Selective mutism is when you can freely speak in some situations, but be unable to speak in others.
It can affect both children and adults, although it will typically manifest during childhood.
This is also the best time to procure speech therapy, which is very effective for overcoming selective mutism.
It is important to note that while it is considered a speech condition, working collaboratively with a psychologist is highly recommended.
Now, if you’re looking for children’s speech therapy for mutism contact District Speech to speak with one of our many experienced speech therapists.
Let’s find out more.
What Is Selective Mutism?
Selective mutism occurs when your child will talk in particular times and places, but not in others.
It can begin when your child is very young, but it can also develop when they start going to school and even persist into adulthood if left unchecked.
Some adults may need speech therapy for selective mutism as well, but that’s usually because it wasn’t treated while they were children.
It’s rare for selective mutism to develop later in life.
It’s important to note that there’s a difference between being unable and being unwilling to speak.
For those with selective mutism, it’s the former – they may want to speak, but are literally incapable of doing so.
What Are The Signs Of Selective Mutism?
The signs of selective mutism are that your child will not speak at times when they should.
A common example of this is not speaking during school, but speaking in other situations like at home.
It’s worth noting that this behavior must last for at least one month to be considered selective mutism.
You’re also better off not counting the first few weeks of school because it may just be the case that your child is shy and needs some time to get comfortable in the new environment.
Some compare selective mutism as similar to a bad case of stage fright – it triggers a freeze response and feelings of panic.
So if you’re child is in a situation where such feelings might be expected – like if they were about to perform on stage – it may not be cause for concern.
Similarly, if your child speaks multiple languages, you must ensure that your child does in fact understand the language being used.
Not speaking as a result of not knowing the language is not selective mutism.
What Causes Selective Mutism?
There is no definitive cause of selective mutism.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) explains that a child with selective mutism may also have any of the following contributing factors:
- An anxiety disorder
- Extreme shyness
- Desire for solitude
- Speaking very little
- Fear of expressing themselves
How Can A Speech Therapist Help With Selective Mutism?
Speaking with your doctor is the first step if you’re concerned about your child’s speaking ability.
Typically, your child should see both a psychologist and a speech therapist for selective mutism.
This is because the psychologist will check to see if there is an accompanying condition, like anxiety, that is impacting your child’s speaking ability.
The speech therapist will test your child’s speech and language abilities.
Together, these professionals will offer the best solution to improve your child’s speaking ability.
They may also work with your family and your child’s school teacher if selective mutism is affecting their studies.
In addition, you should expect your speech therapist to:
- examine your child’s development and medical history
- examine how well your child’s lips, jaw, and tongue move
- examine your child’s understanding of language
- have your child’s hearing screened
- listen to how well your child says words, answers questions, and communicates their ideas
Sometimes, it’s possible that selective mutism will manifest when your child is with the speech therapist and not actually be able to speak with them.
If that happens, the speech therapist may ask you to take videos of your child speaking and use those to analyze their patterns.
This is because selective mutism will manifest differently in each person and therefore each child with selective mutism will have to work on different skills.
The goal is to get your child comfortable speaking in all situations.
In order to do this, your child may have to focus on changing their behavior during situations when they typically wouldn’t speak or they may need to focus on their speech and language.
Some tactics that speech therapists may use to change your child’s behavior include:
1. Stimulus Fading
Stimulus fading involves first creating a situation with your child and someone they are already comfortable speaking with.
Then, a new person is slowly introduced in order to get your child comfortable speaking with new people.
Shaping involves your speech therapist praising and rewarding your child as they try to communicate.
Often, your child will begin with pointing or gestures and will eventually progress towards whispering or mouthing words, finally culminating in speaking as the ultimate goal.
3. Self Modeling Technique
The self modeling technique will have your child watch videos of themselves speaking in a comfortable situation.
Through this process, they can build their confidence regarding how they speak.
Again, the goal is to build confidence so that your child will speak in all appropriate situations.
4. Other Strategies
Your speech therapist will also work with your child on any speech or language challenges they may have.
Some exercises for this include:
- Practicing speaking clearly
- Teaching your child how to say words loudly
- Encouraging your child to ask questions or explain their thoughts using words
Your child will be more comfortable speaking in many situations if they are confident and comfortable with how they sound.
Book An Appointment With District Speech
As you can see, speech therapy is a great resource to help with selective mutism.
The earlier your child is able to start speech therapy, the greater the chances for success because selective mutism can persist into adulthood if left unchecked.
This will impact their education, work potential, and even friendships.
Book an appointment today with District Speech to get started and schedule an evaluation.
We look forward to working with you.
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.