Selective mutism teens

Selective Mutism in Adolescence | Kurtz Psychology

While selective mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder often associated with young children, teens and adults can also suffer from SM.  In many cases, teens with SM have been struggling with anxiety for years. It could be that the SM was not treated or perhaps was not responsive to the level of treatment provided in childhood. There also may be environmental factors that have maintained the anxiety inadvertently. For example, a well-meaning parent or teacher might assist an anxious child in avoiding distressing situations, and thereby reinforce the anxious avoidance cycle. After many years of practicing this avoidance, a child with SM may evolve into a teen who is very adept at not talking. While research on adolescent SM is still fairly limited, SM specialists have identified important factors to consider in supporting teens with SM.  

Entrenched Avoidance Requires Treatment  

Teens with SM often have ingrained patterns of avoidance and ineffective coping skills for managing anxiety. By this point, not speaking has become a familiar response and a teen’s identity as the ‘One Who Does Not Talk’ has likely been reinforced. At the same time, teens have increased self-consciousness about what others think and increased reflective capacity. As you might imagine, teens with SM often have comorbid anxiety or depressive disorders. Social anxiety is an especially common comorbid disorder which can make behavioral engagement with peers and adults difficult. For example, teens with social anxiety may struggle to raise their hand in school or to participate in gym class. Adolescents with SM are more at risk for these comorbid disorders given continued struggles over an extended period that result in impairment in school, social, and family functioning.  Other manifestations of anxiety may also arise in the school setting such as perfectionism, procrastination, test anxiety, or even school refusal behaviors. For example, a teen might resist going to high school due overwhelming anxiety about participating in class and socializing with peers.  A student with SM and social anxiety may struggle to turn in materials to the teachers, particularly if speech is expected in the transaction. These entrenched avoidance behaviors require treatment in order to reduce the risk of longer-term poor outcomes.  

Social Isolation May Increase 

As children evolve into teenagers, they inhabit a more cliquey social world. High schoolers often establish social groups, and friends will confide in one another and engage in shared hobbies. This evolution of socialization can be quite challenging for teens with SM who may struggle to share personal information, advocate for themselves, and initiate interactions. Because of this, teens with SM will increasingly stand out as different and may be at increased risk for teasing or bullying from peers. In the school settings, teens with SM benefit from warm relationships with teachers as well as thoughtful pairings in group assignments. Given increased social pressures in high school and college years, older teens and adults with SM are at increased risk for using substances such as alcohol or drugs to self-medicate for their anxiety.  While many people find alcohol to be a social lubricate—making conversations and small talk more manageable—there is a thin line between appropriate use and self-medicating that must be monitored.    

A Robust Treatment Plan 

By the time children with SM reach adolescence, they have likely been struggling with anxiety about speaking for years. SM symptoms will be more deep-seated and may be more resistant to treatment. For this reason, it’s critical that the treatment approach for a teen with SM is comprehensive and well-staged to provide the extra boost needed to see progress. A teen with SM may require more intensive treatment—for example, scheduling 20–30 hours of treatment in one week versus 1 hour weekly sessions over the course of many months. More intensive treatment can build up more momentum in anxiety exposures and allow for greater gains in a short period of time. Exposures for teens may focus on real-life skills such as rehearsing interview questions, practicing presentations, or asking a question at the grocery store.  Additionally, for teens with a history of selective mutism, a psychiatric evaluation is recommended to determine appropriateness of medication. For some children, getting on a stable dose of an anxiety medication before beginning treatment is critical to successful engagement in exposures. Who tends to be a good fit for medication? Often, kids who have already been anxious for years who have more pervasive SM symptoms will benefit from medication. Children who have difficulty engaging in CBT treatment may benefit from medication in order to participate in a meaningful way. Additionally, if a teen’s SM is comorbid with another disorder (such as depression), the symptom presentation will be more complex to treat and could benefit from medication.  

What Are Medications for SM? 

The most popular medications for SM are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). These are considered the first-line treatment for anxiety disorders more broadly.  Common SSRI’s used include Prozac and Zoloft, and the specific medication chosen may be influenced by family history of SSRI use. For example, if an anxious child’s parent has responded positively to Medication X with limited side effects, the child’s biochemistry could be similar and an appropriate fit for Medication X. Child psychiatrists would start a child on a small dose and gradually increase the dose while monitoring side effects. Some children may respond to a low dose of medication and others will require a larger dose to see a therapeutic effect. While parents may worry about potential side effects, there are also risks of under-treating. Every day that a child is impaired is demoralizing and negatively impacts self-esteem and self-efficacy. Long term, risks of under-treating anxiety disorders such as SM can be immense—including increased school absences, underachievement, impaired peer relations, and continued anxiety disorders in adulthood. 

Getting Accommodations in School and at Work 

For adolescents and adults with SM, school and work may be difficult to engage in successfully or fully.  It can be hard for a teen to present, ask clarifying questions, and to engage behaviorally by raising their hand. Accommodations, such as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan from the teen’s school will be helping in obtaining a formal assessment and identifying the best supports for the child in the school setting. If your teen is struggling to engage in schoolwork or to attend school due to SM challenges, school accommodations will be particularly useful to create a more supportive environment at school to allow for learning. For example, assignments can be adjusted for teens with SM (e.g. presentations may evolve into a smaller group presentation or 1:1 presentation). A student could be permitted to write or videotape particular assignments. At the college level, school and work accommodations can also be provided. At this stage, assessment is often conducted through a private psychologist.  

While it can be very challenging to see your teen struggle with SM symptoms, it is never too late to engage in behavioral treatment for SM! A thorough intake evaluation can support your family in identifying the best course of treatment including the frequency and intensity of sessions as well as medication considerations. Normalizing your teen’s experience with SM can be beneficial. Young adult books, like After Zero, tell empowering stories of children contending with SM. Such readings can help teens with SM to know that they are not alone. 



Boorady, Roy, et al. “When Should Medication Be Used to Treat Selective Mutism?” Child Mind Institute, 17 Jan. 2020, 

Gosney, Clarissa J. “Selective Mutism In Teens And Adults.”, 6 Mar. 2020, 

“How Can You Help a 16-Year-Old Who Still Has Selective Mutism?” Child Mind Institute, 26 Oct. 2016, 

“Info: Older Children & Teens.” SMIRA, 11 Sept. 2017,  

“Selective Mutism.” Anxiety Canada, 

“What Success Rate Is given to Treating Teens with SM?” Selective Mutism Association, 13 June 2016, 

Selective Mutism In Teens And Adults

Many teens and adults with Selective Mutism struggle with social isolation because of their anxiety.

When people speak about Selective Mutism (SM), they often refer to children.  That is because SM is an anxiety disorder that is diagnosed in childhood, typically around when a child begins school.  But what happens to SM when a child grows into adolescence, or when a teen matures into adulthood?  Without treatment, SM generally does not “go away” on its own; people often don’t just “grow out of it.”  There are many teens and adults striving to overcome Selective Mutism.

Read this article for a detailed explanation of Selective Mutism - its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Every day, people of all ages with Selective Mutism struggle with an internal dialogue and conflicting emotions.  They want to talk, but the thought of talking makes them anxious.  Sometimes they go to speak, and nothing comes out.  Candid reactions, teasing from others, or even perceived judgments may further increase their anxiety, making them less likely to be able to speak again on another attempt.  Even in a kindergarten or preschool classroom, it doesn’t take long for other students to identify a student with SM as the child who “doesn’t talk.”

Have you ever said “hello” to someone and they said nothing in return?  Have you ever held the door for someone and they neglected to say “thank you?”  What about the guy at work who never talks to anyone? What if the person you held the door for wanted nothing more than to say “Thank you” with a big smile on their face, but was speechless … because of their anxiety? 

The SM Continuum: From Child to Teen to Adult

Many teens and adults with SM struggle with social isolation as a result of their anxiety surrounding speaking to others.   As children, especially in preschool and early elementary years, we are often taught by teachers that all of our peers are our “friends,” regardless of differences.  As children get older, they begin to segregate into social circles, forming closer bonds with those whom they share interests.  These social circles tend to only become more prominent and defined in adolescence and adulthood.  This is often difficult for individuals with SM because they may not be able to tell others what their interests are, or they may be socially isolated by their peers for being “different.”  The fear of speaking, and the realization that others may notice their lack of speaking, often causes the person with SM to withdraw, especially as they get older.

With the misconception that SM only occurs in childhood, it is not uncommon for teens with SM to be mislabeled as “defiant,” or for adults with SM to be labeled as “rude.” Most people expect a teen or an adult to speak when they are spoken to.  When they don’t, it might be seen as an adamant refusal instead of an anxious response.   Not only do some individuals with SM get in trouble for not speaking, they also may be susceptible to being unfairly accused of wrongdoings because of their lack of ability to stand up for themselves, verbally.

For example, a group of students may be rough housing at school and when probed, the other students involved may claim that the student with SM started the rough housing.  When brought into the principal’s office (a high-anxiety situation), the student with SM is unable to speak, even to defend himself, and therefore is assumed to be ‘guilty’ and assumes whatever punishment is given to him.  School suspension might even be a source of immediate relief of the anxiety because this student with SM now has a few days where he does not have to face the anxieties of talking in school.  Instead, he can stay in his comfort zone (home).

Adults with Selective Mutism face additional unique stressors.  How does one get a job if they are too anxious to speak during an interview?  If they get the job, how do they keep it if they are too anxious to talk to customers, coworkers, or their manager?  Unfortunately, many adults with SM are financially dependent on others (such as an elderly parent) for these reasons.

Finding the Right Treatment

There is a lot of hard work involved, but there is hope for overcoming SM.  While early intervention for SM is highly recommended, many adults with SM did not have the option for early intervention.  SM is a rare condition and most mental health providers don’t know what it is, much less how to treat it.  Frequently, people with SM travel for hours, or even to other states, to receive treatment from someone who specializes in the treatment of Selective Mutism. 

Selective Mutism treatment requires skills and exercises that are not often addressed in typical anxiety treatment.  This is why it is crucial to seek treatment from a clinician who specializes in the treatment of SM.  Even still, the treatment of adolescents and adults with SM is different than treatment for children with SM. 

In the treatment of adults, clinicians who specialize in Selective Mutism have the benefit of working with someone who likely has a fair amount of insight into what they are struggling with.   They tend to have already seen the effects SM has had on their lives in the workplace, at school and in their social, family, and romantic relationships.  Adults with SM also often have a desire to overcome their anxiety around talking.  While treatment methods will vary from clinician-to-clinician, at Pinnacle Counseling and Testing Center, our treatment of adolescents and adults with Selective Mutism always involves a combination of psychoeducation on anxiety, coping-skills building, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Graduated Exposure (GE). 

The most common reaction to anxiety is to avoid what triggers the anxiety.  In the case of Selective Mutism, this means avoiding situations where speaking is expected.  While this avoidance may reduce one’s anxiety in the moment (e.g., “if I don’t go to that job interview, I won’t feel that high anxiety;” or “if I don’t go to school today, I won’t have to face the anxiety of that oral presentation”), it only makes the anxiety about speaking even stronger and increases the chances of “freezing” the next time there is an expectation or opportunity to speak.   

Treatment should involve gradual exposure activities that specifically address areas of challenge that are specific to each individual.  Regarding difficulty speaking during a job interview, exposure activities may include practicing interviewing skills in the office, asking for help in finding items at a grocery store (to become familiar with speaking with and asking questions of an unfamiliar person), sharing personal information about one’s self in the form of a small-group presentation, and then actually participating in a formal interview. 

Whether one’s anxiety leads to functional limitations in speaking with family members, co-workers, or people in the community, an individualized treatment plan should be created collaboratively with the individual with SM to help increase speaking in a normal volume in a variety of situations.

Click Here to Find a Therapist

School or Workplace Accommodations

In grade school, college, or the workforce, individuals with Selective Mutism may qualify for school-based or work-based accommodations.   Just like someone with a learning disability, if someone’s academic or vocational work is negatively impacted by their SM diagnosis, they may qualify for special accommodations in order to help them succeed in that environment. 

  • In grade school or college, one common accommodation is alternative methods of presentation (e.g., written paper in lieu of a presentation, video recording from home, presenting to teacher/professor one-on-one, or small group presentation). 
  • In the workplace, common accommodations include the option for written communication, limited involvement in a role that requires speaking, assistance of a job coach, or involvement of the individual’s clinician in the workplace while conducting graduated exposure activities to increase speaking in the workplace.

In order to obtain formal accommodations, most academic institutions and workplace environments will ask for a report of formal psychological assessment or letter of need from an individual’s clinician.   In grade school, parents can choose to have their child or teen assessed by the school psychologist for accommodations in the form of an IEP or Section 504.  This assessment process through the public school system is free of charge.  Even if a child attends a private school, parents can inquire about an assessment through their public school district office. 

Parents can also choose to have their student tested through a private psychologist, preferably one who specializes in Selective Mutism.  Most often, an assessment through a private psychologist will be paid privately or through insurance.  For college and work accommodations, most of the time these assessments need to be conducted by a private psychologist (again, preferably one who specializes in SM) and must be paid for privately by the family or the individual applying, or through their insurance.

While the symptoms of Selective Mutism can feel debilitating at times, the good news is that through hard work, dedication, and the support of a clinician who specializes in the treatment of SM, overcoming Selective Mutism is possible, no matter what age.

Recommended For You

Selective Mutism: The New Anxiety Disorder
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania


Is Your Child Too Quiet? It May Be Selective Mutism
Beate Oerbeck, Ph.D. from Oslo University Hospital


Selective Mutism In Twins
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania



Date of original publication: March 06, 2020

What is selective mutism and how to treat it - Knife

What is selective mutism and how to treat it - Knife

Little is known about selective mutism. This is a selective refusal of speech in children who, as a rule, do not use speech skills outside the home, and especially in educational institutions. At the same time, sometimes such children can communicate with the help of mean gestures, monosyllabic answers to questions and whispers. In Russia, as in many other countries, there is neither a clear diagnostic system, nor special treatment methods, nor doctors dealing with this problem separately. We talked about it with mothers whose children have selective mutism, as well as with British therapist Lucy Nathanson, who specializes in this disease. nine0003


According to the Moscow Institute of Correctional Pedagogy, this disorder occurs in 1% of children, more often in girls.

“Selective mutism (SM) is a separate diagnosis, it is included in ICD-10 and ICD-11. As a rule, the appearance of SM is preceded by other disorders of speech development, - says the head of the Center for Behavioral Neurology of the Institute of the Human Brain named after N.P. Bekhtereva Leonid Chutko. - Anxiety, which is noted in 75% of children with SM, plays a large role in the genesis of the disease. There is no specific therapy. In our country, nootropics and anti-anxiety drugs are usually used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy and family psychotherapy.” nine0003

According to experts, the most important thing is to create a comfortable psychological atmosphere for the child in which he would feel safe and be able to realize his potential: you need to find an activity for the child, motivate him and praise him for his achievements.

Natalya Tatarinova
mother of a daughter with selective mutism, founder of communities for parents of children with SM on VKontakte and Instagram*

Until my daughter was three years old, I did not notice any oddities in her. She developed like all children at her age and communicated with all family members. But a month after Adriana started going to kindergarten, a children's speech therapist called us and said that her daughter was talking to only one girl in the group. Then I did not take her advice to take my daughter to a neurologist seriously, deciding that Adriana was just embarrassed, that she would “outgrow it”. nine0003

Soon we moved to St. Petersburg and transferred our daughter to a private kindergarten. But even in comfortable conditions in a small group of ten people, she never spoke to anyone. That's when I really got worried and started looking for a competent child psychologist.

Friends advised us to consult online with Maria Ignatova from Krasnodar. It was she who first made the assumption that her daughter had selective mutism and referred us to a psychiatrist. She also recommended involving Adrian in your affairs, taking her with you to visit or to dance classes - that is, to include her in society as much as possible. And also find a community of parents of mulatto children on the Internet (Adriana's father is from Africa. - Ed.) and arrange acquaintances for children. On her advice, I made friends with several parents in kindergarten, explained the situation to them and began to invite them to visit us with the children. Later, I made information leaflets about selective mutism, and now, when I come with a child to a clinic or a children's club, I distribute printouts to everyone - I work ahead of the curve. nine0003

After a consultation with a psychiatrist, for the first time I thought that the problem could be hereditary and called Adriana's father. When we met, he seemed rather shy, but he had no obvious communication problems. When he learned about his daughter's diagnosis, he was not too surprised. “In childhood, I wasn’t just talking, I was afraid to eat in front of people,” he told me. The psychiatrist prescribed drug therapy combined with psychotherapy for her daughter. But the drug she prescribed is allowed in Russia only from the age of six. Therefore, for now, we do without it. nine0003

Recently, Adriana began to go to sand therapy, it discharges her emotionally very much: she tells me with pleasure what she did in the class, and at the same time she became somehow calmer. But in the team, she still practically does not communicate with anyone. We had to change kindergarten, and Adriana behaves even more closed there: her shoulders even tighten with excitement when she enters the classroom. We were sent to the pedagogical commission, and just imagine: a speech therapist, a child psychologist and a kindergarten head are sitting, and I tell them what selective mutism is. They have never heard of such a thing! nine0003

Adriana never spoke to the speech therapist - she had to show the video with her daughter so that she could draw some conclusions. After that, the speech therapist said: “Your daughter does not have a pronunciation disorder, so I can neither give you a referral to a speech therapy garden, nor put a ZPR. We have such children, but they study according to the usual program. And homework is sent in video format.” Unfortunately, we have very little information about selective mutism, and it is mostly outdated, so I have to translate foreign articles myself. nine0003

Experts either think it will go away on its own or diagnose it as developmental delay. When I started running a group on VKontakte and met other parents of such children, I learned how selective mutism manifests itself in different ways.

Adriana, for example, talks to me at home and on the street, and when she enters an unfamiliar place, she immediately falls silent. Someone, on the contrary, communicates in kindergarten, and speech is turned off at home. Drugs help some children, and there is progress in a couple of months, while others do not start talking until they are eight years old. So everything is very individual here. Now I am planning a meeting with families where there are children with selective mutism. I would like to see how they interact with each other. nine0003

* Part of the Meta company, which is recognized as an extremist organization and banned on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Ksenia Medvedeva
mother of a son with selective mutism

I have two children. The eldest son Artem suffers from selective mutism. For a long time, we did not suspect this diagnosis - at home, the son communicated with us quite normally, clearly expressed his thoughts. Of course, he was always a reserved, anxious child, he had few friends in kindergarten. But we thought that we were growing an introvert, there were no particular concerns. When Artem was five years old, we transferred him to a correctional eye kindergarten, and then the situation worsened. Perhaps stress also affected - we had a daughter. Experts said that this is a common story - after the birth of the youngest child, the older child is given less attention, he feels abandoned, and begins to behave worse. nine0003

The teachers began to complain that Artyom did not play with other children, did not draw or do crafts with everyone else. When I asked if they were trying to involve the child in some kind of activity, they answered that they would not persuade Artyom, since he was already an adult. At home, the son said that everyone in the kindergarten was evil. It got to the point that he begged not to take him to the garden, fell asleep badly.

When the pandemic started, I sat at home with my children for six months. And then it was time to enroll my youngest daughter in kindergarten, and I decided to take Artyom too. Moreover, child psychologists told me that he cannot be isolated, he needs to communicate with other children. And in the new kindergarten - the most ordinary one, with a group of twenty-five people - we were lucky to have a teacher. She tried her best to "rock". For example, I took him by the hand and made him draw with her. And he gradually got involved. nine0003

One winter, Artyom fell while walking and cut his cheek on the ice. Blood flows, but he is silent, does not make a sound, only tears flow down his cheeks. After this incident, the teacher advised us to go to a specialist in kindergarten No. 53. They work with autistic children and give free consultations. The neurologist did an encephalogram and said that there were no neurological problems. We went to the psychiatrist, he prescribed a light antidepressant sertraline. The result was not long in coming - my son's anxiety disappeared, he began to sleep better. In kindergarten, Artyom began to actively gesticulate - it became easier for teachers and children to understand him. A month later, he was already making some sounds. Then he spoke in a whisper, in the ear of the children he liked. The psychologist advised me to motivate my son to speak. nine0003

So we got a box of sweets, and we asked the teachers to “reward” Artyom for every word he said. In addition, we draw a social story for our son - this is something like a comic book in which your child is the main character, and you gradually draw different situations and how you need to behave in them.

I drew and explained to my son: “It’s you, here you come to the garden and greet the teacher”, etc. I also create social situations myself to involve my son in a conversation: we go to the store, I give him money and I ask you to buy something yourself. Progress is slow, but there is. Although, for now, Artyom flatly refuses to talk to caregivers and doctors. nine0003

When I started looking for information about selective mutism, I came across posts on social networks written by teenagers with this problem. It turned out that even if the child was cured, the disease can "catch up" with him at an older age.

Lucy Nathanson
British therapist specializing in children with selective mutism, author of books on SM

I have been dealing with selective mutism for many years. Now I have a small team of specialists working with me. About twenty families from all over the world contact us every week. The geography is extensive: USA, Australia, China, Poland. We have already helped hundreds of such families. I suspect that there are many more children with selective mutism in Russia than the statistics show. Some time ago in the UK, things were similar - such children were at best considered very shy or silent, and sometimes they were diagnosed with autism. And there is still a myth about what not to say is the choice of the child himself. Another myth is that the problem of SM is necessarily genetic or arises due to a bad psychological situation in the family. But this is far from always the case. nine0003

SM is more common in children prone to anxiety. For example, a child is afraid to move away from his mother and play on the playground. Then his mother takes him to a kindergarten and leaves him alone with a large number of unfamiliar children and adults who want something from him and ask questions. And he is so frightened that the vocal cords spasm - the child simply physically cannot speak. But this problem can be solved if a good specialist starts working with the child.

For example, in addition to online consultations, I provide direct therapy and intensive therapy. In the first case, I spend two days with the family: I communicate with the child and with the parents, I watch how the child behaves at home. Then I go to the store with him and try to involve him in the shopping process: we choose what to buy, discuss this or that product, start talking with consultants, the cashier. Everything should happen as naturally as possible and imperceptibly for the child. This technique is called exposure - that is, I create a social situation outside the home and open up the opportunity for the child to communicate with the outside world. During intensive care, I spend a whole week with the child. nine0003

I go with him to kindergarten or school, sit in class and use the sliding in technique - I play with the child, and the teacher goes about his business and is present as if in the background. After some time, I turn to the teacher, involving him in our lesson with the child.

Since I have already established contact with the child by this time, it turns out that the educator does not intrude into the child's space, but we ourselves ask him to do so. And gradually the child "accepts" the teacher and starts talking to him. Of course, sometimes you have to persuade the leaders of the educational institution to give us such an opportunity. Usually, after an intensive session, I continue to keep in touch with my family - and I want to note that there is always progress in one way or another. Of course, all children are different and some may need more time. As a rule, this is due to the presence of additional diagnoses in the child. nine0003

I once had therapy with a girl who, in addition to SM, had autism and pathological demand avoidance. She refused many of my proposals and generally resisted communicating with me in every possible way. I had to invent new ways of interaction. For example, I told her: "You are in charge here, so you will choose what we will do today." This is the turn she didn't expect!

On average, a week-long therapy session is enough for a child to start talking at least a little. By the way, drug therapy is not used in the treatment of selective mutism in the UK. The problem is solved exclusively by behavioral therapy. It is also very important to correctly tell your environment that your child has selective mutism. I have written several books about this problem, they are small in size and written in an accessible language - so that the grandmother of the child, and the kindergarten teacher, and even the child from the group could understand what selective mutism is and how to communicate with such a child. nine0003

Useful links:
  • VKontakte community dedicated to selective mutism;
  • UK SM website recommended by Lucy Nathanson;
  • Lucy Nathanson's YouTube channel about SM.

Selective mutism: don't be afraid, you need to know how to help the child

All young parents are impatiently waiting for their child to start talking. And now the kid says the first word, then a sentence, then he chats incessantly. But he does this only at home, and is silent in kindergarten and on the playground. What to do? Our blogger, psychologist Lyubov Moshinskaya-Brumberg tells. nine0003

Your child speaks well. He chats with you incessantly, recites poetry, sings songs, tells you different things - about the creation of the world, about the Egyptian pyramids, about penguins and crocodiles. But here's the trouble - he doesn't talk in the garden: neither with the teacher, nor with the children. Not in Russian, not in Hebrew, not in Japanese. He does not talk to the children on the playground and to their grandmothers, who certainly want to know his name. He falls silent when friends come to you. And often you are hinted (or directly told) that he has a speech delay. But you know what he says - and better than many. nine0003

This disorder has a name - selective mutism. In translation, it means selective dumbness. In other words, the child's speech is developed normally, but he does not speak with everyone. Anxiety is at the root of this disorder. As a rule, one cannot do without a specialist. But in order to successfully fight this phenomenon, it is necessary to work not only in therapy, but also to cooperate with family and school.

You parents can do a lot to make the child calm and anxiety disappear:

1. Do not worry

First of all, be calm about the fact that not everywhere the child can speak. Your calmness is transferred to the child. And vice versa: when you worry, the child feels your anxiety, and closes even more. You should not be worried about what the mother will say at the playground, to which your child did not answer what his name is.

2. Encourage the child's efforts

Tell the child that it is normal for him to sometimes find it difficult to speak. Just as normal as a child who is afraid of the dark or bad at cycling. Gradually he will overcome these difficulties. And even for small attempts to overcome, he deserves praise. At the same time, it is important to praise not the result (he fell off the bike), but the efforts put into the matter (“you try to learn, despite the difficulties!”). nine0003

3. Educate others

Remember that people often do not know what selective mutism is. For example, a kindergarten teacher, teachers at school, relatives who visited you, or the same mothers on the playground try to force the child to speak or make comments to him. This makes it even more difficult for the child. Explain to them what is happening and how to behave with the child. It is very useful to have a conversation with the children in the class and with their parents (in the absence of a child) and explain to them what this violation is. nine0003

4. Remember that you have many reasons to be proud of your child

I'm sure you have many reasons to be proud of your child. Maybe he draws well, manages quickly with Lego, sings, runs, somersaults. After all, verbal communication is just a small part of his abilities. It is worth sharing with others what the child can do well. You can even (with the permission of the child) show them the products of his work (drawings, or origami, or plasticine figures). Then the child will feel that you are proud of him, that he is capable and that there are many reasons to praise him. nine0003

Of course, parents can help their child in many ways. Now we talked about support, about keeping the child "afloat", not letting him go deeper into anxiety. How can you help him overcome his anxiety? How can you help him move forward? How can I help him make friends? How to establish his connection with friends and relatives? I will talk about this in the next text.

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