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By Jaxie Russell

April 16, 2018 (Eastlake) -- When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with Selective Mutism. It is an anxiety disorder that made me very shy, nervous and not want to speak in front of other people.  It prevented me from enjoying my life and one of the most important things to me; dance!

I loved dancing. but my Selective Mutism got in the way. I didn’t want to talk or interact with anyone, not even my dance teachers, or my friends. I would purposely hide at the back of the line, hoping I would not be noticed. I just went through the motions, holding back, but secretly wishing I could be more outgoing, like the way I was at home.

I wanted to quit so many times but my dance teachers never gave up on me. They were willing to care enough about me, to help me through the rough patch, which lasted many years. This changed my life because they took the time to be patient with me and encourage me at my own pace.

Over time, I gained confidence from the encouragement they gave me. I had to overcome a lot. Now I am 10 years old and I’m on a dance team at Neisha’s Dance & Music Academy in Eastlake that performs and competes in front of large diverse crowds. I go out into the community to perform and interact with people. But I wouldn’t be the brave person I am right now, if my dance teachers didn’t take the time to care for me. It truly impacted who I am!

Now that I have come out of my shell, I want to impact other people’s lives, to show them that I care. My dance studio inspired me, so I have challenged myself to contribute to helping others, especially those who also suffer from Selective Mutism. This year I became a teaching assistant for a group of incredible young dancers at NDMA. Being a teaching assistant gives me the opportunity to help other dancers overcome their fears.

To sum things up, I think it is important to give back to my community so my story can move others. I hope my journey inspires you to go out and make a difference in someone else’s life.

The views in this editorial reflect the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact

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Very touching and inspiring Jaxie. I too have dealt with this issue all my life (still have my moments) and feel much empathy towards your (past) dilemma. So happy and proud of you in conquering your anxiety. You will be a role model for many others... keep on dancing.