Ayaha's story

I am Ayaha, a 24-year-old university student. I have selective mutism, but I was diagnosed only four years ago.As a child, I could speak a lot more freely than I can now. In lower school, I spoke in school, but sometimes, I couldn’t speak at all. Usually, both teachers and classmates were kind and understanding, but one teacher demanded that I spoke. I was sometimes ordered to stand outside the classroom when I could not speak to her. These experiences remain in my mind as terrifying memories.

In upper school, my mutism got worse. I could speak to my classmates and teacher during breaktimes and after school, but during classtime, I couldn’t speak. At that time, I didn’t know that I have mustism. I thought I was different to the other children.

When I was 17, I stopped speaking altogether. In other words, I forgot how to speak. Previously, I had spoken to my family, but I wasn’t able to even speak to them for nearly nine months.

In 2015, I began studying at university. At that stage, I could again speak to my family, but I couldn’t speak within the university. However, I got permission to do speaking tasks in writing. In addition, sometimes I practiced speaking with my professor, just between the two of us. I also have very good memories of my classmates, because they always waited before I tried to say or write something and they accepted my way of communicating. With the help of these experiences, I felt that I was part of a community, that I wasn’t forgotten, although I couldn’t speak with them.

In 2017, I was diagnosed. I had earlier heard of mutism but for some reason, I had thought that it didn’t refer to me. In getting my diagnosis, I became sad when I heard that receiving care for mutism is difficult, especially as an adult. At the same time, however, I was relieved to find out that the inability to speak resulted from an illness and that it wasn’t my fault. From then on, I have actively searched for information about mutism. In the same year, I got to know a girl who also has mutism. We have sent each other messages and she has become an important friend to me over the last few years.

Although I have mutism, I live my own life and I have achieved my dream. I have been interested in Finland since I was a child and in 2018, I came to Finland to study as an exchange student. After that, I have continued to diligently study the Finnish language, and this autumn, I will begin my Master’s studies in Finnish in Finland. Living abroad is difficult for me, but I have received help from my family and friends. I cannot yet speak at university but I am gradually beginning to be able to speak outside university with a few friends. I still cannot speak in public places.

Mutism is not yet recognised either in Finland and or in my home country. I believe that it is important to increase knowledge about mutism. I would really like to get more care and to practice speaking but I don’t know where to begin. I also want to get to know other people in Finland who have mutism.