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What is Selective Mutism?



Selective Mutism is a condition where a person is unable to speak or communicate effectively in certain social situations, despite being able to speak in other situations. It is often misunderstood as shyness or being stubborn, but it is actually a form of anxiety disorder.


Individuals with selective mutism may have normal speech and language development, but they are unable to speak in specific situations, such as in school, in public, or with strangers. This inability to speak can cause significant social, academic, and occupational impairment.


Selective mutism can be seen in children as young as 2 years old and can persist into adulthood if left untreated. The exact cause of selective mutism is not known, but it is thought to be related to an oversensitivity to social cues and a heightened fear of social evaluation.


Symptoms of selective mutism can include:

  • Inability to speak in certain situations

  • Extreme shyness in social situations

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Refusing to speak or communicate

  • Anxiety or distress when in situations where speaking is expected


A speech-language pathologist (SLP) is best equipped to help children with selective mutism. SLPs are trained professionals who specialize in communication and language disorders. They have the knowledge, skills, and expertise to assess, diagnose, and treat children with selective mutism. SLPs can work with children to:

  • Improve their ability to speak and communicate in social situations

  • Increase their confidence and self-esteem

  • Decrease their anxiety and fear related to speaking

  • Develop strategies for coping with selective mutism


Treatment for selective mutism typically includes a combination of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or speech therapy, and, sometimes, medication. The goal of treatment is to help the individual gradually become more comfortable speaking in social situations.


It is important to remember that selective mutism is not a choice and children who have it should not be forced to speak or punished for their inability to speak. With proper treatment, children with selective mutism can learn to speak and communicate in social situations.


If your child is struggling with selective mutism, it is important to seek professional help from a Speech-Language Pathologist to develop a treatment plan and learn how to manage the condition. With the right support, children with selective mutism can go on to lead successful, fulfilling lives.


The Speech-Language Pathologists at Access to Better Communication are prepared to help you determine if your child is exhibiting the symptoms of Selective Mutism and, if so, help plan the appropriate treatment to help your child learn to enjoy speaking! Contact us for a free telephone consultation.




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