Helping Girls with Selective Mutism Find their Voice

Does this sound like a child you know? She blushes when meeting new people; answers in the softest whisper, if at all, when a non-family member asks a simple question such as her name or age; and gets tongue tied when called on at school. Is she shy–or is she struggling with Selective Mutism? Selective Mutism is an anxiety related disorder affecting roughly 7 in 1,000 boys and girls. Different from the shy child, the child with Selective Mutism has the ability to speak and engage quite vibrantly in environments where she is most comfortable. And, she literally “freezes” in situations where she is not. She may be the chatty goofball at home, but teachers and fellow students know her as the quiet one who seldom talks and never raises her hand.
It can be frustrating and debilitating for a child to go through important school years with undiagnosed and untreated Selective Mutism. Literally thousands of questions a week go unanswered and lessons go unlearned for a child that is unable to ask for what she needs. As a result, she requires a unique approach to treatment that involves caring support and encouragement from teachers and family members to help her break free from the silence.

Here at the Institute, I value my work with girls with Selective Mutism. Though struggling, they are often very motivated and yearn to find their voices. Three components are most important when helping girls like these find their voices:

  • working with the child to develop tools to manage anxiety and slowly build more confidence to speak “bravely;”
  • providing information and coaching for parents; and
  • working with the child in the environment/s in which she feels most paralyzed, usually at school.

Parents want so much for the rest of the world to get to know the wonderful, exuberant child they know at home. Employing a team approach can help make this happen.

In addition, here are a few resources that may be of interest to you:

Selective Mutism Group: http://www.SelectiveMutism.org

Books:

Helping Your Child With Selective Mutism: Steps to Overcome a Fear of Speakingby Angela McHolm, Ph.D., Charles Cunningham, Ph.D., and Melanie Vanier.

Understanding Katie by Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum.
Please note: Nothing in what you find here should be construed as medical advice pertinent to any individual. As is true with all written materials, and especially information found on the internet, you must be the judge of what appears valid and useful for yourself. Please take up any questions you might have regarding the content of this website with your psychotherapist or physician.