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Mom: “...right in front of me...the whole time...”

Dad: “...won’t stop...”

Mom: “...don’t know how to tell...”

Long pause. Sounds of scraping, like a chair being dragged along the floor. Dad: “...make sure we know...the consequences...”

Mom: “...don’t tell her yet...”

Whoa, red flag. What’s that all about? Consequences? That sounds bad. And what don’t they want to tell me yet? My stomach gives a sick little lurch, because their words add up to one thing, and I know exactly what it is.

They’re talking about sending Maddie away. Here’s how I know: A family down the street has a little boy who’s deaf, and when he was six they sent him to a special school so he could learn sign language. He stays there full time. I think he’s only home on holidays and in the summer. Ever since I heard about that little boy, I’ve been thinking there’s probably a special school like that for kids with selective mutism. For kids like Maddie. But Mom and Dad don’t know how Maddie would handle it, what the consequences would be. And they don’t want to tell me yet because they know how much I would hate the idea.