Communicating through art
- Written by Kristen Washington
At the age of five, Skylar Williams was diagnosed with selective mutism(SM), a childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak in one or more social settings. Children affected with selective mutism understand language use and have the physical and cognitive ability to speak; however, they have a persistent inability to speak in particular settings over a particular period of time due to anxiety. This differs from the developmental behavior of a child with limited social interaction behaviors during the first month in a new environment when a child is adjusting to peers and teachers. A friend’s mother pointed out the similarities Skylar had to children with SM to Skylar’s mother, Sandra Williams, and recommended she do further research. Skylar went through a psychiatric evaluation where she was diagnosed with the disorder. After she was diagnosed, Skylar began psychiatric counseling and play therapy . “It’s not diagnosed very often,”said Skylar’s father, Brian. Often selective mutism is confused with autism or a child just being shy. “She’s not shy,” Brain said, “she has no problem getting on stage and doing ballet; it’s just her way of dealing with anxiety.” “Over the years, there has been definite improvement in Skylar. Psychology has helped a lot,”said Brian Williams. Now age 10, Skylar will be a fifth-grader at Foster Elementary in the fall. “Her teachers have been great in educating themselves about selective mutism,” said her mother. “Everyone does their bit to help her feel at ease,” added her father. “While Skylar was in my class I tried to treat her the same as I did the other children,” said Sancy Rhodes, a teacher at Foster Elementary. “I think that treating her “normally” was the best thing I could do for her. I have really enjoyed watching Skylar grow in her confidence at Foster and outside of the classroom. I enjoy going to her recitals or swim meets. She is becoming a confident young lady.” Skylar uses art as one way to express herself and she entered the 8th Continent soy milk contest which enters her school to win $1000 in art supplies. “Skylar has always been fascinated with art,” said her mother. “She shares so much through her art.” Humble ISD School Board President Dan Huberty is proud of Skylar’s efforts. If chosen, Skylar’s art will be printed on the 8th Continent Soy Milk carton. “It’s always great to have children take the initiative and do something for the community,” he said. “I’m really proud of her; and this goes to prove that when you put your mind to something, you can overcome any obstacles.” To vote for Skylar’s art visit www.8thcontinent.com/sun/#/gallery/4849. For more information about selective mutism visit www.selectivemutism.org. Photo: Skylar smiles down playfully from a tree.