What is selective mutism?
Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder where a child is unable to speak in certain situations or to certain people.
A child with selective mutism will have the full ability to speak and understand language however, they fail to use this in certain situations. A child with selective mutism will function typically in their learning and behaviour but may appear withdrawn in social groups.
Children with selective mutism will present in different ways and severities. For example a child with selective mutism may speak fully at home and appear social at school, but not speak to adults in the school environment. Other children with selective mutism may only speak when a question requires a short answer. In more severe cases which can be known as progressive mutism a child may not talk to anyone at all.
Many children with selective mutism will additionally have other anxiety disorders e.g. obsessive compulsive disorder. Children with selective mutism may avoid eye contact, have difficulty expressing their feelings and have excessive shyness.
Selective mutism can have a major impact on the child's social and educational environment and may interrupt their learning and peer relationships.
What causes selective mutism in children?
It has been suggested that for most children with selective mutism the main cause is an inherited predisposition to anxiety. Other causes may include sensory integration dysfunction or trauma in childhood.
What problems caused by selective mutism can speech and language therapy help with?
Speech and language therapy can help with speech and language difficulties affected by selective mutism. Areas of speech and language that may be affected as a result of a selective mutism are:
How is selective mutism diagnosed?
A diagnosis of selective mutism will be made if the child meets the diagnostic criteria for selective mutism. A speech and language therapist will contribute to the diagnosis and will carry out an assessment of the child's speech and language abilities.
An assessment carried out by the speech and language therapist will include:
- A discussion with you about your child's speech and language abilities and also situations where your child may avoid speaking.
- A family history of any speech and language difficulties and also a history of your child's development.
- An interaction with your child to gain a general observation of your child's speech and language skills.
- A detailed assessment of your child's speech and language abilities.
How does speech and language therapy help children with selective mutism?
It has been suggested that if left untreated, a child with selective mutism may go on to having social difficulties or become more isolated over time. Early intervention is beneficial for a child with selective mutism.
Speech and language therapy will focus on helping to reduce your child's anxieties about using speech and language. Therapy sessions will also work on increasing your child's confidence and self-esteem in communicating in situations they may find difficult.
Speech and language therapy will also help you as a parent or carer to understand the disorder and how best to help and support your child with their communication difficulty.
What would speech and language therapy treatment for a child with selective mutism involve?
The speech and language therapist will carry out an initial assessment to help identify any speech and language difficulties your child may have and also the severity of their difficulties. This assessment will help to decide on what the best treatment plan will be for your child. Speech and language therapy may include:
- One to One Therapy
- Clinic Visits
- Home Visits
- Alternative and Augmentative Communication
- Advice and Education
How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment?
To arrange an initial assessment with one of our speech and language therapists please email@example.com or call 0330 0885 643.
Selective mutism is a social anxiety disorder where a child has the full ability to use and understand language, but will avoid speaking in certain social situations. Selective mutism can impact on the child's confidence in communicating and also socialising with others. Speech and language therapy will focus on reducing your child's anxiety and increasing their confidence as a communicator. If you feel you and your child would benefit from any of the above services then please feel free to contact us by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling us on 0330 0885 643.
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