At first these parents thought their children's reluctance was simple shyness. But they soon learned that dealing with selective mutism is never simple
Is my child shy?
“Some children may seem shy and quiet when first adjusting to a new school or daycare. But if you’re still concerned about your child after a reasonable adjustment period of a month or two, speak to your family physician or paediatrician,” says child psychologist Angela McHolm. After ruling out physical causes, such as hearing difficulties, the doctor may refer you to children’s mental health services. A social worker or psychologist can do
an initial assessment of general development and speech and language issues, including screening for mental health.
The word on Selective Mutism
• SM affects up to two percent of school-aged children.
• Immigrant children from language minority families are three times more likely to develop SM.
• Risk factors include family history of anxiety, shyness or SM, as well as early speech-language difficulties and adjusting to a new culture.
• Approximately one-third of children with SM have some kind of early speech-language difficulty.
• Children with SM are also at risk of developing other forms of anxiety, social anxiety being the most common, followed by separation anxiety
Helping Your Child with Selective Mutism
by Angela McHolm, Charles Cunningham and Melanie Vanier
The Selective Mutism Resource Manual
by Maggie Johnson and Alison Wintgens
SM workshops for parents and professionals
The Child Mind Institute has in-depth expert Q & As, articles and a blog, and also runs an intensive summer SM program called Brave Buddies
The Selective Mutism Group has extensive information, an online bookstore and a Facebook page of the same name
The site of the Selective Mutism Anxiety Research and Treatment Center, run by SM expert Elisa Shipon-Blum
Facebook also has several selective mutism support group pages.
Amy Baskin knows how challenging selective mutism can be. Her daughter, who also has autism, has struggled with it.
*Names changed by request.