An eight-year-old girl has spoken to her sister and school friends for the first time ever after a ‘miracle’ holiday cured her selective mutism.
Little Katie Wallace has always been able to speak to her dad, but crippling anxiety meant she would clam up around others.
However, a once in a lifetime charity trip to Tenerife in May this year left Katie so excited and carefree she was soon chatting and getting involved with others after suffering in silence for seven years.
Katie and her dad Fin went on the incredible holiday thanks to money raised by local Lancashire charity, Days of Sunshine.
The charity takes local children away throughout the year and believed Katie – who had never been out of the country before – would really benefit from a fun trip in the sunshine.
Speaking of Katie’s incredible progress single dad Fin, 52, said: “She’s a different child, I can’t believe it.
“When I say she was silent, she was completely mute for seven years.
“I can’t believe how much of a difference the holiday has made. I can’t pinpoint exactly what made the difference I think it was a mixture of everything.
“A new place, amazing activities and new friends that she felt comfortable with, I don’t even think she realised she’d started to interact.
“She was just too excited and loving life, it was incredible to see.
“It’s quite a journey we have been on and it feels like this has been a miracle holiday.”
Katie was diagnosed with selective mutism – a severe anxiety disorder – when she was just four years old leaving her unable to speak to anyone except her dad.
Miraculously she is now able to speak to her teacher, albeit not in front of the class, and she is able to chat with school pals and her big sister Emma Wallace, 28.
Fin, from St Annes, Lancs., believes a lot of Katie’s anxieties are down to her early childhood before he took over her full-time care when she was two.
He said: “She’s already been through so much, she’s such a delicate little thing and I just want the best for her.
“I can’t begin to tell you how awful it was, she would suffer in silence if I wasn’t around not telling anyone if she felt poorly or was in pain.
“She didn’t show expressions either, a clown could run into the classroom and she would not flinch.”
Finn was starting to feel helpless and was worried Katie would continue to suffer from her selective muteness for the rest of her life.
He said: “No one knew how to help, the school did their best but all you know is what you read on the internet.
“She had a speech therapist but I didn’t think that would help as her speech itself is fine, she is very articulate when she talks to me.”
Fin, who is unemployed after having a heart attack and being diagnosed with cancer in 2015, said it was distressing for Katie when he was in the hospital.
He said: “I was in the hospital for two weeks and Katie had to stay with her big sister Emma while I was recovering.
“I can’t even begin to imagine how scared she must have been as it was the first time we had been apart and she knew I wasn’t very well.
“She must have felt so lonely not speaking to anyone for so long.
“It is incredible the change in her in the last month, I am so grateful to the charity – they have changed our lives beyond words.
“The other day I saw her singing and dancing with her friends and it brought a tear to my eye.”
David Lee, 65, who works at the Days of Sunshine charity said they have been working with Katie for over a year.
He said: “She first came in the charity shop with her dad looking at clothes to buy and I remember thinking she was so shy.
“Then after her dad explained about her select mutism we’d always try and make her feel comfortable in the shop but she never felt confident enough to speak.”
The local charity funds trips abroad for local children who deserve a break and Katie along with 18 others went to Tenerife in May.
David said: “I knew the trip would be good for Katie, but I can’t get over how much good it has done for her.
“It has been wonderful to see, you could see her getting more comfortable and familiar with the other children and two days in she suddenly started communicating with the others.