What is Selective Mutism?
Selective Mutism is an anxiety based disorder that causes individuals to be unable to speak in specific settings or with specific listeners despite the ability to speak freely when they are in a comfortable setting and/or with comfortable listeners. There is a common misconception that individuals with SM are choosing not to talk. Selective mutism is a phobia of speaking. It is not a choice.
SM often coexists with other areas of individual differences, such as; anxiety disorders, speech/language disorders, sensory integration disorders, difficulty sleeping, difficulty eating/toileting in public.
SM is often identified in the preschool years when a child first goes to school and she/he is not able to speak to teachers and/or peers. More mild cases may not be identified until the late adolescent or teenage years. Though this can feel like a difficult time for school teams and parents, there are wonderful resources available and with appropriate supports in place, an individual at any age can find their voice. It’s never too late!
There are different approaches to treating SM. Within an integrated approach, the support process often includes more than one therapeutic component. Frequent support components include counseling with a clinical psychologist, medication consultation and management with a psychiatrist, and brave voice work with a speech language pathologist.
If it is left untreated, selective mutism can severely impact a child’s self-esteem, self-concept, social development, and education. SM is best supported by a knowledgeable team of providers and active parental and school involvement.
To learn more, visit www.selectivemutism.org.
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