Selective Mutism

I consulted on a case once where the child had selective mutism.   Here's some information. It's very important to not push them to speak, because if you do you can cause the anxiety to increase drastically.  The child I consulted on spoke normally at home and spoke at a young age. But when she went to school or was in a restaurant, she was absolutely silent. She started therapy and eventually came out of her shell.  Think of it almost like a student with limited English and ask her to point to things, write things or show you things; try communicating with a child through a journal.

"Selective mutism is described in the 2000 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(DSM-IV-TR: pp.125-127).

Children with selective mutism may also show:

  • anxiety disorder (e.g., social phobia)

  • excessive shyness

  • fear of social embarrassment

  • social isolation and withdrawal

Many times a child with selective mutism has or is experiencing:

  • an anxiety disorder

  • inner self/self-esteem issues

  • a speech, language, or hearing problem

  • trauma

Associated behaviors may include no eye contact, no facial expression, immobility, or nervous fidgeting when confronted with general expectations in social situations.  These symptoms do not indicate willfulness, but rather an attempt to control rising anxiety."