experience it differently. But learn what you can.

Secondly, understand if the person with mutism is communicating to you in some way then they want to communicate. It is much easier for us to communicate in other ways than it would be to simply talk. We know it’s inconvenient for you to wait for our communication whether it’s sign or writing or typing but it’s just as if not more frustrating for us. I have cried nights to sleep wanting to talk to one particular person … but I just can’t … at least not yet.

Please don’t decide we are not good enough because we can’t talk. I know many people may not want to be my friend so I’m not even speaking of me because I know I am not worthy of friendships or at least not meant for it.

But others please don’t dismiss those with communication problems for friendships. You are not wasting your time. You are investing time into someone who could really use love and support.

Lastly, if and when the person ever does talk to you, don’t don’t don’t don’t end the friendship! That is saying their only worth to you was the challenge of getting them to talk…
and that you could have cared less for the person (this also happened to me). This just makes it that much harder for them in other places they have not mastered and ruins their trust in people altogether. It just intensifies their fears even more.

Melody Rain

I am an autistic adult trying to manage living independently. I live in Gastonia, North Carolina. I love animals and have 3 dogs and 2 cats. My two oldest pets are my dog, Snoopy age 15 and a half, and Boo cat, age 18 and 3 months. I enjoy teaching others about autism and what autism is like for me. I wish everyone can be more understanding about autism when we need support. For 9 years I have actively taught the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police about how to help those with autism who may be in a crisis. My interests include autism, medical facts and dog breeds.

1 Comment

  • How can I ready this heart-rending post and not comment?! It angers me to hear how badly you have been treated by ignorant people and saddens me to know you feel ‘unworthy’. Perhaps it is too hard to hear at the moment, but no one ‘deserves’ a friend, but we all ‘need’ one. That includes you.

    I’m an English teacher (with HFA and ADHD and GAD and Panic Disorder) so I really get my students. I still remember the first mute pupil I taught from 20 years ago. I asked the support worker who brought him to class what he could do and was told he could talk selectively and was a good reader and writer. So I made it clear to him from the off that I had no expectation for him to talk and joked how I wished all my students were as quiet. He sat at the front so he could write information to me or so I could whisper to him if I saw he was stuck. I always made sure not to draw attention to him as I imagined that would make it worse.

    The first person he spoke to in class was another student. I was so pleased! Later when he started to talk more (still to his friend), I joked about him being too noisy. Within a couple of months he was talking to me: very quietly at first with few words. I also remember other staff not believing me. That made me feel really special.

    This year I have a student who avoids answering questions, she is not completely mute (at least not with me) but verbal communication is a struggle. You have given me a possible solution to help. Will she write or type a response instead?

    Thank you for you post. Here’s wishing you good friendships in the future!

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