I'm curious to hear what you and other parents have to say about selective mutism. Our two-year-old does not speak, or sometimes interact at all, with his caregivers after several months in a daycare situation. Our doctor does not seem concerned, but for a child who does not stop talking at home and has an advanced vocabulary for his age, it seems a huge shame that he is not using his verbal skills with people outside the family. This is definitely not an autistic situation, or even a slow-to-warm-up one, as I've read online that those children will eventually begin to interact after a month or so. I'd be particularly interested in hearing about therapies that we can implement at the daycare to get our child to communicate.
From: A Mom, Boston
Hi A Mom,
Coincidentally, a friend who is a speech and language therapist was telling me just the other day that she has had only two cases of selective mutism in her 30+ year career, and the second case was a child of 8 with whom she is working right now. She was excited because she had had a breakthrough that day. He had whispered to her for the first time. She had been working with him since September, so a month may be an optimistic expectation.
As you probably know, selective mutism is not a phase that a child outgrows, it is a social anxiety disorder in which a child is speaks at home but chooses not to talk, generally, outside the home. It is rare, but not as rare as you might suspect, affecting 7 out of 1000 children.
Selective mutism often first presents during the preschool years. My advice is not to waste any time; early intervention is the way to go. Consult with a licensed speech and language therapist, or with a psychologist who has experience with selective mutism. My friend describes it as "an extreme case of stage fright, and the world outside the home is the stage."
Strategies with school-age children include taping the child at home doing oral homework assignments, such as a book report. This could work with a preschooler as well. Also, allowing the child to choose one friend to whisper to, that is, empowering him/her to be able to whisper is OK.
What you want to avoid is shaming or disciplining him for not speaking. A nurturing preschool could be a wonderful environment for him, as long as no one there is shaming or punitive.
There are many resources on the web which you may have already discovered. I found this segment on the Early Show particularly helpful.
I look forward to to hearing what readers have to say about this, especially strategies and advice.
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