Published on 14th September, 2019 by Dr. Sanveen Kang
Selective mutism is a complex anxiety disorder where the ability to communicate is hindered in settings where a child or individual does not feel comfortable. Often times, individuals with selective mutism face challenges in communicating effectively and confidently within a social setting. They have an actual FEAR of speaking and of social interactions where there is an expectation to speak and communicate.
More than 90% of children with Selective Mutism also have social phobia or social anxiety. As such, the disorder is debilitating and painful to the child.
Not all children manifest their anxiety in the same way. Some may be completely mute and unable to speak or communicate to anyone in a social setting, others may be able to speak to a select few or perhaps whisper. Some children may stand motionless with fear as they are confronted with specific social settings. They may freeze, be expressionless, unemotional and may be socially isolated. Less severely affected children may look relaxed and carefree, and are able to socialize with one or a few children but are unable to speak and effectively communicate to teachers or most/all peers. These behaviors tend to interfere with educational or occupational achievement and, may lead to clinging to caregivers, temper tantrums, oppositional behaviour, compulsive traits and negativity. Needless to say, these sets of behaviours can present as being incredibly confusing and distressing for parents or caregivers of a child with selective mutism.
In addition to seeking support from a trained professional with experience in working with children with selective mutism, parents can consider the following strategies to support and encourage their child in social settings:
At Psych Connect, we support families with children with Selective Mutism using a range of bespoke individual and group based treatment. Our treatment approaches comprise of emotional processing, parenting skills training, behavioral intervention and other skills trainings.