My Child Won’t Speak Review: Dumbstruck
MY CHILD WON’T SPEAK: Tuesday 2nd February, Channel 4, ALERT ME
Kids like this would have gone down a treat in the Victorian era.
But even in an age when adults waxed lyrical about children being seen and not heard, these young people might still have been considered odd.
For most viewers this will probably be their first encounter with selective mutism (a childhood anxiety order which prevents people from speaking at all in certain situations) but after a few minutes, quirky interest will turn into heartfelt empathy as the reality of cases like these becomes clear.
We are introduced to one 10 year old girl called Red – her parents were obviously Shawshank fans – who try to explain how difficult it is to deal with a child who chats affectionately to them, but hasn’t spoken outside the house for many years.
Her grandfather has never heard her talk, but his plan to get her chatting on a new mobile phone sees her make a little progress. Subsequently there is a touching scene in which he hears his granddaughter’s voice for the first time in an answerphone message (proving that EVERY tweeneager can be bribed by a sliding Samsung).
Meanwhile Megan is another young girl who stopped talking after a tramatic childhood experience, but so severe is her condition that she even refuses to talk to her family. Her progress is a little more tangible though, by the end of the programme she has managed to speak in class and watching her confidence grow is heart-warming.
The third girl is a slightly different kettle of fish however. Danielle is a determined 15 year-old who was so determined to break the cycle of silence that she moved schools in an attempt to regain her confidence. It worked and she is now enjoying a more normal life, yet she still struggles to make conversation on many occasions, as one traumatic trip to the newsagents highlights.
Whether there it is relevant that all these cases are female or not is unclear. Do boys suffer from selective mutism in the same way? Judging by the gobby lads in Megan’s class, not so much…