9-year-old Chloe and her family attended The SMart Center’s CommuniCamp™ Intensive Group Treatment Program in the Spring and Summer of 2017. Chloe overcame Selective Mutism by way of CommuniCamp™ and was so inspired she decided to write a story about her journey to share her experience with other SM families who are searching for hope to overcome:
“The weight is great. The feeling of expectation from all to talk like everyone else. The pressure debilitating. Unable to speak. The fear of letting down those around me is always on the forefront of my thoughts. Aware, very aware, that there is something very different in the way I communicate with others besides my family. It’s like being on a stage with hundreds of people staring at you. The fright immense. Pressure builds. I want to speak so badly, but I can’t. How will I ever? I just can’t. Why? Why am I so different? Tears flow because once again I know that I have let everyone down. I’m a failure. People ask me why I won’t speak? I reply with a hollow glare. I want to tell them I’m sorry, that inside I’m just like them. I want to scream “I have words, I have words!” Instead, I just look at them. They look at me and walk away. Will I ever? No, it’s too hard.
My mom & dad explained to me that I am smart and beautiful and that I can do anything through Christ that gives me strength. They explained that sometimes we need to get help in order to get over obstacles in our lives and that I shouldn’t be ashamed.
My mom & dad had found a camp in Philadelphia that helps kids like me that can’t get their words out. It’s called CommuniCamp. When they first told me about it, I was scared. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone else in failing to talk. They told me everyday that I could do this! I began to become excited about it. I guess it was because I knew that there would be other kids at this camp just like me. My mom told me that we would learn some different ways to help me communicate with others. I was ready. I didn’t want to be in isolation anymore. I didn’t want to feel locked up in my own my own head. I wanted to break free. I really did want to talk. I just didn’t know how.
The day came for camp. I was nervous, but excited all at the same time. I was very nervous to walk through the doors at the Smart Center, but I did it and I saw so many kids there. We didn’t speak to each other at first. We would just occasionally stare at each other. However, there was a connection instantly. We knew that the other knew what we each were going through. We understood each other. There were no questions like “why don’t you speak?” We understood each other. The counselors were all so nice. They talked to us normally. They respected each of us. I felt normal. That was not a feeling I usually felt. The counselors and Dr. E played some games with us and spoke to us about our feelings. I knew they really cared. Before I knew it, I was talking to some of the other girls. Instant friendship. Instant bonding. I entered another arena that I had never walked in before, I began to whisper to the counselors too. I answered questions quietly, but I did it with my voice and not a blank stare. What was happening? Why did I feel so comfortable here? Wait a minute…I feel comfortable and I am beginning to speak to these people. There must be something to this place, to these people? I loved camp.
My mom & dad helped me to do the things I learned at camp. We began to do these things everyday at home, at restaurant’s, at stores. I just came to realize that we would be doing these things until I was once again comfortable enough in one of those places to use my voice. I knew school was going to start soon. The thought of speaking to my teachers was very scary. But, my mom & dad said they were going to help me through it. My mom told me that we would meet with each person at school and play our little game we made up so that I could cross over the bridge one by one with everyone there. And I did. I crossed over the bridge into verbal with every teacher, every student and even with my principals. I am ordering my own food now. I have crossed over the bridge with family friends that I have never spoken to before.
I don’t ask Why anymore, because I know why. We all have a story and things we struggle with. Mine just so happened to be getting my words out. I want to help others know that they are not alone and they don’t need to stay stuck and feel like they are isolated from everyone else. They can do it just like I did! The rest is history. I have crossed over that bridge that once felt impossible to get across. It took people believing in me, like my family and Dr. E and her staff. Getting your feet to move across the bridge is the hardest part. But once you are moving, you don’t want to stop until you are to the other side. I didn’t believe the day would come that I could say “I’m not scared to talk any more!” But, that day has come. I overcame Selective Mutism!”
-Chloe Carney & Sara Carney
CommuniCamp™ is an Intensive Group Treatment & Parent Training Program for children, teens, and their families struggling with Selective Mutism, Social Anxiety, Extreme Shyness, and related challenges. Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum’s Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®) is the treatment utilized at CommuniCamp™. It is evidence-based, and integrates components of CBT, behavioral, and an insight-orientated approach to increase social communication and promote social confidence. We uncover the contributing factors to a person’s SM development/maintenance and treat the individual as a whole—not just their symptom of selective mutism. To learn more about CommuniCamp™, visit www.CommuniCamp.org or call (215) 887-5748.