A short review : Selective Mutism

A short review : Selective Mutism

What is selective mutism ?

A child who has great difficulty in reacting and initiating conversation in non verbal and verbal manners. 

Anxiety and the relationship with this disorder

What is mostly known, based on social anxiety as a whole is that a person may feel too embarrassed or tense to respond to others especially in larger groups. 

What are the diagnostic criteria for Selective Mutism?
DSM-IV-TR (2000) defines Selective Mutism as follows:

  1. Consistent failure to speak in specific social situations (in which there is an expectation for speaking, e.g., at school) despite speaking in other situations.
  2. The disturbance interferes with educational or occupational achievement or with social communication.
  3. The duration of the disturbance is at least 1 month (not limited to the first month of school).
  4. The failure to speak is not due to a lack of knowledge of, or comfort with, the spoken language required in the social situation.
  5. The disturbance is not better accounted for by a Communication Disorder (e.g., stuttering) and does not occur exclusively during a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder.

SMart Center and their foundings 

Differences between Selective Mutism and traumatic mutism
Children who suffer from Selective Mutism speak in at least one setting and are rarely mute in all settings. Most have inhibited temperaments and manifest social anxiety. For children with Selective Mutism, their mutism is a means of avoiding the anxious feelings elicited by expectations and social encounters.

Impacts on the socio-emotional part of child development

As this is a difficult moment in a child's life, having trouble expressing themselves in moments of despair can be extremely painful on the mind and this can massively affect their mental health. Not mastering the ability to pinpoint their feelings or feeling scared is the most frustrating time o a child's life. What adults must do is reach out to them everyday, make them feel comfortable and use fun games to help them such as :

- Blah Blah phonics cards

- What's right, What's wrong

- Good Idea, Bad idea (Animaniacs) 

- Little talk

- Conversation Cubes

- Laugh and Learn *Fisher Price

- Zingo

- Sentence Building


Speech and Language therapy and Developmental reviews*

There are many forms of support for your child who has difficulties talking however, the most well-known and popular is SALT; they are referred to by your child's health visitor or school. 


Negative reactions to an upcoming event and feeling overtly stressed such as repeatedly saying to parent "I dont want to go" (verbalising their feelings) then arriving at the event and suddenly quiet or despondent. The Selective Mutism center also states that some children will turn their heads, chew or twirl their hair, avoid eye contact, or withdraw into a corner or away from the group seemingly more interested in playing alone.

Further help and guidance :

  • S-CAT® Program
  • Behaviour Therapy
  • 1:1 Teaching support assistant (individual treatment) 
  • Smaller learning groups 
  • 1:1 phonics sessions (sounding out letters, objects, words, etc.
  • Using card games, board games, physical activity to improve confidence, critical thinking, pride, speech, eye contact, physical movement  

Other features of Selective Mutism

- excessive shyness

- fear of social embarrassment

- constant social isolation and withdrawal

- clinginess 

- temper tantrums, or controlling or oppositional behavior, particularly at home. There may be severe impairment in social and school functioning. Teasing or goading by peers is common. Although children with this disorder generally have normal language skills,

Associations with Communication Disorder

- Phonological Disorder

- Expressive Language Disorder, or Mixed Receptive- Expressive Language Disorder) or a general medical condition that causes abnormalities of articulation.

- Mental Retardation*, hospitalization or extreme psychosocial stressors may be associated with the disorder.

Author's note: With proper and consistent help, there will be improvements on your child's social development. Please bear in mind, the efforts and hard work it does take to ensure your child reaches their full potiential !


10 February 2022

HI there! I have been working with families for over 15 years and have a resume that consists of various amounts of experiences. I have had great success with babies from 6 months old to young adults aged 21. Notably, these include working closely with parents, teachers, therapists in and out from schools to homes to enable the support necessary for children, young people and family members.

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