According to Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum* Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterised by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure, and relaxed.
Not all children manifest their anxiety in the same way. Some may be completely mute and unable to speak or communicate to anyone in a social setting, others may be able to speak to a select few or perhaps whisper. Some children may stand motionless with fear as they are confronted with specific social settings. They may freeze, be expressionless, unemotional and may be socially isolated. Less severely affected children may look relaxed and carefree, and are able to socialize with one or a few children but are unable to speak and effectively communicate to teachers or most/all peers.
When compared to the typically shy and timid child, most children with Selective Mutism are at the extreme end of the spectrum for timidity and shyness.
This is a highly frustrating child disorder for parents to deal with. From my perspective, children with this disorder are totally in control as no amount of coercing or pleading seems to work. Seen from a different perspective, selected mutes are making a choice, they are choosing to only speak when they decide that they want to.
Added to this is a highly anxious mother who, in most cases, compounds the problem by the way that she tries to deal with her child. I have had a great deal of success with these children by showing parents how to make these children aware that they are making a choice and then informing them of the consequences for these choices.
If you have a child with this disorder and would like a relatively simple solution feel free to contact me.
The SmartChoiceParenting approach will give parents an insight as to the cause of child disorders. Most parents who have children that have been diagnosed with a disorder have found after attending a workshop, many of these child disorders are resolved within a relatively short space of time.
*Elisa Shipon-Blum DO, is the President & Director of the Selective Mutism Anxiety Research and Treatment Center (SMART Center) located in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. She is the Founder of the Selective Mutism Group (SMG) and a Director of the Selective Mutism Research Institute(SMRI) a foundation established to study Dr. Shipon-Blum’s theories and treatment methodologies on Selective Mutism. In addition, Dr Shipon-Blum is Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology & Family Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is a board certified physician who specializes in Selective Mutism.