Myth No. 4 – Selective Mutism is a form of Autism

Children with SM, when they are feeling anxious, often react with lack of eye contact, a blank expression, and other behaviours that may look like an autism spectrum disorder. However, SM is fundamentally different from autism; while children with autism lack social and communication skills, children with SM are severely inhibited in speaking in certain situations.

It’s happened a couple of times, where I have written Selective Mutism and the response has related to Autism? even though there is no mention of it.

I put this mistake down to the reader either assuming SM means Autism or they just haven’t read it properly, whatever the reason, SM is not a form of autism.

As it says in the myth quoted above, children with SM react differently to children with autism.

I have friends & family with autistic children so am fairly familiar to a point with some autistic traits, none of which reflect Evelena at all.

Where children with autism lack social and communication skills, Evelena does not.

How is this I hear you say when she has SM.  Well firstly her social skills are good.  She communicates clearly and willingly with us, friends and certain other people she feels comfortable with, whereas it is said that:

Autistic people have difficulties with interpreting both verbal and non-verbal language like gestures or tone of voice. Many have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say. They may find it difficult to use or understand:

facial expressions

tone of voice

jokes and sarcasm.

Evelena has clear understanding of facial expressions, tone of voice (especially when mine is cross!!!) jokes and sarcasm.

If anything,  Evelena does not particularly like being on the receiving end of jokes or sarcasm, but is happy to dish it out!

Although she is slowly learning to just go with it, as 2 brothers and a sister means it’s a regular occurrence in our house!

Social interaction

Autistic people often have difficulty ‘reading’ other people – recognising or understanding others’ feelings and intentions – and expressing their own emotions. This can make it very hard for them to navigate the social world. They may:

appear to be insensitive

seek out time alone when overloaded by other people

not seek comfort from other people

appear to behave ‘strangely’ or in a way thought to be socially inappropriate.

Evelena is none of the above,  in fact she likes to have comfort from people, not over the top comfort, but she loves a cuddle.

Her lack of ‘speech’ in uncomfortable situations is probably deemed more as strange then inappropriate.  As I have said many times, there are people who find her SM an attention seeking problem and firmly believe she can talk if she wants to.

IMG_0645I have seen Evelena become slightly overwhelmed by lots of people around her, but that doesn’t last.  I believe it’s just an anxiety she has that is a small part of her SM, but one that she can deal with and it doesnt stop her from going places.

She is not at all insensitive, she understands all too well other people’s feeling, as she proved the other day whilst shopping (see below).

Only the other day when we went shopping I said to Evelena you can pay, as its your money you are spending.  She was anxious about this and didn’t want to do it, but I handed it over to her at the till and she paid.

I told her I was really proud of her, she said she didn’t like doing it, not because she feels nervous but because she feels rude as she doesn’t say thank you to the shop assistant!

I said to her, one step at a time, and maybe she should now work towards making this a possible goal of hers.

I must admit, it’s at moments like these, that I worry, I wonder what will happen if she never actually reaches these goals and how will she will fare when I am not with her in these situations?

Fingers crossed it will never come to this.

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