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It's incredibly sad to think your child is so anxious she doesn't want to speak; Little Olivia Slorance suffers from a rare condition which means she has a phobia about speaking outside her home - but her parents are positive that she can learn to beat it.

Byline: PAGE 30 DAILY RECORD Monday, October 12, 2015 MORE AT DAILYRECORD.CO.UK EDITED BY MELANIE HARVEY amanda keenan a.keenan@dailyrecord.co.uk

AT HOME Olivia Slorance is like any other little girl, chatting non-stop as she plays with her siblings and dances to her favourite music.

But the second she leaves home and goes to school she is suddenly unable to talk.

Olivia, five, remains silent for most of the day and rarely speaks to her teacher or classmates.

She is one of an increasing number of kids diagnosed with selective mutism - a phobia of speaking outside the home.

It's a condition that usually strikes between the ages of three and six, and while nobody knows the exact cause, it is associated with severe anxiety.

Her parents Louise, 39, and Andrew, 44, noticed Olivia was much quieter than her sister Millie, eight, and four-year-old brother Finlay. After developing a stutter, Olivia became frustrated when trying to speak and the family took her to a speech therapist.

Louise, from Liberton, Edinburgh, said: "Olivia was a happy and healthy child but before she turned three she became very quiet and withdrawn.

"She would be fine at home playing with her siblings but the second we went outside she wouldn't speak.

"She also developed a stutter and would lash out when she couldn't manage to get the words out properly.

"We were referred to a speech therapist but Olivia refused to talk. She only managed six words the entire time we were there but we were able to work on techniques to slow her speech.

"It wasn't until my stepson Glen commented that Olivia never really spoke that we knew deep down something was wrong."

With Olivia about to start school, Louise and Andrew were worried about how she'd socialise with other children.

After raising their concerns with the speech therapist, the couple were told about SMIRA, the Selective Mutism Information and Research Association.

Louise said: "We hoped Olivia was painfully shy and would grow out of it, but it became clear that wasn't the case.

"After finding out about SMIRA, I went on a course and everything they said described what was going on with her.

"She finds certain situations stressful and gets so anxious she's unable to speak even if she wants to.

If we visitors home, "If we have visitors at home she'll stand back and won't get involved. Pressuring her to speak doesn't sets her back."

will back won't " This month, SMIRA are launching the Make a Noise drive to help children find their voices.

Those affected by selective mutism are able to talk freely in familiar surroundings but remain silent in others, exhibiting a blank expression or appearing "frozen" when expected to speak.

Louise says it was relief when Olivia was diagnosed 18 months ago.

have at our she She said: "It was like being on a emotional rollercoaster but just being able to understand what Olivia is going through has helped a great deal.

stand and get "Olivia has occasions when she speaks nonstop at home and then we have periods where she is very quiet.

"One of the biggest hurdles was starting school and we were worried how she would adjust.

"Thankfully we were able to meet her teacher and explain the situation. We know Olivia is very quiet at school and if she needs the toilet or feels ill she is able to hold up flashcards.

and if she needs the toilet or feels ill she is able to hold up flashcards.

"We don't know how much interaction she has with the other children at playtimes "We don't know how much interaction she has with the other children at playtimes and we worry it holds her back.

and we worry it holds her back. "It's incredibly sad to think your child is so anxious she doesn't want to speak.

"It's incredibly sad to think your child is so anxious she doesn't want to speak.

"The only thing Olivia's said to me about it is she feels 'the birds fly away with her words and don't give them back'."

"The only thing Olivia's said to me about it is she feels 'the birds fly away with her words and don't give them back'."

The family admit it has been difficult getting others to understand the condition and credit the charity SMIRA for helping them cope.

The family admit it has been difficult getting others to understand the condition and credit the charity SMIRA for helping them cope.

SMIRA's aim is to raise awareness of selective mutism but also to raise funds for training opportunities, particularly for health and education professionals Louise said: "They have been an incredible source of support and SMIRA's aim is to raise awareness of selective mutism but also to raise funds for training opportunities, particularly for health and education professionals Louise said: "They have been an incredible source of support and through Facebook we are now in touch with other families coping with it.

"We've never held anything back from Olivia or the rest of the family. Everyone knows and we asked them to read up on it so they don't put Olivia under pressure to talk.

"It's been a massive learning curve for everybody and the next big hurdle will be Christmas because Olivia can find it overwhelming having a lot of family and friends around.

"We try to take it one step at a time and feel we now have the tools to cope.

"We know we are not alone and other families are going through this. We have days where Olivia is a little chatterbox but then she'll become anxious and won't speak."

While Olivia's primary school is very supportive, she misses out on social things as she struggles to communicate with other kids Andrew, also dad to Kyle, 18. Glen, 15, said: "She's great with her siblings and at home she loves playing, listening to music and riding her bike. She copes so well because she's relaxed and it's not a stressful environment for her."

Olivia has also found her own way to communicate using her eyes and pointing at objects.

Andrew adds: "Olivia's eyes tell you everything you need to know.

"She also smiles or points to let us know and her brother and sister help her out.

"She's usually exhausted when she gets home from school because it takes so much out of her."

The couple are trying to develop Olivia's social skills. Louise said: "We can't completely eliminate stress from her life because there will always be something she'll feel anxious about.

"What we can do is build on the techniques to cope with selective mutism. "We're hopeful about the future and don't want Olivia to feel isolated. We are trying to increase the amount of people she feels comfortable with but this is a gradual process.

"We hope sharing Olivia's story will help make people aware and raise vital funds for a fantastic charity."

To watch Olivia's video for the #Makeanoise4SM campaign at youtu. be/CBUQSJDYESW For more information on SM visit www.smira.org.ukIf we have visitors at our home, she will stand back and won't get involved

CAPTION(S):

PHOBIA Olivia with her mum Louise, at

home, below, and, left, at school

UNITED Olivia with her mum, dad and siblings
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 12, 2015
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