Breaking the silence: Living with selective mutism

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A special kind of therapy helps children gain the calmness and confidence to overcome their inability to speak in public settings. (KTRK)

It affects hundreds of thousands of children who can communicate with no problems at home yet find themselves speechless in social settings.

It's a struggle that Ysabel Sotolongo, 8, knows very well. She struggles every day to overcome the silence.

"My daughter Ysabel has said to me before, mama I can't talk because my throat just hurts so much when I try to talk at school," said Marai Sotolongo, Ysabel's mother.

However, Maria Sotolongo also knows a very different child.

"Here at home, she's very loud, she's funny, she's theatrical. She loves to sing and dance," said Sotolongo. "She goes outside of the house and she's completely quiet."

Ysabel suffers from Selective Mutism, an extreme anxiety disorder with a strong genetic link. Before the disorder is diagnosed, many people just assume the children are just being rude or shy.

"They're having so much anxiety, their body is just not able to speak," said Julie Jones, Therapist. "So you can't say here are your M&M's, now speak. it's not going to work."

Julie Jones counsels children with Selective Mutism. She says these youngsters need therapy to become comfortable enough to communicate. She should know. Her son Noah suffered from the disorders as a young children. After early intervention, Noah is now basically cured.

"The child feels out of control of their own body. If they want to speak, they can't make it happen, so we have to give them the tools to calm down their body enough to communicate," said Jones.

Sotolongo says her daughter's therapy is working wonders and Ysabel desperately wants to get better.

"Be proactive to help them because if you don't, they don't know how to help themselves," said Sotolongo. "So you have to be willing to be their advocate and their number one supporter, even when it's a little hard, right?"

If you are interested in learning more about Selective Mutism, log on to
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