Parents are constantly making decisions for their kids.
Spend the nights or playdates?
Tv, Ipad, Kindle, screen limitations?
We're just trying to do what we think is best for our kids. And with Kindergarten on the horizon, we decided the best course of acton for a 5 yr old who could not advocate even for her basic needs was homeschool. We completely released Maryclaire from the social environments that were reinforcing her identification as the girl who doesn’t talk.
For the next 18 months we stayed afloat. Maryclaire did some cool things. She performed in a dance recital, had her ears pierced, got a haircut (y’all I will share more about this later because I know you’re thinking, “whuuut?”), could take a sticker from the checkout attendant at the grocery store, interact with extended family members, and make friends with a neighbor.
We were seeing shades of the girl we knew wanted to emerge. She was still mute most places outside our home, but she was more vibrant. All in all, she had 11 people in her life she could verbalize with; 10 family members plus one “talking friend." It could be better, but we were floating by and did little to rock the fragile boat we had been sitting in.
But 2017 had been a doozie of a year without the added stress of having a child who had unique needs and challenge. .
My dad was diagnosed with Lymphoma.
Bea was having abnormal reactions to her vaccinations and diagnosed with febrile seizures.
The financial strain of me not working was hitting hard.
One of my dearest friend’s, the mother of Maryclaire’s only "talking friend," died suddenly of a brain aneurysm at age 35.
I carried on, in the daily, with a strength that was not my own. I started Nibble Cookie Co to help ease our everyday financial strain. Navigated even more Dr. appts with Bea. Made bi-weekly trips to encourage and support my parents who lived 2 hours away and who were going through a hell of their own. Greived through the loss of a dear friend while also trying to stay close to her young daughter as she was a lifeline to my own. Looking back, typing it all out, I know it was a season where I only survived by God’s grace and power alone.
By late fall of 2017, which was our second year of homeschool, Maryclaire started regressing. It was like watching a crashing car in slow motion and being helpless to stop it. It seemed so sudden and without warning. She stopped talking to my parents. She stopped talking to my sister and brother in law. She stopped letting Vaughn take her picture and she avoided the camera at all costs in public. She was unable to interact with people and in places she normally would have. She turned 7 and suddenly her small world was getting smaller.
That Christmas was hard. With family and photos and cameras and talking and all the holiday buzz, Maryclaire was doing everything possible to enclose herself in a protective cocoon and shut the world out.
We knew it was time to do more. Before the New Year arrived, Vaughn and I had researched treatment centers around the United States. Screw insurance networks and preferred providers and benefits and out of pocket expenses. I would pay a million dollars to anyone who could help my little girl.
And thank you Facebook support groups because...
Child Mind Institute in NYC arrived into our lives. They specialize in treating Selective Mutism along with a handful of other childhood anxiety disorders. I'm a researcher and immediately knew THIS was the place we needed to be. 8 wks later, in the coldest week of March 2018, our family arrived in NYC for a week of intensive therapy for Maryclaire.
Since that trip, there have been others. Child Mind and NYC have become a significant part of our lives. It hasn’t been magical. It’s been hard. It’s been frustrating. But it’s been eye opening. And educational. And life changing. We realized that we were in this for the long haul. We made hard decisions about medication. We rethought our decision to homeschool. We began pushing the boundaries of everything we knew and did to protect Maryclaire up until that point.
We shook up all the fragile parts and pieces of our lives, and prayed they wouldn’t break upon landing. Spoiler alert: they don’t .