Selective Mutism (SM) is a form of social anxiety 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 preschools say that their child 'doesn't talk' or won't interact at school and yet parents describe their children as being playful and talkative at home.
Parents often at first feel confused and get conflicting advice, often pediatricians 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, often these children want to participate and speak freely. Research shows that early intervention is imperative in treating SM. Each day a child avoids talking reinforces their struggles and leads to increased anxiety and isolation.
The good news is that with the right treatment, children with SM can have wonderful outcomes. Children can learn to be brave and speak with confidence. As a parent of a child who had SM myself, parents often feel fully understood for the first time since they encountered the words Selective Mutism when we meet. Research supports the use of a behavioral/exposure based therapy to successfully treat SM and this is the approach I use. This treatment relies strongly on parent-led interventions. I teach parents the skills they need to help their child build confidence and apply those skills in small, systematic steps in the community.
To learn more, visit selectivemutism.org