Olivia still has some issues with speaking. She probably always will but we’re working on it along with finding other ways for her to communicate.
At school, her teachers/therapists/peers all accept a smile and a wave as communication. She doesn’t have to speak to acknowledge that someone has spoken to her.
This past weekend, she spilled some water.
No big deal, except it was a mess I had to clean up. Thank goodness for my over-inflated sense of guilt, I didn’t blow up and make a bigger deal out of it than it was. But I did want her to apologize for me for making a mess that I had to clean up.
She looked at me like I’d asked her to recite the German alphabet (which, let me tell you, isn’t that hard.)
I was still cleaning up the water (it had gone under the recliner, which was annoying and a little harder to clean up than your typical spill on, say, a kitchen floor.) She stood there looking at me like I was asking her to speak fluent Martian.
I said, “All I’m asking if that you tell me you’re sorry.”
“Liv,” I muttered, still on my damn knees sopping up water. “It’s two words. I’m…sorry.”
She took a deep breath and said nothing.
“Okay,” I relented. “You can be back on the computer when you’ve apologized for this mess.”
She tilted her head as if my words did not compute.
I finally got the water soaked up and put the towel in the dirty laundry basket. I walked up to her, she was still in the same spot she’d been in when I first asked her to apologize. It was as if my request had forced her entire system to freeze.
I needed to figure out how to reboot her.
I put my hands on her cheeks and said, “Just whisper it to me. It’s just you and me here, you talk to me all the time, just two words. Heck, just one word. Just whisper ‘sorry’ to me and we can be done with this.”
She pressed her lips together.
I know there are people out there who will think she’s playing me. I know people think she’s capable of so much more than I require of her. I know this too. But I also know that sometimes, she just can’t force words past her throat. It’s as if she’s choking on them. I think that might actually be exactly what selective mutism is. She can’t do it, especially when she’s put on the spot, like I did that night.
I finally had her spell out the word ‘sorry’ to me using sign language. And then I let her play on the computer again. She communicated in the best way she could at the moment and it was fine.
She has a hard time with most of the social niceties. She can’t bring herself to say ‘thank you’ or ‘you’re welcome’. She has a really hard time with hello but can scream goodbye to her dad when he won’t close the car door until she does.
It’s like the part of her brain that controls social interaction has a major block. We’re working on finding ways around that block but it’s definitely a work in process.
It’s a fine line for me as I continue to push her and yet try and let her be herself. She wants so badly to be a part of conversations but has a tough time following the main subject. She’s a lot like a four year old who wants the focus on her and whenever there is a break in the conversation, will try and bring it back around to whatever subject interests her.
I have faith that we’ll get there, we just have to be patient even when we’re pushing her to try a little harder and find a new way around that block in her beautiful brain.