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Friday, June 15, 2007

13-Year Boy And His Ten Years Silence

Told he needed a tonsil operation at the age of three, Ben Grocock was terrified.

So terrified, he insisted he would never speak again if the surgery went ahead.

His parents brushed off his threat (he was three, after all) and the operation took place.

But when Ben awoke, he stuck to what became his final word. For the next ten years he retreated into a world of silence.

Until now. At 13, Ben has started talking properly for the first time – thanks to a confidence course run by his local fire brigade.

Persuaded to open up on the five-day course, Ben even managed to address the audience at his ‘passing out parade’ with a hesitant ‘thank you’.

It was the first time his grandparents had heard him speak since he was a toddler.

Now, to the relief of his mother Linda Brant, 38, the floodgates have opened and Ben has started talking to his teachers and friends.

For four years after his tonsil operation at Basingstoke Hospital, Ben would talk only to his brother, now 12, and only then when the pair were alone.

With everyone else, he relied on written notes and hand signals to communicate.

He was diagnosed with selective mutism, a rare anxiety disorder which leaves children terrified of speaking in certain situations.

There was some progress in 2003, when a bike accident shocked him into speaking to his mother. ‘Ben had always been painfully shy but it was just terrible when he wouldn’t talk at all,’ Miss Brant, a shop worker, said from the family home in Liskeard, Cornwall.

‘At first I think it was just the shock of the operation but then he was so deep into the habit of not speaking that he just couldn’t any more.

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