Daughter with ‘selective mutism’ fondly recalls mother’s struggle to give her the best education

I’ve blacked a lot of it out. But I do remember recess being a nightmare for my. My mom told me later that she would sometimes hide in the bushes, and when she saw me sitting by myself, she’d start crying.

The diagnosis was ‘selective mutism.’ I’d get so anxious around people that I physically couldn’t speak. I’d get a rock in my throat, and it would feel like that moment right before you faint—when everything sounds so far away.

Daughter with selective mutism
New York City’s Humans

It can be lonely at school. I was the only student who had a full time aide. I was the only one to hold up a sign when the teacher called for attendance.

It doesn’t feel good to be different. But my parents did all they could to minimize this feeling.

Mother watches over daughter with selective mutism
New York City’s Humans

Every night before I went to sleep, my mother would say: ‘You’re a terrific kid, and I love being your Mommy.’

When my school had a Halloween parade, she knew I’d be too anxious to do it alone. She dressed up as Minnie Mouse, and marched alongside me.

She was always attentive to my emotions. She was also an attorney, so she made sure my rights were protected.

She knew that the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act promised a ‘free appropriate public education.’ And that’s exactly what she wanted for me.

New York City’s Humans

She once shut down my entire elementary school for an in-service day, and the entire faculty was taught to ask me ‘yes or no’ questions so that I could nod in reply. She wanted me to be in a mainstream classroom and have mainstream experiences. So that I wouldn’t be left behind.

I was able speak by the fifth grade. It didn’t happen all at once. I did however become more confident. I got better at making friends.

New York City’s Humans

High school debate team was where I joined. Recently I graduated from Cornell and completed my senior thesis on disability rights—which I defended verbally. All of this was possible thanks to my mother. She was there for me every step of the way.

I took the LSAT January and my mom waited in lobby. The test was five hours in length. When I walked out, she gave me the biggest hug. When I asked her why she didn’t leave, she said: “I don’t know. I just wanted to be there. In case you needed anything at all.”

Despite having selective mutism daughter graduates from college
New York City’s Humans

About the author
This story first appeared on Humans of New York Facebook page and is published here with permission. For more amazing stories and photography buy the book HUMANS by Brandon Stanton.

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