Children with Selective Mutism
Selective mutism affects about 1 in 140 children; that's two children in most
mainstream primary schools.
Are you worried that your child or a child you support may have selective mutism?
Would you like to feel confident that you’re doing everything you can to help?
What is Selective Mutism?
Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that prevents children from talking in certain situations, such as at school or in public, despite being able to talk freely in other situations, such as at home with close family.
Selective mutism is often misunderstood as shyness or refusal to talk. Children with selective mutism want to talk but are physically unable to do so in certain situations, due to a phobia of talking. The expectation to talk triggers a freeze response that prevents the words from coming out. The anxiety that children experience in these situations can also affect their movements (e.g. pointing, handling objects, walking, running).
It is not unusual for children with selective mutism to develop maladaptive coping mechanisms to deal with the anxiety. Some children act out in front of family and friends, at parties and at school.
Mood swings, crying, anger, temper tantrums, avoidance, procrastination, inflexibility and difficulty with changes and transitions are common.
There are two profiles of selective mutism: high profile selective mutism, where a child never talks in certain situations, and low profile selective mutism, where a child gives minimal responses and doesn’t initiate talking in certain situations. Selective mutism usually starts in early childhood when children first socialise beyond the family. If left untreated it can continue into adulthood.
If a child has been talking minimally or not at all in certain situations for over a month (two months in a new setting), despite talking freely in other situations, they can be decribed as having selective mutism. The earlier selective mutism is identified, understood and managed in the right way, the easier it is to overcome.
Selective Mutism Services
Assessment, report and initial recommendations
Training for parents and education staff in understanding selective mutism and how to help
Planning meetings with parents and education staff (and separately with the child if required)
Support to devise and update the child’s therapy plan and goals
Advice and guidance by phone call or email between meetings
Some children will require regular therapy sessions with parents and/or education staff under the guidance of the speech and language therapist (e.g. 15 minutes on three days a week), or directly with the therapist
Some parents and education settings jointly fund these services
What Parents and Schools Say
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