Does your child talk up a storm at home, but refuse to say a word the moment she steps out of the house? Does she freeze like a deer in the headlights when an unfamiliar adult asks her a question, such as the grocery store clerk or the librarian checking out her books? Has her teacher said your child hardly makes a peep?
Perhaps you’ve been told that your child is VERY SHY. Perhaps you have always thought of your child as being just very shy.
BUT HERE’S THE THING. Shy kids warm up. And they start to talk.
Kids with selective mutism don’t.
So what IS selective mutism?
It’s an anxiety disorder which affects about 1% of children. It’s a failure to speak in specific social situations in which speaking is expected, such as school, despite speaking in other situations.
Not surprisingly, it’s usually discovered when a child starts preschool, although most children do not get help until they are at least 6 years old.
Why do kids develop selective mutism? Contrary to popular belief, selective mutism is rarely caused by a traumatic event.
Children with selective mutism are generally born with more anxious temperaments; perhaps anxiety runs in the family tree.
For children with selective mutism, SILENCE IS PROTECTIVE. if you’re afraid to speak, not speaking reduces anxiety. A cycle is born.
Then, that cycle is reinforced by caring parents and other adults. For example, you might be familiar with this scenario.
The neighbor says “Hello, how are you?” to your child. Your child gets anxious and doesn’t respond. You get anxious, too, and tell the neighbor: “She’s fine, thanks, just shy.”
You all breathe a sigh of relief; the stressful moment has passed. Unfortunately, your child has learned that NOT SPEAKING makes her feel better. No change, no progress.
The good news is that change is possible.
Imagine your child free of selective mutism.
Therapy for selective mutism is systematic, effective, and even fun.
I help children learn to be the BOSS OF THEIR VOICES. They take gradual, steady steps learning to speak in anxiety-producing situations. They learn they can handle it, and that it feels good to talk and communicate!
Here are just some of the things that help kids start talking– playing Zingo, Spot It, Mad Libs, and with the Magic 8 Ball.
Of course, therapy involves a plan for school as well. I’ll work closely with your child’s school so she can learn, step by step, to speak up there.
After therapy, your child will be able to:
- Talk with all the kids, not just her best friend
- Raise her hand and say what she thinks
- Read out loud, if she old enough, so her teacher knows she can read
Outside of school, he could:
- Play with whomever he wants, not just his brother and cousins
- Go to summer camp
- Talk to his baseball coach
Your child does not have to suffer from selective mutism.