Here are some common things parents say to us when seeking help for their child with Selective Mutism:
- “She is so bubbly and talkative at home. I was shocked when her teacher told us that she is barely saying a word in her classroom.”
- “He talks to his friends on the playground endlessly. Once an adult comes by, no way!”
- “No matter what we do, he will never order his food at a restaurant. He has to eat, so we just order for him.”
- “Last summer, she got hurt at summer camp. She didn’t say a word about it to anyone all day, and then burst into tears when she got in the car! I’m terrified that this will impact her safety.”
- “I know my child CAN talk just fine at home, but sometimes he just WON’T when we see his cousins and grandparents. I try to be understanding, but sometimes it’s embarrassing. Everyone probably thinks my kid is being rude, and I don’t know how to get him to talk!”
- “I wish others were able to see her fun and silly personality. I feel awful that she is so anxious at school that she can’t even speak!”
What is selective mutism?
Selective mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder. Children with selective mutism are able to speak in situations where they feel comfortable (such as at home with their family). But when their anxiety increases in certain situations (for example, at school, with new people, or in new situations), they are not able to speak. Often, a child struggles to make eye contact, keeps their head down, or relies on non-verbal communication such as pointing or nodding to answer questions. A child with SM can experience persistent difficulty with making friends and participating effectively in school.
The good news is that selective mutism IS treatable– if you find the right help from an experienced specialist!
What is therapy for selective mutism like?
At Anxiety Therapy of Colorado, we only use methods and approaches that have been shown in research to be most effective specifically for selective mutism. The approach we use is called Parent Child Interaction Therapy for Selective Mutism, or PCIT-SM. In addition, we use Exposure Therapy, which is an approach that helps kids to gradually face their fears and learn that the thing they have been avoiding (speaking) is actually not as scary as they once thought.
Treatment begins with a parent intake session. We will meet with you as parents without your child present to assess the symptoms that you have observed, and talk about a treatment plan. We will also meet with you to teach you the skills that we use to help encourage kids to use their “brave voice”.
We will then meet with you and your child together in a supportive, play-based environment where together we will practice using “brave talking skills”. We know that anxious children often need time to warm up and feel comfortable talking to a new person, and we treat every client with empathy, dignity and patience.
Once your child is comfortable talking with his or her therapist, we can work on additional “brave talking” exposure challenges to help encourage your child to face their fears of talking in other situations. Throughout treatment, therapists work closely with parents to discuss your child’s progress toward their goals.
- Diagnostic assessment
- We complete a thorough evaluation of your child’s symptoms and discuss your child’s diagnosis and recommended treatment plan with you
- Parent training and consultation
- Parents are essential partners in their child’s success in finding their “brave voice”! We work closely with families to ensure that you feel empowered to be your child’s best advocate
- Child therapy
- Individual therapy can teach children the skills they need to find their “brave voice”
- School consultation/ training, classroom observation, services at school
- School is often the location that is most challenging for children with selective mutism. Therefore, it is essential that the school staff be supported in implementing the same skills that your child is learning in therapy
- Our therapists can travel to your child’s school to help support your child in establishing speech with school staff
- Our therapists can provide guidance to your child’s school in developing special education plans to support your child’s speaking goals (such as an IEP or 504 plan)
- Brave Talking Group
- Courageous Kids Camp
- Professional presentations on selective mutism and treatment