There were years of school where I went through selective mutism. The teachers would call role and I just couldn’t answer.
I didn’t understand it. It felt like I was afraid of my voice. But I could talk at other times. I could speak to one person, but just not to many. People would look at me and wonder why I didn’t speak when they had heard me speak before. But I was very fortunate to have people who spoke for me, who defended me from substitutes who didn’t understand or were rude to me.
Teachers didn’t understand. They made it seem so easy. “Just tell me what you need,” they said. I wished it was that easy and I chastised myself that it wasn’t. I hated myself for not being able to speak. And I desperately wanted friends, but could see no way to get them. I tried to become invisible instead, which also didn’t work. In a world where everyone demands that you speak up, look them in the eye, conform to their standards, it’s hard when you can’t. And you get in trouble a lot.
If there’s any advice I could give to teachers, it would be to not demand conformity or at least not enforce it with punishment. Some of us are doing our best. We’re not trouble makers. We just don’t know how else to do things.