A schoolgirl has spoken to her sister and schoolfriends for the first time ever – even though she is eight years old – after a ‘miracle’ holiday cured her selective mutism.
Little Katie Wallace, eight, has always been able to speak to her dad, but crippling anxiety meant she would clam up around others, but has amazed Fin, 52, of St Annes after coming back from a charity trip to Tenerife.
He said: “She is a different child. Katie never had her friends round but now they are coming round every night. It’s quite a journey we have been on and it feels like its been a bit of a miracle.”
Selective mutism is a severe anxiety disorder, when left Katie unable to speak to anyone except her dad, who is unemployed after having a heart attack and being diagnosed with cancer.
The Heyhouses Church of England Primary School pupil would even wait until others had left before crying out in pain – including when she had a stone in her shoe, single dad Fin said.
But the kindness of Lancashire-based children’s charity A Day of Sunshine changed all that when they organised and paid for Katie to go abroad for the first time, which has seen her come out of her shell.
Not only is she able to speak to her teacher, albeit not in front of class, she is able to chat with pals and big sis Emma Wallace, 28.
“She would speak to me like any child but with others it was different,” Fin said.
“I began to realise something was wrong and then the school nurse told me Katie was a selective mute. It was horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. They say selective mutes come on in their own time and I worried it might continue until she is a teenager.”
A Days of Sunshine, which sends deserving youngsters on UK and Spanish trips, stepped in – and Fin said Katie ‘loved’ her break in Tenerife: “We went to the sea life centre, the animal park and watched the entertainment in the hotel.
“She was up dancing, talking and having fun.”
Sara Richardson, pastoral manager at Heyhouses Primary School, in Clarendon Road North, said: “I have worked with Katie since she started in reception and have also spent a lot of time with her dad.
“ Over time, with lots of support Katie has been able to speak to me and one or two other people in school but only in certain places.
“Katie’s dad is an excellent parent and does a brilliant job of looking after her, however he has experienced significant health issues over the past three years, which thankfully he has now recovered from.
“ I helped them to apply for their first passports and dad saved each week to buy new clothes for them and to have spending money.
“Since her return, the change in Katie has been fantastic to see. Her confidence has increased and her anxiety has reduced dramatically. Katie has been able to talk to many people in school about her holiday and in general, including lots of adults whom she hasn’t ever been able to speak to before.”