When Veronica began kindergarten, her family and teachers saw that she was completely mute. She would only speak around her parents and immediate family members. As she continued elementary school, she started talking to friends but didn’t feel much progress besides that. This is when her parents’ discovered the SMart Center. Veronica began working with us through an Individualized Intensive and then joined us for a CommuniCamp™. After these programs, she felt like she has found a center that truly understood her struggle. Now, Veronica is fully verbal in all settings.
Read more of Veronica’s SM journey below!
How old was your child when you first noticed he/she was mute in select settings?
3 or 4 years old.
Please briefly summarize where/when your child was mute/not mute.
I was completely mute starting kindergarten. I did not even talk to my close friends. Throughout elementary, I started talking to my friends, but only friends. I also talked to my immediate family and parents, but that was pretty much it. Even though I made some progress, I continued to feel handicapped by selective mutism leading up to high school. Even life before treatment, I made some progress but it was minimal.
Was your child in treatment for Selective Mutism, Social Anxiety, or related disorders before finding the SMart Center? If yes, where?
Yes. Therapists and psychiatrists attempted to find me medications and tried to get me to talk.
What brought you to seek treatment at the SMart Center? What makes S-CAT® treatment different from other methods you may have tried before finding the SMart Center, if any?
This was initiated by my parents, since I did not know the SMart Center existed. They told me about it and told me they are signing me up to get intensive treatment. I was skeptical at first, which was before I attended the camp. This was due to me having a reputation of therapists and doctors trying to treat me, but not seeing much progress. I didn’t know who to trust anymore. Ever since I arrived at the SMart Center for my weekend sessions, I realized this was different from the constant therapists and doctors trying to treat me. This was a company who truly understand what selective mutism was all about and knew how to treat us and get campers started with their treatment journey. When I arrived to camp, one of the first things I noticed were how the campers were going through the same/similar struggles. For the first time in my life I met others with the same struggle as me. This was extremely helpful because I always felt alone all these years before the SMart Center. I used to wonder, “why me? why do I go through this but everyone else can talk?”. Then, I started the S-CAT treatment. I found it very helpful that they gave us all these tips on how to deal with our selective mutism. Relaxation tips were very helpful for me. When I am anxious and all over the place, it is harder for me to talk. It also helped me unpack and analyze what bothers me and stops me from speaking.
What SMart Center services did you use?
- S-CAT® Individualized Intensive Treatment Program (One- or Two-Day)
- CommuniCamp™ Intensive Group Treatment & Parent Training Program
What changes have you noticed?
The SMart Center helped me begin my path toward overcoming selective mutism. It took me a few years to make the huge progress I have made, but I still made it. At the very beginning before/after the treatment which was the very beginning of my life after camp, I struggled to even make my voice vibrate when talking to my therapist. I felt so much tension that I was pushing so hard to get my voice out but it barely budged. It was harder to talk to adults than kids who were my age. I would also not respond to people in school when they would ask me questions. It made me feel so humiliated.
Due to Covid starting, exposure therapy using my S-CAT skills was a little bit difficult, but as soon as stores started opening and it was safe to go out, I was able to utilize S-CAT and exposure therapy combined. My progress rate started becoming faster and faster. I first started by ordering coffee at coffee shops. We would pull up at the building and I dreaded going inside. After trying this a few times, I got less and less anxious. When in-person school was about to start for the first time since Covid, I convinced myself I would not be able to become fully verbal in my current school because so many people knew me for not talking. I thought it was going to be too stressful talking in front of them. I begged my parents to let me move schools to the point where I decided to plan myself.
When the school year actually started, I didn’t become fully verbal, but I did make more progress by making some new friends and quickly getting verbal with them. Fast forward to junior year (the current grade I am in), I started out the first few days using a notepad and paper to communicate with everyone besides my friends, who I was verbal with. I still had the issue with freezing and not answering when people asked me questions. Then, huge progress was made a few months later, including the present. I started out by speaking with my counselor and social worker. Then, I made amazing friends who assisted me with my selective mutism. Then, I started becoming fully verbal to all my teachers little by little. Soon I started to become verbal with my table mates and people I worked with in school labs. I also was comfortable speaking with other staff members and the school nurse. I even started to be able to talk in front of my entire class. The first time I spoke in front of the whole class was during a play. I had 4 lines in the play and said them all out loud.
After that, I was able to speak when called on to answer questions. I no longer write down my questions to teachers. Now I ask them verbally. In chemistry, I am probably the one who asks the teacher in chemistry the most questions. I ask like a million questions. It is draining talking sometimes, but at least I can do it. I don’t ask them in front of the whole class though. Only 1 on 1 with the teacher. The most shocking progress I would consider is when I did an English presentation. I told my teacher “I really don’t think I can do this, can I only read a few sentences?” Once I got up there, I ended up presenting the whole thing and explaining my poster in front of people who knew me for not talking, which I thought was impossible. I proved myself wrong. Now my notepad is shoved at the bottom of my backpack and hasn’t been used in a while.
What S-CAT® strategies helped the most?
Relaxation techniques and analyzing settings that made it hard for me to talk.
Do you have any “key” advice for parents going through it now?
Don’t give up if you don’t see progress in your child yet One day they will be able to have their mind realize that talking is not dangerous even if it takes some time like how it was for me. A mindset that I use and tell myself is, “Many people would be excited and proud of me for speaking. If some people have a negative reaction about my progress with selective mutism/talking for the first time, screw them. Being set free from selective mutism is more important to me than worrying about some bullies thinking negative things or are weirded out by me speaking that is within in their heads. It helps me filter out the negativity and see people’s true colors so I can avoid the bullies.”
If you’re willing to share a brief sentence or two about how you’re feeling now, please enter it below.
I feel so proud of myself and great that I have a community like the SMart Center and the strategies they have helped me learn. Also having a supportive friend group has been amazing.