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Selective Mutism


What is Selective Mutism:

Selective Mutism is an anxiety disorder in which a child is not able to speak in certain settings, such as school or public venues, or to certain people (e.g., extended family, teachers, classmates, strangers). Children with Selective Mutism usually feel intense anxiety about speaking and might fear that others will judge them or reject them if they do speak. As such, they feel unable to speak in certain situations even though they can comfortably speak at other times, such as when they are at home with their parents and siblings. Parents might not realize their child has trouble speaking around others since talking is not a problem at home. About 1% of children suffer from Selective Mutism. Selective Mutism usually begins before five years of age.

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  • Being talkative, outgoing, and gregarious at home, but completely or mostly nonverbal at school, around strangers, or other unfamiliar people or places.
  • Appearing frozen with fear, or “shutting down,” when asked to speak outside the home or with strangers. However, some children don’t actually look anxious, and might instead appear outwardly calm when expected to speak outside the home or with strangers.
  • Using gestures, facial expressions, and nodding to communicate. Alternatively, some children with Selective Mutism also struggle with and avoid nonverbal communication and interaction with individuals other than their immediate family.
  • Speak only in a whisper or with an unconventional voice or tone to teachers or peers.
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