Monday, July 2, 2012

A Loss for Words-- #NaBloPoMo

A scream is lodged firmly in my throat. I've swallowed, breathed deeply and swallowed again. Yet, it won't move.

Tonight I sit, trying desperately to tune out the endless chatter from our nine-year-old, a child who can talk at you so hard and so fast about every minutia on any given topic until the enamel of your teeth wants to peel off and run for salvation.

He's particularly energetic tonight. Please, Lord, grant me control.

Nine years has not made me immune to the incessant babble of a child with high functioning autism. In this house, tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, foreign railway systems, sharks, shark diseases, shark procreation (don't ask), pokemon, bakugan, angry birds, DragonVale--all are favorite topics at any and every hour of the day. The fact-spewing knows no boundaries and is usually not easy to quiet.

One day this past spring, however, the chatter simply stopped.

Overcome by social and academic demands placed upon him, our son started to show cracks in his otherwise cheerful disposition when he tried to transition back to school after the Christmas break. As we crossed the threshold to his building each day, he became sad and sullen. He was moody.

Then one day, he walked in that building having just completed an exhausting stream of chatter in the car on the trip there, and he stopped talking.

His words were gone. His eyes screamed out in pain.

I was at a loss. My only tools to helping him involved talking, feeling out the source of his fears. But, on this day, I was unable to reach my own child. He had simply imploded.

In the following months, I've come to learn a little more about selective mutism. Most common in children with underlying anxiety disorders, it is characteristically displayed as the ability to speak in certain situations (e.g. home) but not in others (e.g. school).

For a person who loves words and what they can do to create feeling and understanding among people, I am equally as moved by how overwhelmed a person must feel to not able to produce any words at all.

When our son goes mute, I'm not far from his side. I often produce a sheet of paper with the hope that he can write something--anything--that could give me a clue to what is causing him his pain. That doesn't always work.

And, as much as I want to scoop him up, shake the words out of him, make a joke and make him laugh, believe me, I've learned that this will not work. My own lesson in all of this has been to often keep still and remain a quiet source of support until he feels he can safely open up to the world again.

Tonight as I endure his thesis on the eating habits of prehistoric sharks, my eyelid has started to twitch with agitation. I gently hold it down with my finger. This spring, my son and I have walked a long road together, and this evening, I am reminded that a chattering child is evidence of a happy child.

What more could any parent want?

I am blogging my way throught the month of July as part of the National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). Thirty-one days. Thirty-one interpretations on the topic of "Kids".
Visit MorgueFile for your blogging photographic needs--free of charge and free for public use.


  1. Earplugs? The Mom Cave? My two best answers.
    I'm sure ones nerves get frayed and beyond with the continual monologue and I am equally sure you could recite any of his favorites by now yourself.
    The chatting Charlie is happy and I agree that's the goal.
    Love your devotion and desire to share. <3

    1. Oh, the chatting. Sigh. It does get to be much, particularly when I'm homeschooling, and we're with each other all day. However, the selective mutism has helped me put it into a different light.

  2. I have had several selective mutes in my teaching career. Like all "unique" qualities, the validation that their particular path in this world is okay by you is the main thing. There are many ways of communicating.

    1. I'm the only person who has been able to do that so far, which has deepened the separation anxiety. It is all so complicated!

      Up until now, I've offered paper for him to write when he can't talk. That's not so successful. I've then offered choices of what I THOUGHT was the issue for him to circle. Frankly, neither really works. He just needs space and time to come out of it. Maybe because that's just where he is right now?

      If you have any tips, please send them my way! Thx!

  3. My suggestion, and feel free to dump it, is for the month July write a continuous monologue - the prequel to a larger piece of the start of a memoir. I did that a few years ago with my novel. Back then I was teaching myself the discipline of writing everyday, and when I signed up a daily writing fest I made it count. Food for thought.

    1. I wish I hadn't signed onto this the night before it started. I've done no planning at all. Just read the suggested prompts, and, well, those don't match my life or my blog. Luckily, I read that we can ditch the promptsm So...really? Just log onto this blog and start telling our story? I haven't viewed it that way. New to blogging when I started this, I wanted each entry to be independent of the other so new readers weren't lost. Thank you for your advice. It helps me. It also makes me nervous! Lol.

  4. When I first started reading your post, I could so relate to the constant dialogue (my R does that too). My heart paused for a second though as I read further and came across "selective mutism". I had not heard of this. I can not begin to imagine what you are going through trying to figure this out. I admire your patience (although I'm sure not without a great amount of frustration) and understanding of what works best for your son.

    Hang in there,

    1. Thank you so much! Now, THAT is why I write these entries! I didn't know about SM either; however, if a certain set of conditions are present (and they are with our kids) it isn't so uncommon.

      I'm not sure if this challenge is for me, but I'm glad that I posted. Thanks for the comment!