What is Selective Mutism?
Selective Mutism (SM) is characterized as being freely verbal and comfortable at home, but nonverbal in other social settings, such as school or in the community. Selective Mutism is an anxiety-based disorder and a child is typically fearful and unable to speak. While Selective Mutism itself is not genetic, it is believed that anxiety is fairly heritable.
More Specifically, SM is:
- Consistent failure to speak in specific settings, in which they are expected to speak
- This failure interferes with their daily functioning either academically or socially
- This failure has lasted for longer than one month
- This failure is not due to a lack of fluency in the specific, desired language or a different communication disorder
What SM is NOT:
- SM is not willful or based in noncompliance
- SM is not simple shyness and children will not typically grow out of it if left untreated.
- Though SM can be common in bilingual children, it is not a result of a discomfort with the English language
How Common is SM?
- Research indicates that SM may occur in as high as 7.1 children per 1,000 children.
- More common in females than males.
- Average age of onset is around 5 years old.
- SM can co-occur with other diagnoses including Social Phobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Depression.
The Brave Voices Program
Our goal is to help your child develop the resources and skills they need to bravely get their voices back. Depending on your child’s age, treatment will include:
- Cognitive Restructuring
- Mindfulness and Relaxation
- Coping Skills Training
- Parent training and in-session participation
- Community-based exposure therapy
- Coordination with your child’s school
Many of our children with SM experience the most anxiety and difficulty within the school setting. Due to this, we spend a great deal of time working with your child’s school. We typically do this by developing a “key person” or one school staff member that becomes our eyes and ears in the school. We will coach them to implement our strategies inside the school walls. They also serve as the coordinator for other school staff that your child comes into contact with on a daily basis. If needed, we also help to develop:
- Structured behavioral plans
- 504 Plans
- Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)
Because SM can have a complex presentation, with potential co-occuring diagnoses, we offer a wide range of other services that can be paired with traditional treatment. These include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Groups for Social Anxiety and Social Skills
- Psychiatry and Medication Management
- Comprehensive Neuropsychological Assessment & Educational Advocacy
- Parent Training
*For more information on SM visit http://www.selectivemutism.org/find-help/treating-professionals/group-child-family-institute