Oh, I am sending you such big hugs right now! My 5-yr-old was diagnosed with selective mutism at age 3. She is the most reserved child I've ever seen. When she was a baby, it was fantastic. She looked like the AP poster child because she would sit in the sling, calm and quiet, all day. Everywhere we went--LLL meetings, API meetings, out shopping--people commented on what a great baby she was and what a great mom I was. Fast forward to age two when I was hosting API meetings in my home twice a month. The other kids would be running around my house playing with all of her toys while she sat quietly next to me. She literally had to be touching me, and if it was three hours or more before the first person arrived and the last left, she literally was touching me the entire time. By age three, even though she had been talking to me and dh in full sentences before age two, she still hadn't spoke to many family members, those she saw several times a week. No one who saw her at API or LLL meetings had ever heard her speak either. So I asked her pediatrician, a very wonderful man, at her 3-yr-visit. He is the one who suggested the selective mutism diagnosis, which is an anxiety disorder. I read everything I could get my hands on about it. Even though I was literally sick to my stomach over there being something "wrong" with my baby girl, I was relieved to find support and to know that simply letting her take things at her own pace and accepting her for who she is was the best way to go. Literally a week after her 3rd birthday, after I had done hours of reading about SM, we decided to go to my sister's house to swim. I told Julia and she was thrilled. Then she got this little worried look on her face and said, "Mama, do I have to talk to Aunt Margaret?" I got down on her level and said, "No, sweetheart, you don't have to talk to anyone if you don't want to." She launched herself into my arms, let out this huge sigh, and said, "Oh thank you , Mama!" I nearly cried.
I related my long story only to make the point that some children are prone to anxiety, prone to separate issues that most children aren't. I truly believe that pushing them to "overcome" these issues before they can really do it simply pushes them backwards and increases their anxiety. Little steps forward are the key. Julia talked to my dad and my sister right after she turned four. One day she simply decided to do it. No fanfare, no threats, no bribes. She just did it. And she has taken steps forward, albeit slowly, ever since. She still is my very shy child. She still literally wants to touch me some days if we are out in public, and she is five years old. She is both terrified and excited about starting school this fall. And we certainly have had to deal with our share of unwanted advice and pressure to just leave her and let her "get over it". Trust that inner voice. I've never regretted it when I have listened to my own. It is SO hard. Believe me, I know. And it's probably even harder in your case because for some idiotic reason our culture expects boys to be tough and independent--makes me ill. Hang in there and know that by validating and accepting your son's feelings, you are giving him the love and space and time to deal with them himself. PLEASE feel free to PM me anytime if you need to talk.