Selective Mutism Awareness


October is Selective Mutism awareness month.

Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. This is the definition of SM provided by Dr. Elisha Shipon-Blum, the president and director of the Selective Mutism Anxiety Research and Treatment Center (SMART) based in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. According to her, children affected by this disorder are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure, and relaxed.

Dr. Shipon-Blum also added that “the majority of children with Selective Mutism have a genetic predisposition to anxiety. In other words, they have inherited a tendency to be anxious from one or more family members.Very often, these children show signs of severe anxiety, such as separation anxiety, frequent tantrums and crying, moodiness, inflexibility, sleep problems, and extreme shyness from infancy on.”

The 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) (p.195) as follows:

Consistent failure to speak in specific social situations (in which there is an expectation for speaking, (e.g., at school) despite speaking in other situations.
The disturbance interferes with educational or occupational achievement or with social communication.
The duration of the disturbance is at least 1 month (not limited to the first month of school).
The failure to speak is not attributable to a lack of knowledge of, or comfort with, the spoken language required in the social situation.
The disturbance is not better explained by a communication disorder (e.g., childhood-onset fluency disorder) and does not occur exclusively during the course of autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, or another Psychotic Disorder.

A child with selective mutism should be seen by a pediatrician and a psychologist or psychiatrist in addition to a speech-language pathologist. These professionals will work as a team with teachers, family, and the individual.

Useful Links

See also:

Children’s Books about Anxiety: Helping Your Anxious Child

Selective Mutism Memoirs and Biographies

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