She clings to my pant leg for a minute but quickly graduates to a full body hug against my leg as if to say, "Please don't leave me, Mommy!" but no words escape her lips. Just her sweet, secure hug against my thigh that ensures her I can't go.
She is unable to speak. Unable to tell me she wants me to stay but I know that is what she'd say if she could find a way to loosen her voice, release her words.
At home she is an entirely different kids. She talks in complete sentences and can say anything she wants. She can change her wording to make herself clearer if she needs to. She can be loud, rambunctious, assertive or sweet, nurturing and creative. She is a full-color pre-schooler with buckets full of personality that can stand up to her much-older siblings and hold her ground.
But in the presence of strangers?
Not a peep.
It started around the age of one, maybe one & a half. We'd hold her at church, and talk to a friend. Our talkative little one would suddenly switch demeanors from relaxed and cuddly to a stiffened body with head lowered as if in deep prayer. I'd hold her closer, helping her to know that it's ok.
But she didn't buy it.
As she's gotten older (she just turned 3) she has continued to freeze up in social situations, and is unable to speak. She is unable to eat if strangers are at the same table. At a restaurant, if she notices another person watching her, I know it immediately because she assumes the frozen position with head bowed.
It just breaks my heart.
Such a wonderful, delightful child who gets bound up so tight.
Two different doctors say that she has Selective Mutism, which falls under a social anxiety disorder. They say to praise her when she speaks, and not draw attention to when she can't and above all, do not pressure her to speak.
Most kids are diagnosed between ages 3 and 8, but Joy has shown these symptoms for over a year already. I am not sure what that means, if she is more likely to outgrow it or if it will be harder.
But God knows. And as time goes on we see some good signs:
* After a while she does get used to new people and can talk in their presence.
*She is getting better at whispering to me when we are in a public setting that isn't too crowded.
*She still loves to go to social settings and clearly wants to have friends.
As school begins (next week!!) for the older 3 kids, I hope to be able to set up some play dates with her friends from MOPS and really hope and pray that she will discover how to relax and play with other kids her age.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7