Selective Mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder that causes individuals to not speak in certain situations yet can speak freely when they are comfortable, often only in their homes. I often hear from parents whose teachers say that their child 'doesn't talk' or won't interact at school and yet parents describe their children as being playful, curious and talkative at home.
Parents often at first feel confused and get conflicting advice, often pediatricians or other professionals may not know much about SM or tell parents that their child will simply grow out of this and label it as shyness. SM, however, is not a shy child, these children want to participate and speak freely. Research shows that early intervention is imperative in treating SM. Every day that a child avoids talking only reinforces their struggles and leads to increased anxiety and isolation.
As the parent of a child who had SM, I understand the struggles in finding proper treatment and the unique dilemmas faced by parents of children with SM. The good news is that with the proper treatment, children with SM can have wonderful outcomes. Children can learn to be brave and speak with confidence. I utilize evidence-based treatment in my approach with children with SM, typically a combination of behavioral and exposure based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT and components of Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). I teach parents the skills they need to help their child build confidence and apply those skills in small, systematic steps in the community. I work with children to slowly expose them to social and speaking situations that they previously avoided. I also work closely with preschools and schools to help children find their brave voice.
Aside from being a parent of a child who had SM, I also enhanced my learning and understanding via in depth reading, training and consultation from other nationally recognized SM professionals. I am a member of Selective Mutism Association (SMA) and as of January 2020, a member of SMA's Board of Directors.
To learn more visit www.selectivemutism.org