Update on my youngest son and selective mutism

Decca fishing in Louisiana.

I have written several posts about Decca’s struggle with selective mutism, and I wanted to post another update about the progress he has made this summer. This summer we spent three weeks on vacation visiting my family. We started our holiday in Louisiana visiting my younger brother. Decca has not spoken to my younger brother in years, and he didn’t during our whole trip.

Decca and Uncle Jimmy

He was clearly frustrated by this on the trip, and he tried to find ways to communicate with his Uncle. He invented Deccanesse (his term), and would speak this new language to my brother. He taught all of us some words in Deccanesse, and for the first time Decca was speaking to his uncle. It was wonderful and frustrating at the same time. I knew Decca wanted to speak to him normally, but he still was not able to.

Having snow balls with Uncle Jimmy in New Orleans

After spending a week with my brother we boarded a train and headed up to Indiana to visit more family. On the train I had a conversation with Decca about his mutism. I have had the same conversation with him numerous times. I told him that if he wanted to speak to anyone one in Indiana he could, and I assured him that no one would make a big deal out of it if he did. I also reminded him that everyone in the family had heard him speak before. I have told him all these things many times, but I wanted to make sure he remembered it all. I knew he wanted to speak to everyone, and I was just trying to reassure him that if he chose to, it would work out.

I will be honest in saying that although I hoped he would begin talking to my family, I did not have high hopes. Decca hasn’t spoken to many members of my extended family for over four years, and I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen. But it did, and it was an amazing thing to witness.

Decca talked to everyone from the moment we got there. The first person we saw was my dad, his Grandpa, and I don’t know what changed in Decca’s mind, but he went right up to him and started talking.

With some of my family in Indiana. Decca is completely at ease and happy to be with everyone.

Then my step-mom came out, and he started talking to her. I was beyond happy, but I didn’t want to say anything, as that would make him feel self-conscious. So we just went about our day, and Decca talked to everyone like it was the most normal thing in the world. Over the next two weeks we visited with many family members and old friends, and he talked to every single one of them. I was so happy for him and so proud of him.

With his siblings and two friends. Decca was able to interact with everyone, and he was able to have a good deal of fun because of it.

The day after we got back to California the kids had Apple Camp. I signed them up for this months ago and had forgotten it was right after we got home. I almost debated not going, as we were all tired, but the kids were looking forward to it, so we went.

Decca was enrolled in this last year, but he never talked to the teachers or the other students. He hardly opened his eyes last year, and he ended up sitting out most of the camp because it was just too much for him.

Happy at Apple Camp

I am excited to say that not only did Decca go to Apple camp, he participated, he talked to the other kids and to the two teachers, and he had fun. The first thing he asked me when it was all over was could he do it again next year. I honestly couldn’t believe it!

Decca has made so much progress this summer, but you might be wondering about Uncle Jimmy. Did he ever speak to him? I am happy to report that he did. After my brother heard Decca was talking to everyone else but him, he called me up. He couldn’t believe that he was the last person Decca wouldn’t talk to, so I put Decca on the phone to see what would happen. And guess what? Decca and his uncle had a conversation together. It was nothing important, but it brought tears to my eyes. It brought tears to my brother’s eyes too. It wasn’t the words spoken that was important, it was who was speaking them.

Decca at 4, shortly after he stopped speaking.

Happy Mutti’s Day

For the first time in four years, I had the pleasure of hearing my son wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, or as he says “Happy Mutti’s Day”.

This made me so happy, as did everything the kids did for me today.

In honor of Mother’s Day I am going to re-post an entry I made about Decca and his long journey with selective mutism. Enjoy!

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I have this wonderful son, and his name is Decca. Quite a unique name, but it fits him perfectly because in many ways he is unique. He loves music, the piano, making movies, doing math, and making people laugh.

He is defined by all these things. But he is also defined by many as the boy who does not talk. You see Decca has selective mutism, and he is so terrified by many situations that he deals with this anxiety by not talking.

His selective mutism was brought on by a very traumatic event. When he was four years old, I went away for a night, and even though I prepared him and family was with him, something happened. He woke up on the morning I was gone, and he couldn’t find me. He was scared and very frightened and, in his mind, he thought I had died. He stopped talking right then, and for six months he didn’t speak one word to anyone but the twins. My wonderful twins, who at seven, took on so much to help their little brother.

Needless to say, Decca was in therapy, mostly play therapy, for months, and it helped. He began talking to some family members and me, which made me so happy. But he couldn’t talk outside the home to anyone, not friends, not extended family members, and certainly not strangers.

Along with his selective mutism, Decca stopped calling people by their names. He could no longer say his friends names, he stopped calling my parents Grandma and Grampa, he no longer referred to his Uncles, and he stopped calling me mom. It broke my heart, and I am sure it broke his heart too.

I tried so many things and nothing worked. Decca had his own way of referring to people though. Grandma and Grampa became Old Man and Old Lady (and it didn’t bother them). Uncle Jesse became “my movie maker” because they make movies together, and I was known as “the one I love the most”. It was very sweet.

Recently though Decca has begun using names. Not the same names he used before, but new names. First my brother Jesse, who has a special bond with Decca, taught him to call him Tío Chuy. I didn’t think it would work, but it did, and I saw a joy in Decca that I had not seen is a long time.

He then started referring to Grandma as Babushka. We use to go to a park where we would always see this wonderful lady and her grandson. She was Russian and her grandson would call her Babushka. I always remembered that, and I often will use that word. Decca began to use it a few weeks ago, and Grandma is now Babushka.

Up until this week though, Decca still wasn’t calling me anything. Every name we tried sounded too much like mom (mater, ama, mere) and so he couldn’t use them. Then my step-dad told me that in German some people call their mothers mutti. I told Decca about this name, and he liked it. He was comfortable with it. And he uses it, all the time.

The first day he started calling me mutti, he must have said it over a hundred times. I think he was in as much pain as I was, and he really wanted to call me mom. For the last week I have heard “I love you mutti” so many times to which I always respond by telling him “I love you too Decca”.

And I do, so much.

And he loves me, his mutti.

Decca and Selective Mutism

Decca has made a good deal of progress this year in regard to his selective mutism, and I am so proud of him. He began using names back in September, and it truly made him so much happier. Decca took a choir class this year, which was a big step for him. He never talked (or sang) during the class, but he did stand with everyone, and he even tried to make the other kids laugh through non-verbal communication, which is the most he has interacted with a group of kids in a long time. Decca also started talking to strangers that he does not know. It has truly been a year of progress.

Decca with his Uncle

But in other areas he still struggles, and it pains me to see him struggling. My brother recently visited, and although Decca wanted to talk to him, he just couldn’t. Decca won’t even talk in front of him, and this made for a somewhat difficult trip to Catalina. Decca, who normally is Mr. Talkative, hardly said a word. My father also visited us this year, and Decca could not talk to him either. He wants to talk, as do all kids with selective mutism, but he just can’t.

Decca with the twins and his Grandpa Harper.

Decca would like to participate in some classes, especially a Lego class that is offered at the homeschool campus. Decca would also love to participate in choir, and he would love to begin taking acting classes like his sister. He wants to do all these things, but he hasn’t been able to.

Sitting in the car waiting to pick up the twins from classes.

So I am setting some new goals for him, and I am hoping that within a year I will be able to write a post on his progress. After all, look at all he accomplished this year.

Decca

I have this wonderful son, and his name is Decca. Quite a unique name, but it fits him perfectly because in many ways he is unique. He loves music, the piano, making movies, doing math, and making people laugh.

He is defined by all these things. But he is also defined by many as the boy who does not talk. You see Decca has selective mutism, and he is so terrified by many situations that he deals with this anxiety by not talking.

His selective mutism was brought on by a very traumatic event. When he was four years old, I went away for a night, and even though I prepared him and family was with him, something happened. He woke up on the morning I was gone, and he couldn’t find me. He was scared and very frightened and, in his mind, he thought I had died. He stopped talking right then, and for six months he didn’t speak one word to anyone but the twins. My wonderful twins, who at seven, took on so much to help their little brother.

Needless to say, Decca was in therapy, mostly play therapy, for months, and it helped. He began talking to some family members and me, which made me so happy. But he couldn’t talk outside the home to anyone, not friends, not extended family members, and certainly not strangers.

Decca at four.

Along with his selective mutism, Decca stopped calling people by their names. He could no longer say his friends names, he stopped calling my parents Grandma and Grampa, he no longer referred to his Uncles, and he stopped calling me mom. It broke my heart, and I am sure it broke his heart too.

For over three years my son has not called me mom, but I never gave up hope that one day I would hear it again.

I tried so many things and nothing worked. Decca had his own way of referring to people though. Grandma and Grampa became Old Man and Old Lady (and it didn’t bother them). Uncle Jesse became “my movie maker” because they make movies together, and I was known as “the one I love the most”. It was very sweet.

Recently though Decca has begun using names. Not the same names he used before, but new names. First my brother Jesse, who has a special bond with Decca, taught him to call him Tío Chuy. I didn’t think it would work, but it did, and I saw a joy in Decca that I had not seen is a long time.

Decca with Tío Chuy

He then started referring to Grandma as Babushka. We use to go to a park where we would always see this wonderful lady and her grandson. She was Russian and her grandson would call her Babushka. I always remembered that, and I often will use that word. Decca began to use it a few weeks ago, and Grandma is now Babushka.

Decca with Babushka

Up until this week though, Decca still wasn’t calling me anything. Every name we tried sounded too much like mom (mater, ama, mere) and so he couldn’t use them. Then my step-dad told me that in German some people call their mothers mutti. I told Decca about this name, and he liked it. He was comfortable with it. And he uses it, all the time.

Decca and Mutti

The first day he started calling me mutti, he must have said it over a hundred times. I think he was in as much pain as I was, and he really wanted to call me mom. For the last week I have heard “I love you mutti” so many times to which I always respond by telling him “I love you too Decca”.

And I do, so much.

And he loves me, his mutti.