Selective Mutism in Children

Sometimes It's Not Just Shyness - The New York Times

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that refers to the inability to speak in certain situations that are not caused by physical disabilities (Martins, 2021).  It can occur in children, teens, and adults. Children may feel comfortable speaking at home, but once outside at school or when going for a walk with parents and meeting people who they are not comfortable with because they don’t really know them they aren’t able to speak. Someone may try to ask the child a question, however, the child may feel stuck due to the sudden anxiety of being asked a question. In these situations, it is best to refrain from asking more questions or start reading the child’s mind resulting in eventually answering for him because of the lack of answers received to their questions. This may only induce more anxiety for the child. This is something that is hard to notice sometimes as this can be regarded as general shyness in the child. By encouraging speech and limiting the use of questions to talk to the child, gradually breaks the cycle of getting stuck within the anxiety, causing selective mutism because of the reduction in pressure put on the child. This requires patience and time but will show progress over time. Closed-ended questions are something that the child may feel comfortable answering as the answer to it can remain short. However, by slowly incorporating more open-ended questions you are encouraging and giving room for the child to talk more. If they get stuck you can then rephrase it to a more closed-ended question. Patience is greatly required as sometimes it may take a good few seconds before they reply to you. After a while it is useful to start introducing a new person to the child, however, it is important that they understand what the do’s and don’ts are so that they can help in a more efficient way that is not hindering the progress of the child. This can be done by having them sit in the corner of the room further away while the child is doing an activity they enjoy. Gradually over time, they can move closer until finally, they end up joining the activity and trying to talk to the child without asking questions. After a while, if everything is alright this person may also start asking the child questions. This is using the method of warming the child up to the situation without making them feel very anxious. Lastly, it is important to make sure that other family members and family friends understand the child’s needs in order to not disrupt or cause more anxiety in the child when they interact.,It's%20a%20rare%20childhood%20condition.

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