Why Abby Won't Talk

She has a condition called selective mutism that is neither as rare nor as hopeless as experts believed. But the right help is hard to find

Abby Barnes' hand shoots up nearly every time her teacher asks the 19 squirmy first-graders in her suburban Philadelphia public school to match letters of the alphabet to the sounds they make. Sitting up front with her pinchable cheeks framed by long blond hair, Abby, 7, looks as eager as any of her classmates to blurt out an answer. But every time the teacher calls on her, Abby freezes. Her face tightens. She strains to respond. And even if an answer manages to get past her lips, her words are inaudible. She's effectively mute throughout the school day--even at recess, where...

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