I have always loved trick or treating. For most of my childhood years, my sisters and I would go trick or treating every single year. Selective Mutism presented many challenges for me when it came to going trick or treating…
Where I’m from, we sing a song instead of saying trick or treat so when I mention any singing, this is why. Usually, many people will not answer the door until they hear you finish the song, then they will answer the door and they want you to sing it again so they can see you sing it. Of course, I could never sing the song and as a result of this, I was often the only one to be refused any treats. Unfortunately, many people won’t give any treats to anyone who doesn’t sing/say trick or treat. You say trick or treat and you get a treat, but this means that many non-verbal children, including those with Selective Mutism are often left out.
Getting home and realising that I had the least amount of sweets out of everyone else would often feel like a huge punch in the face about how much I was missing out on so many things due to my SM. It wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t sing, but many people didn’t understand that.
Sometimes, it wasn’t just me that was refused any treats. I remember going trick or treating one Halloween with a friend and having one person slam the door in our faces because I wouldn’t say anything. Thankfully, this was a friend who understood that it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t able to talk. I imagine that if they had been a friend that hadn’t completely understood, then that would’ve caused a lot of resentment towards me because they would’ve thought that it was my fault that we didn’t get any treats.
This Halloween, please don’t refuse to give any treats to the child who hides behind their Mum and doesn’t say anything. Please don’t refuse the child who looks at you blankly and doesn’t say anything, they may not seem grateful, but they are. Please don’t refuse the child who spends the whole time staring at the ground; they may seem like they’re not enjoying themselves but it may not be the case, eye contact is just very difficult for those with SM.
Lastly, please try to keep an open mind if a child doesn’t say, “thank you.” Whereas it may seem like they’re being rude, this may not be the case. People with Selective Mutism want to talk and they want to say, “thank you,” they just simply can’t. Many people with SM are some of the politest children you could come across, and without the overwhelming levels of anxiety, they would definitely say, “thank you.” People who have Selective Mutism experience such severe levels of anxiety in certain social situations that it sends a physical paralysis to their vocal chords and they become physically unable to speak. This is tough for them to deal with, but even tougher when others don’t understand the struggles they go through every single day.
I know that most people do try to keep an open mind, and most people would give me treats whenever I would go trick or treating, it is just the minority that wouldn’t give me treats. However, I just ask you to keep an open mind if a child does come to your door and doesn’t say anything. They want to feel normal like everyone else and they don’t want their SM to cause them to miss out on anything, so anyone who does refuse to give them treats due to something that they can’t help, will only make them feel a million times worse than what they already do about the things they have to go through everyday due to their SM.