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Please take some time to scroll through these letters

I have received from people

who truly understand Selective Mutism.

Perhaps you will identify with some of their stories.

Ann,

Had to let you know that we began using the strategies you recommended with Allison immediately after we spoke in November. She had been in our room for nine months and in all of that time we had never heard her voice or seen a smile on her sweet little face. On January 13 which was Friday the 13 she suddenly went from observing the class at story time from her seat (several feet away from everyone) to sitting among all the other children on the carpeted area. That was shocking by itself. But the next thing I know, she is doing all of the arm and hand movements that accompany our class good morning song. I wanted to jump for joy but as you recommended, I pretended like it was nothing out of the ordinary. A little bit later in the day, she joined the class as we did “Shake your sillies out” and I almost cried because I heard her LAUGH OUT LOUD while she “shook her sillies, clapped her crazies and yawned her sleepies out.” She has gone almost two months without any potty accidents while previously she was having them almost daily. It has changed her entire existence in school. We tried to very discreetly take a picture of her participating and smiling without drawing attention to her. When the flash went off, I thought I might have blown it. But she looked at me with the camera and then went right back to participating. Ann, she is a completely different child.  

Thank you for helping me understand this heartbreaking disorder. Thank you on behalf of Alli for helping her break out of the silent place where she had been stuck for so long.

All the best to you,

Jocelynn

Wow! Thank you so much Ann for speaking with me and for all the great information. I am overwhelmed by your kindness - you really represent the best of humanity to be willing to help so much!

The only other source we found that could help us was logistically and financially an impossibility for us. We had almost given up hope. Thank YOU for giving us the gift of knowing how to help our daughter experience joy in life! With sincere gratitude, Paul March, 2007

Thank you so much for your kindness and for finally giving me some hope. I work full time and was never going to be able to get my daughter to multiple appointments.The way you describe things took the words right out of me. There are so many kids/people with SM and without realizing it because they were told that they are just shy and will get over it. Talking with you was the first day I believed things will be ok. Blessings to you! Julia May, 2007

Hi Ann! Thank you so much for all of your help and it was most definitely a pleasure talking to you. I must have called at least 30 counselors and I either get no response or the ones who responsed never heard of SM. FINALLY! Things are already improving.

Liliana, May 2007

Dearest Ann,

I wanted to let you know that after just having the CONVERSATION you recommended with Jack, we could physically see him relax. He seems more calm in the class and is more willing to try things he hasn’t before. The lunch technique worked like a charm too. :)

I can’t tell you enough how thankful I am to have found your name in the conference book!! Audrey, November 2007

Ann,

After reading about you on the ABC News site I was determined to contact you. Thanks for your wonderful help! Your information was spot-ON. I have adjusted my approach to teaching this little girl based on your information and the very first day actually detected a smile on her face. After just a few weeks we have heard her whisper!

Daniel, December 2007

Hi there Ann! All I have to say is, please tell me you will be at the next conference. I learned so much about such a very serious topic and at the same time enjoyed every minute of the session. Your presentation style is absolutely brilliant! ENCORE! Renee 2008

Dear Ann,

How can I begin to thank you for changing our daughter's life so positively and for being the first person who didn't talk to us like we were to blame for Genna's SM. She was diagnosed in Kindergarten and after 2 1/2 years of "help" from "specialists", she had never so much as made a noise in school. She was expressionless all through Kindergarten and they said she might be autistic. The "special ed" teacher called me and basically asked if my daughter had ever shown signs of intelligence and then finished with saying, "I asked her to just count to 10 for me and she couldn't even do that! I can't believe she can't count to 10." Well I know that she can count to 10... I have heard her. But everyone at the school seems to think she is just dumb and they don't believe me when I tell them she is a "chatterbox" at home. When you described how a child with SM behaves, it was like you had known Genna her whole life. After over 2 years of NO communicating at school, Genna began nodding when teachers ask her questions. Today was the first day she didn't have a stomachache before school.... Melissa, January 2008

Ann,

Heard you at NAEYC and was left stunned as I realized you just described me as a child. I'm still reeling. Lorraine 2008

Hello Ann,

I briefly met you at the conference in Dallas. I was only able to stay for a few moments of your presentation. i thought you were very gracious to go ahead with your presentation despite the obstacles that were in front of you. In just the few minutes I got to hear you speak, I finally knew a name for my son's inability to speak at times. I took some of your literature and cried just reading it... Celia, February 2008

Ann,

I heard you speak at the NAEYC conference and wanted you to know that they need to have you at EVERY conference. You enlightened so many teachers (and counselors and principals and others) that day. Also you "keep it real" and you are HILARIOUS. I wish all the presentations were like yours! Lisa, February 2008

Ann,

I'm the one who came up to you all emotional after your seminar and said I never knew that my shyness was anything other than the way I was born until I heard you speak. Even after all these years I could feel the anxiety as real as it always was because your description was so accurate that it was like going back in time. It is bittersweet. I cry to think how much different my life would have been if only... But then it was sort of healing to know that there was a true explanation for my anxiety. Your training will allow so many children to know what it feels like to be at peace and to grow up without the tremendous struggle. I wish I was one of those kids. God bless you. Paige 2008

Hi Ann,

It was great to chat with you today! Thank you so much for your advice and time - I really appreciate it. As I mentioned to you, my husband and I are just really starting to "delve" into this journey with our daughter and it really helped to speak to someone who "gets" Selective Mutism and all that it entails! After speaking with you today

I am feeling better and more comfortable about treatment options and finding the right type of doctor to help. Phew! 

 Joyce April 2008

Hello Ann,

      Thank you for your answers helping me so much. First I thank you for the patience for helping me to understand because I know it takes longer when I am not familiar with all the English words. You were very patient and I felt not in a rush or embarrassed to try the English words for asking the questions. Also, I am so happy that the SM in your family is over...Of course most thanks for the help for my child. My son (3) only speaks at home with selected relatives. He have diagnosis from supposed to be a capabel psychiatrist and lots of counseling but nothing changes after a long time. The psychiatrist says my son must remember or admit to himself whatever happened to him so dramatic that he has this high anxiety to speak in front of strangers. At and outside home, he makes eye-contact, initiates silly games (making faces or simple hide and seek behind walls) even with persons he has not met before. Sometimes he says one-word in whisper to some people he feels close outside of home. He even danced in a crowded bank branch until he realized people were looking at him (of course they were, he seemed so cute) But still the teachers never can hear his voice. I tried not to be in denial, but I want to believe that his condition is easy to cure. But as a mother, I do not know how to act, besides loving and kissing him forever. I tried to introduce him to crowded places, or just keep him home in order not to increase his anxiety but no results. I bribe him to speak to the grocer but even bribe did not work. He could not even try.

      After we talk, I tell his teachers your information and some things to try. Ann, the teachers say he has started to speak with some of his friends out loud! (but when he feels the presence of teachers, he immediately shuts his mouth).He even havd one occasion when he speak in whisper, to his class teacher.She could not believe was happening... Yomna, 2008

Dr. Ann, My 3 year old son, Tigue, who is always loud at home, quits talking completely when I take him to a Mothers Day Out program or even to play at a friend's house.First I thought he was shy around others but it has been months and he won't make a peep unless we are at home and then he talks just fine and even uses big words (for his age). After a while, I thought he was being stubborn. I took him to see his Dr.. The Dr. sent us to our local children's hospital where they admitted him and ran numerous neurological tests for THREE DAYS. Everything neurological was okay so they sent in the phsycologist. The phsycologist could not explain. We left the hospital with NO ANSWERS. We tried a new pediatrician who said he suspects autism. If we are in public (like the grocery store), he will wave to strangers or look at them. But he won't say words. Also, if we are in public, he starts pointing or motioning instead of talking to me and if he does talk to me, it is in an unnatural voice.I saw your information on the 20/20 site and screamed at my husband to come see. As we read what you wrote, we both began to cry. We feel like we finally have a name for this horrible thing that has made us all wonder if we are going crazy...

Hannah, David and Tigue Oct '08

Ann, Thank you so much for the information. It is very helpful and makes me feel as though I'm not alone! Since i spoke with you we have already come a little ways in progress made! Linda S. 2008

Ann, In my Google searches of Selective Mutism, I arrived at some websites containing your articles.

Thank you for sharing your information and wisdom on this condition that is so misunderstood Courtney 2009

Ann, After speaking with you, my husband and I now believe our 8 year old son may have selective mutism. We have seen anxiety symptoms in him since he was 8 months old but everyone (medical professionals, family, friends, teachers) said we were overreacting. Thanks so much for helping us feel like we know what direction to turn now! Alayna & Seth 2009

Dear Ann,

Hi. My name is Scott. I stumbled onto an article you wrote about selective mutism and it kind of blew my mind. I am 38 and have struggled with being "overly shy" which turned into social anxiety and then panic attacks and years of depression. As a young child, I was sent to speech therapy but when I wouldn't talk, they stopped having me go.I have learned to just fall under the lable of "shy" and wished I had been born with the ability to talk with others and be comfortable the way I see other people do. I have long since accepted that this is just the way I am. In jr. high school people just thought I was unfriendly or doing drugs or something. In high school, nobody paid attention and I think the teachers were grateful to have someone who DIDN'T talk in class! When I went to college, it was easy to exist without anyone even noticing whether or not I spoke. On a few occasions, girls approached me and said that I was described as "mysterious" or "enigmatic" and it intrigued them. I became like a game for people to see who could get me to talk. When I never did, they gave up and some girls would mutter that I was psycho or full of myself.

I could always talk to my family but my parents have been deceased for several years. I have some cousins I grew up with who I can talk to sometimes, but I still have trouble at times. I work from my home and communicate thru my computer. I have actually been able to start up a fairly successful business that only involves written correspondence. If I ever have to meet a client or actually talk on the phone, it will be a problem.

Maybe after 38 years of living with this it is too late for me to ever get past it. Heck, I probably couldn't make the phone call to ask anyone for help anyway :) But if nothing else, I felt a sense of peace when I read what you wrote. You read about people who feel great relief when they get diagnosed with something, even if it's bad, because at least they know what they are dealing with. That's a bit how I felt after reading your article...except until then I didn't even know I was dealing with something!

I will never know how life would have been different if I had ever gotten help for this. But I do know that this is the first time I have had any reason to consider that maybe I am not the total weirdo I've always thought I was. Who knew? Scott 2010

Miss Ann,

      I found out about about selective mutism this past month when my 13 year old daughter was reading your article and exclaimed, "Mom, This is what I have". My first thought was, "I didn't know you had anything" because even though I have always been told my daughter is "extremely shy", I figured it was just the genes she got from me because that is how I have always been. My daughter (just like me) has always been able to perform on stage (dancing and acting) and it always seemed peculiar that we not only COULD do that, but enjoyed it. But it never made me wonder if that meant there was a problem with the times my daughter (or I) had trouble speaking.

      On one hand I feel happy for my daughter that maybe she will be able to get past this and not struggle with it her whole life. But I also feel so guilty that I never knew it was a problem that I could do anything about.

      I manage to speak and interact and live a normal life. But I did experience almost all of the symptoms you described (anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, depression, some alcohol abuse in my pre-mother years and yes, even thoughts of suicide) as higher risk for people who have selective mutism. THAT is what has made me sit down and write to tell you how much I appreciate learning about this disorder from you. Although I will always feel guilty about not getting my daughter help sooner and all the years she has already spent with selective mutism, I am beyond grateful to know that I may now be able to help her avoid some of the pain that she would probably otherwise follow in my footsteps as well.

Heartfelt thanks Miss Ann! Monica (& Beth Ann)

Ann,

Thank you so much for talking to us today. I am very greatful for all of the information you provided. You and your son has given me so much hope for my daughter. Cynthia 2010

Hi Ann, Thank you so much for all of the information. I passed it along to the center director and she said she had never heard of SM before. Thanks for all the work you are doing to help children, parents and educators who are dealing with SM. So glad your son was helped and is symptom free!! Thank you again. Kathryn, 2011

Dear Ann,

      My mother showed me your article about SM in Dear Abby. I am so thankful that she saw it and recognized it as EXACTLY describing my 6 year old daughter. My daughter has been shy since about the age of 2, but would talk to close family members. At age 3, she stopped talking to most of those family members and only whispers to a select few. She will only whisper to them if they are not around any other people. A lot of our family have been very hurt or implied that we are allowing our daughter to be rude.

      My daughter will whisper to her teacher sometimes. Also, she will talk to her friends and cousins who are not adults when they are at our house as long as there is not an adult (besides her father or me) around. She won't talk to anyone who is a teenager or older.

      When she is able to talk, she acts like a totally normal child. Anyone we have ever asked about whether or not we should be concerned has either said "She's just shy and she'll grow out of it" or they say she is manipulating people to coddle her. But I SEE the anxiety on her face when adults talk to her and expect her to talk back. I have never felt that she wanted to not talk to people. But I also felt like if she was shy, she would be that way in all situations and that just is not the case.

      With the new knowledge we possess from reading your article, we are incredibly relieved. We will diligently research this condition and see what we can do to help my daughter deal with it. Thank you for enlightening us, and undoubtedly many others who never heard of SM either. Gina, Robert, "my mom" & Sarah

Good morning Ann.

I read your response to an Ann Landers column with enough interest to find other articles written by you. I applaud you for disseminating information about this little understood condition....

...My now adult son exhibited "SM" behavior before he was old enough to speak. He was excessively timid even as an infant and as he entered his toddler and young childhood years he struggled with strong aversions to textures, sounds and even some foods. When he began attending elementary school, he quickly began to manifest symptoms at the mere mention of school. He could be having a normal conversation with me but if we even saw someone from his school (even at a distance), he would get a completely blank look on his face (which I now believe was actually panic) and he would become completely silent . He never spoke a word in school until his 5th grade year and even then it was limited to one teacher he felt comfortable with who did not overreact or push him and only when they were out of earshot of anyone else. In junior high we noticed him becoming depressed and withdrawn. High school was too much and he dropped out in the beginning of 10th grade.He has no friends but does talk to people online. He is extremely bright, articulate, talented and genuinely fun to be around, yet noone other than his family sees this He has struggled with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and even indicated suicidal thoughts. Because of my son's challenges speaking with people, it is no surprise that he has been unable to get a job of any kind. I can't help but feel tremendous fear as I contemplate his future.

I should also mention that I was just like my son when I was a child. I remember walking a very scary and painful path but did somehow manage to learn to cope (or at least to appear to be coping when actually I am usually still struggling inside). I fear my son has been unable, thus far, to find a way to face the paralyzing force SM can impart.

With my deepest sincerity, I hope that your son continues to remain symptom free. You surely did a lot of heart and soul searching in addition to your reseach to discover his path to healing. Your son may never know how much pain you essentially erased from the life he would have otherwise found himself on without you. R. A. 2012

Dear Ann:

Thanks so much for your advice. Kara was seen by a psychiatrist we carefully pre-screened per your advice. The doctor felt there was no question she has selective mutism. I must say that it is only because of your careful explanation and sharing your personal experience that we were able to understand the treatment options; in particular why play therapy probably would NOT work. We have been so worried about whether or not we found the right diagnosis and treatment until today.... Today she want to a classmate's birthday party (not even at our house!) and was talking freely to friends at the party. Are you kidding me?! She asked me to take her to a church gathering that has activities for kids. What?! Yep. SHE asked ME to TAKE her! She has already invited 2 friends to come over to play next week and she is still talking about how much fun she had at the birthday party!!! J.M.

Hi Ann!

      It's been quite a while since you helped me get my daughter to speak. I just read your article about singing Happy Birthday and opening presents. It made me remember when Lindsay would run out of the room or hide under the table. Thought you should know that she now sings along, quietly, but she does.

      I remember talking to you back then about the potty training! She also used to be VERY afraid of doing a piñata. Seems like so long ago. I'm happy to say we have been years without potty issues. And last weekend she SLAMMED a pinata open with a bat and ran around screaming hysterically like all the other girls as they grabbed all the "loot" off the ground.

      Life is so good. Danielle (Lindsay's mom)

ANN!!! GUESS WHAT!!

Taylor started whispering to her teacher last Fri! Today she whispered to a SECOND teacher. We are so happy. Thanks for letting me know about the timeline so I know what to expect. We are excitedly (but patiently) waiting for her to speak to her friends. Allison

Happy Halloween Ann! Just wanted to say that last night Ellen went trick-or-treating and ACTUALLY SAID "Trick or Treat" at the different houses!!! Samantha K.

Hi Ann,

Just a follow up to let you know that we toured the school and met with the principal to show her the information you gave us. She said they would absolutely do everything suggested!!! Oh what a great relief! Thanks for all of the information!!! Pam (and Abby)

Ann,

Thank you for your help. My daughter is doing much better and school is being very accommodating. Virginia Nov 2012

Ann,

Wow -- thank you so much for your help. I shared your information with Kylie's pediatrician and she was stunned. Kylie has talked to a few children at the park (quietly and only if I am nearby) but she is now happy to go to school and participates in the group activities (she does not yet speak, but just participating is a huge improvement!) in her class. Gayle

Ann,

It has just been a month since we met. Riley is already talking at school! Her teacher is now the one who is speechless. All of her stomachaches and usual morning ailments have vanished. She is eager to get up and go to school. I am so thankful that you helped us understand Selective Mutism and how we could help our daughter deal with it. Nothing is better than seeing her so happy. Thank you. Peggy 2013

Dear Ann,

It hardly seems enough to say thank you for what you have done for Jacob. He has come so far since we met with you that at times we wonder if we imagined that he was having so much trouble at one time. But family members, friends, and video footage we have of Jacob just a year ago confirm that our little boy was living with so much unnecessary anxiety. My heart breaks to think what he would still be experiencing if we had not found you. 

Jacob is thriving in school. He has lots of friends. But the biggest change has been the relationship he and his grandparents have FINALLY been able to establish. Jake's grandparents were torn between heartache at thinking he would not talk to them because they somehow frightened him or wondering if some he had been through some kind of traumatic experience. Jake now talks to his grandparents just as easily as he talks to me. It has made ALL of us feel tremendous joy...

Jeanine 2013

Ann,

All I can say is YOU NAILED IT! Corey is progressing just exactly as you predicted. But best of all, it has helped my FAMILY heal now that there is PROOF that his not talking NEVER had anything to do with him not loving them, him wanting to control everyone, or (my favorite, of course) with me being an over-the-top, too-protective mother who was creating my own monster by "enabling and even encouraging" his unacceptable behavior...

Anne September, 2013

Dear Ann,

When we asked if you could help, we had no idea you would go far, far beyond that. We feel that you gave our daughter the ability to be happy in life. The angst she so obviously lived with 24/7 prior to speaking with you was evident and absolutely heartbreaking. She does not even look like the same little girl any more. She was always beautiful. Now she is beautiful AND she radiates happiness and contentment. We were astonished and so thankful the first time she nodded her head in response to someone other than her father or me. We were choked up the first time we saw her smile in the presence of other people. We were elated the first time she whispered something to a friend. We were brought to our knees in prayerful thanks and felt that we were witness to a miracle the first time she spoke a single word that was audible outside of our home. But our greatest moment of joy came during an end of year conversation with her teacher. Her teacher was telling us how much she has progressed academically and how bright she is. But what we celebrated as the best feedback of all was the teacher commenting that, "Yesterday she and a friend were giggling so much I almost had to ask them to quiet down...until I realized who was doing all of that giggling!" I have never been so happy to hear that SASHA's laughing was ALMOST DISRUPTIVE!!! God's blessings to you Ann. You have given us a gift that we are incapable of repaying. Only the Lord will be able to create something sufficiently wonderful to match the gift you have given us.

Shell, Don & Sasha 2014

Dear Ann,

We are so grateful for all of your help with our daughter, Allegra. The strategies you gave us are working exactly as you predicted. The biggest relief has been having a way to explain to her teachers what Selective Mutism is. They were all well-intended. But before we met with you, we were blindly following the teacher recommendations. As I said, I know they MEANT well. But they did not know about SM and so they were recommending all the wrong things; just as you said happens all the time. We had tried speech therapy, play therapy, behavior contracts...you name it. Now that we all understand what SM is and how to deal with it, Allegra is thriving in school. She is so much happier all the time. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and all of the wisdom you accrued as it has saved our child! Jenn and Jeremy 2015

Ann,

OMG OMG OMG OMG. Cece SPOKE in school today!!!!!!!!!!! K. P. 2015

Ann,

You are a miracle worker. Not only have we seen the first progress in Danny EVER, but it was really quite easy once you helped us understand SM and how to deal with it. Before we spoke to you we spent countless days, hours and so much money going from one "specialist" to the next. All we got were incorrect diagnosis, skepticism, bad advice, shrugged shoulders, frustration and confusion. One consultation with you gave us more information than the last 2 years of appointment after appointment. And we have already seen progress in just weeks! Best money ever spent. So grateful we found you! J. D. 2015

Miss Ann,

My name is Sarah. You spoke to my mom and dad about my selective mutism about six years ago. I remember the years I couldn't talk and it was horrible every day going to school. Kids said I was the girl who couldn't talk. Teachers got mad at me. Even my grandma blamed my mom for being a bad mom and saying she let me be rude to her. I didn't know I even COULD talk. But now I talk to everyone. I'm doing great. I have all A's and one B in school and I can talk in class. I am so much happier. My mom and dad said you taught them about whatever it was that made it hard for me to talk and told them how to explain it to other people when they would get upset and try to make me talk or trick me into talking. Nobody gets mad at me any more and even my grandma admits that she should not have blamed my mom. Thank you for helping me and my family.

Sarah 2016

Dear dear Ann,

Analise's teacher sent me a note today. It said: "I HEARD HER VOICE!" I cried for an hour. Tears of joy. GOD BLESS YOU!!!

S. J. 2016

Mrs. S.,

I attended your presentation at the TX conference and realized you were describing ME as a child. I never knew that I was anything other than "just shy" when I was growing up. When you were talking it was like you were inside my head as a child. I was really emotional as I recognized all of the needless suffering I experienced as a child growing up with a disorder that nobody knew existed. I am so relieved to know that I now understand what was "wrong" with me as a kid and that I can use this understanding to recognize SM in children I work with. I know EXACTLY what to do and what NOT to do, thanks to you!

Jodi L. 2016

Ann,

I was one of your students at UH in 2012. I now teach first grade and have a child who has not spoken in school EVER. I remembered when you spoke at our school about SM and remembered the things you told us to do if we wanted to help a child with SM feel comfortable enough to speak. It took about a month, but this child now speaks to me in a voice that I can actually hear. Just as you said, she started out whispering in my ear and worked up to talking in this really strange voice (like some kind of whiney dog LOL). This week she actually spoke in what I THINK may be hear actual natural voice. Its very soft, but it is in full sentences. She still avoids eye contact, but I can see her body is much more relaxed. Her kindergarten teacher is astonished (and I think a little bit jealous) that she will speak at all. Her parents are thrilled. I am so glad I was lucky enough to have you teach us about SM. I've now seen your techniques work firsthand and feel like it has made a huge difference in this little girl's life!

Kendra 2016

Ann,

      Thank you for speaking to our class about Selective Mutism. I was the man who has a daughter with SM and I'm sure you noticed that when you first started talking, I was the one with a scowl on my face thinking, "Oh here we go again with someone telling me I need to "motivate" my daughter to speak or how I am allowing her to control me." I was SURE you were going to tell me what I have heard from countless people...that my daughter is a defiant controlling brat who needs to be set straight. (Or I've also had a lot of people suggest that she has Autism!) But as you spoke, I felt myself calm down and even get close to breaking down in tears as I FINALLY heard someone express what I KNOW about my daughter...THAT SHE CAN'T HELP BEING UNABLE TO SPEAK. It was enormously comforting to hear someone actually articulate what this disorder is really like. It is heartbreaking that you seem to be one in a million in understanding it and having some practical, realistic solutions for dealing with it.

      I thank you for devoting your personal time to spread awareness about this. I pray that others will listen to your insight and experience and expertise and REALLY take the time to learn how to respond to a child who is suffering with this insidious disorder. Your information is SPOT ON and you explain it in a way that anyone should be able to understand and come away feeling that they have the ability to work with these children. I hope you continue to speak and offer training in as many venues as possible. The information you share is so valuable and stands to change the lives of so many children who are suffering with this completely misunderstood nightmare of a disorder.

Heartfelt thanks to you,

Richard

2016