Tag Archives: children

I was a selective mute

When I was 3 years old, I stopped talking.  I was progressing normally until then and I progressed in every other way imaginable after, but when it came to speaking to people who were not my parents or siblings, I just couldn’t do it.  My mom wasn’t even aware that I had stopped talking because I still spoke to her.  It wasn’t until my family visited my grandparents in Florida that my grandma mentioned that I wasn’t speaking.

I was selectively mute.  The diagnosis was previously called elective mutism, but it was changed to reflect that those with this disorder do not choose to not speak.  They just can’t.  I remember many times as a kid when I was pressured to speak and most of those times I desperately wanted to say something just to end the relentless interrogation, but it was like an invisible force was around my neck, preventing me from saying anything.  I once described the feeling like a cartoon garden hose with a kink and the water pressure builds until the hose explodes; the words would clog my throat and I’d fight to simultaneously keep them down and hope that they break free.  I wanted to speak but over the years my silence became comfortable and I couldn’t figure out a way to start talking without causing huge reactions from my peers, those of which asked me nearly every recess why I didn’t talk.  How was I to go from being “The Girl Who Doesn’t Talk” to being a kid who does?

Following third grade the school district boundaries changed, so I, and many other students, was moved to a new school.  This redistricting would end up changing my life.  At my new school I had the chance to start over and be the kid who does talk and most of the students would have no idea that it was something I struggled with, but the fear of revealing my voice was still overpowering.  My fourth grade teacher pulled me aside a few days into the new school year and requested that I start communicating with her but through a notebook.  I was reluctant to start and fought it as much as I could.  The idea of changing, even as little as using a notebook to communicate, seemed more daunting than speaking.  Later on I was introduced to the school’s psychologist, Ms. Manning.  She had a plan and was willing to do anything to get me to where I needed to be.

One of the projects the fourth graders were tasked to do was to create a children’s book that we would write and illustrate ourselves.  Having been a budding writer from my experiences of writing stories in class at my last school, this project was something very special to me.  Ms. Manning discussed making my big goal, to be accomplished at the end of the year, as reading my story to my sister’s second grade class.  The reward for completing this feat was to be a pet bird, which my parents had agreed upon.

Throughout the year Ms. Manning gained my trust and I started speaking with her. Using the same methods she helped me feel comfortable around other people, like my teacher and a few classmates.  By the end of the school year I had finally started speaking in class, but I still had to complete my final goal of reading my story.

The day came and all I remember is being up at the front of the class.  I don’t remember the walk to the classroom or how I ended up in a chair with a bunch of seven year olds crowded around me, but I do remember the gut-wrenching fear.  I was scared out of my mind, but I was also a courageous and ambitious little girl, so even though I did not want to read, I did it anyway.  I spoke to those younger kids, telling them the story of a girl who befriended a talking carrot as they go off into the city and solve crimes.  The story itself did not make much sense, but ideas from kids rarely ever do.

Closing the book to mark the end of my tale, I felt a huge wave of relief as the gurgling in my stomach settled.  I smiled hesitantly, like I had just outrun a cheetah and the realization that I was still alive hadn’t sunk in yet.  The second graders clapped for me, all but one unaware of how monumental this day was.  I looked to my sister and then to my mom and Ms. Manning standing in the classroom doorway; if I could speak, I could do anything.

Children and the future

I’ve always thought that I would some day become a mother.  I’ve never been particularly fond of children, but I claimed that I would like my own children.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about the reasons why I want or think I want children.  I feel like if I don’t have children, I won’t have contributed to society in any way.  I don’t feel accomplished at all right now and I don’t know if I ever will.  I am afraid if I don’t have children, I’ll be lonely for the rest of my life.  I look at people without children and I just assume they aren’t happy because they didn’t have children.  I think that not having children is just not living a full life.  I realize this isn’t true at all, but I can’t help but feel it.  Honestly, it feels like the only reason I want children is to name them, because I adore names.  That isn’t a good enough reason though.  I can name pets just as well as I can name children, but cats don’t grow up and become president or something equally amazing…they are just cats.  Because of my having autism, I don’t handle noise very well.  Kids screaming causes me a great deal of stress and I imagine I would not handle that very well if I have kids.  I am so torn on this topic.  I don’t want to be the childless aunt, I want to feel like my life is fulfilled.  I don’t know if that means I should have kids or I should focus on myself and not have kids.  I simply don’t know.

The Thing Is…

Here’s one thing about me that most people know because you will find my computer basically attached to my hands, I am addicted to the Internet.  I remember growing up without the Internet and when I was I don’t know maybe 11 years old, my parents got AOL.  I spent a lot of time on the computer, I found friends from the Internet.  The Internet became everything to me.  Lately, I have been following Raffi on Twitter (yes the singer) and he is a proponent for children to not be addicted to technology.  I am started to see his point of view and I realize that it is a scary world we live in with the Internet.  When I have children, I established long ago that they will NOT have a cell phone until they are 16 years old.  There is absolutely no need for an 8 year old to have a cell phone.  When they get this cell phone, they will be on a pay-as-you-go plan to teach them responsibility and they will be the ones buying these or earning them.  To the point, when I have kids, I don’t want them to be like me.  I want them to step away from technology, think without it, use their brains, their creativity.  I am a creative person and I used to be even more creative.  I would create art from magazine clippings, I’d write long stories about my future in notebooks (I still write, but do this on a computer now).  I feel like my creativity has been dampened because of my use of technology.  I feel like I rely too heavily on it.  I do not have a smart phone.  I don’t know if I want one either.  I don’t need another reason to be disconnected from reality.  I need to step away from the computer, step away from Facebook and Twitter, step away from the Internet and reexamine my priorities in life.  My creativity is my life.   I want to be a writer when I grow up, but I am killing my dream by spending so much time online.  I want to see my future children better off than me and the only way is less technology.