We noticed our son was having a harder time than most transitioning to the daycare setting from a private babysitter around age 3-4. Most children have some separation anxiety and might take some time adjusting, but our son was crying at drop-off for months. He wasn’t speaking to his peers or teachers at daycare after months either. He wasn’t speaking to certain extended family members that he would only see once/twice a year. What worried us most was witnessing him freeze up in a state of severe anxiety at times, where he was unable to speak or even express himself nonverbally. We tried changing childcare centers but ultimately did some research and decided to seek out professional help. We had many well- intentioned people tell us “he’s just shy…he will outgrow that” but we felt that he was enduring severe anxiety that was affecting his happiness and ability to learn and socialize.
We found Hsiu-Ying after doing some online research on selective mutism. I called her office and she had an initial in-depth conversation with me over the phone about his symptoms and behaviors. She was able to get us into see her in person right away for a consultation. She diagnosed our son with anxiety and selective mutism, which was reassuring to hear a professional explain the behaviors we had been noticing. Our son started seeing Hsiu-Ying in the summer leading up to the start of kindergarten. Although he finished pre-k with some pointing/nodding and whispering, we worried that his mutism and inability to speak comfortably to adults would severely impact his ability to learn in school. She was very patient with our son, desensitizing him to the office itself and to her personally, all while encouraging play with me. Over time, our son became comfortable going to her office and playing/talking to me in her presence. She slowly incorporated herself into the playtime and eventually he would speak to me in her presence, but all without any direct pressure to speak to her. Overtime this progressed into speaking to her comfortably in my presence. As time went on, she phased me out of the therapy sessions more and more until he was very comfortable playing and talking to her without hesitation. She gave very good advice and feedback on how to prepare for the start of the school year and how to interact with his teachers.
His start to Kindergarten went well and he made friends quickly with his peers. Within a few weeks he was speaking to his peers in class readily and mouthing or whispering to his teacher. Within 3 months of school starting, he found his full voice and began to speak to his teachers without anxiety or hesitation. When the Covid-19 pandemic started and the schools went to virtual only I was worried that he would lose a lot of ground speaking and with socialization but he performed during class video chats and we continued to check in with Hsiu-Ying as well. Our son appears to be mostly cured by the end of kindergarten and after just a year in therapy. He still has “contaminated” adults from his past (before therapy started) that he struggles to verbalize to but with novel adults he meets in the community and at school, he is thriving. He is finally showing the whole world his full personality, which had been hidden in the past under his anxiety. We are very thankful to Hsiu-Ying for being his “brave coach”. If you are a parent undergoing similar struggles with your children. I encourage you to take a leap of faith and try this treatment. Hsiu-Ying is an expert in her field, and we were very blessed to be able to seek her help with our son.