Selective Mutism In Aspies

By Jessika Endsley


Hi. This is Dizzy and I'm going to talk about selective mutism and Asperger's especially in adults who have Asperger syndrome. I don't know a whole lot about selective mutism other than that I have it. There is a common misconception that it's simply then issues when you become an adult much like the common misconception that autism then issues as you end your puberty. As a child, I would often shy and my dad informed me of this, that I would be... Someone would talk to me and I would stand probably behind my mom. I spent most of my childhood hiding behind my mom and I would make a strange face like put my mouth like I was trying to speak and I could not. And I later looked as some videos of me when I was three or four and I saw myself doing it 'cause I was not sure how to respond. This is common in children on the autistic spectrum. It does come from anxiety. And as you know, it's common for people with Asperger's to have blank facial expression, not to smile much or possibly to smile inappropriately and laugh at things that others find not funny. Have awkward body language. If you're watching this, you probably know what Asperger's is like.

And oddly, a lot of things don't change in Asperger's when you become an adult. You're just a grownup version of what you are. And that's all true with all humans. The definition of selective mutism, I'm actually gonna look at right now. Selective mutism is a condition in which a child who can speak stops speaking usually in school or social settings. Noticed I said child. That's not correct. I still get bouts of selective mutism and I know others who also do. Often, if I'm in a social setting, someone would speak to me and it is unlike the characteristic of not knowing when it's my time to speak. And I rarely know when it's my turn to speak, which is one of the reasons phones are so awful because I can't observe the face to see if a person is opening their mouth to speak. So I end up interrupting I'm sure your other spectrum friends also have that issue. Also If I don't have my contacts or glasses and I don't I don't hear as well. But selective mutism is not just in children. It's not. I have it, when someone at my church is talking to me and I don't make a weird face I hope that I used to as a child, but I do just lose the ability to talk.

And much of that becomes, instead of just being silent, I'll go, "Uhm... " It's normal to say, "ah" or "uhm" a lot in conversations. But mine is so elongated. It's like say I'm medicating. I don't actually know as much about this as I really should. It tends to coexist with shyness and social anxiety. I don't have shyness. My Asperger's was always mistaken for shyness as a child, which is why my diagnosis was so late. Social anxiety, I don't really get social anxiety. I get sensory overload. Anxiety, all the noise that people make, so I suppose that goes along with social anxiety whereas people make noises. But I will just stop talking. Let's say if a person is like, "My family went to Hawaii last week and they did this, blah, blah, blah. " Whenever they say it, then they'll ask me a question, "Have you ever been, you know, out of the continental United States?" And I have. I've been in Israel. And I would sit there and I'll be like, "Uhm... Uhm... " I just don't talk. It's not that I don't know the answer that I'm shy to say it. It just doesn't come out. People who are having it as a child on our spectrum did a chance to develop other things such as adult social anxiety or probably avoidant personality disorder, probably schizoid, probably that would be less common in schizoaffective and schizotypal.

But it's characterized by consistent failure to speak in specific social situations despite being able to speak in other situations. Not being to speak at school, I had that issue here. A teacher will call on me to answer questions and I usually knew the answer before everybody else did but I couldn't say it. I know... It's like being in a situation, you know all of the answers and you know before everybody else but you don't raise your hand or you finished your test first but you wait for somebody else to put their test up before you do. And sometimes you're waiting for so long. Thank God I'm out of school. Disturbance interfers with educational stuff. Duration is, the start of autism at least a month to 21 years. I don't know if you would count the period of time to which I was an infant, could not speak. It is not involved in stuttering because many people who stutter will go not just talk as a child because of the fear that they are going to stutter and people notice stuttering. My nephew passed stuttering following as a child. It does not always occur with any disorder but it is primarily something that's on the autistic spectrum.

Selective-Mutism-aspergersBesides mutism, people who display selective mutism tend to have social withdrawal, there's stiff awkward movements, and they tend to worry a lot. As a child, I would worry so much that on Friday, I would be worried about how well it's gonna feel on Saturday because I knew on Saturday I will be worried about the anxiety of having to go to school on Monday, which I would dwell on Sunday if that makes any sense. And I'm talking five, six years old. I did not allow myself to enjoy my weekends because I knew I was worrying about worrying about worrying about going to school. And I would often just stand and stare at the tree outside our house and I woulnd't talk except for my mother and I have one cousin that I will talk to. And of course, my niece and nephew who are my age. Sleep problems. Story of my life. Of course, also in autism and Asperger's and if we lump those together as the DSM has decided to do, people in this spectrum often have above average intelligence. They are often creative and musical. Not being able to speak at times or being challenged at speaking will make you express yourself in other ways. That might be why, I've been drawing since I got hold of crayon and I played banjo - laugh all you want. I'm a novelist. I"m not good at talking with words. I'm good at talking through art and writing. I'm much more aticulate when I write than when I speak, which is why I run a blog.

And I'm hoping that a lot of you'll share your experiences with selective mutism even if yours has gone away in the comments below so that I can write another blog for my adult autism advocate stuff. See, I'm not doing well today. I can't talk with words. Let me draw you a picture and hold it up for you to. There's also high empathy in a lot of people with selective mutism. That's not something I have because I have Asperger's and therefore I do not have high empathy although many people with Asperger's have such high empathy that they get overwhelmed. And I have moral compass, that appears to be part of people with selective mutism. But of course, that's all depends on the reason behind your selective mutism. If it's autism, you may not have the symptoms I just mentioned. If it's just selective mutism, you might. If there's psychotic features, of course, that depends. Anyway, not being able to speak with people who are talking to you can cause problems with education and with work. So there's no cure. All you can do is practice and try to remain extremely calm in social situations. So, this is me asking you to share your experience in selective mutism. Autistic or not, adult or child, thank you and have a good day.

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1.  Bernie    Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It is so difficult when you are expected to make small talk and have no words. Myself and my daughter both struggle with this. I am undiagnosed and she is diagnosed with autism.

2.  Gigi Miner    Saturday, December 12, 2015

Getting Dx's at my age and being female is neigh unto impossible. Self Dx'd. I am going thru a separation with an abusive partner and I'm expected to talk to him. I can't. I can't even face him. But on one seems to understand this, except fellow Aspies.

3.  Jania    Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I am self diagnosed aspie as well as sm. I didn't talk at school, hated school, too much anxiety, overwhelming, led to a whole gammut of problems later on in life. still struggle with social situations. cant get involved in conversations, still go blank, and I 'ummmm' too. Staff rooms are my nightmare. i avoid them at work. can't believe at my age. 47 i still am that little school girl, frightened to make eye contact and unable to speak, just wishing she was like the others.

4.  Jim Dunn    Sunday, December 24, 2017

I am blind with HFASD and have the same issue and always have. People so not understand it at all and say I am rude. At times I just cannot speak at all.

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