Is it Selective Mutism or Shyness? 

Children who have Selective Mutism will usually only speak to people they know very well and are comfortable with such as their parents, people in their class and family members. These children get very anxious and don't speak so to most people they just appear to be shy, so often times they go undiagnosed. 

Selective mutism affects children and can make it very difficult for them to speak in certain social situations. 

Selective Mutism is also known as elective mutism. Selective Mutism can be challenging for both the child and their parents. 

Selective mutism is a childhood anxiety disorder where a child is unable to speak in different settings like school or in public around people.

Selective Mutism is not a language or speech disorder. It is because of a selective inability to speak in unfamiliar social settings. Children with selective mutism can speak very well in familiar places like in their home or around close family and friends.  It can just be challenging to communicate in unfamiliar surroundings.

To treat selective mutism you need to identify the anxiety that is causing the child to not be able to speak. Treatment for Selective mutism may involve including a therapist, speech and language pathologist or possibly a psychiatrist too. 

Selective mutism can continue as an adult too if left untreated. According to the Selective Mutism Association, selective mutism occurs in about 1 in 100 children. It is more common in girls than boys and is often diagnosed in children between the ages of three and eight. 

Selective Mutism
- socially awkward and shy 
- withdrawn 
- getting angry when asked questions
- uncomfortable with expectations to speak
- tantrums after school
- stiff and tense around unfamiliar people 
- fidgeting
- inability to speak in certain settings
- shuts down around strangers
- won't speak as they feel embarrassed around others
- difficulty processing sensory input
- fearful of birthday parties or family gatherings
- stubborn or aggressive
- fear of being around other people
- nonverbal communication to express needs
- avoids eye contact 
- disinterested in events or school
- nervous and uneasy

Children who have sensory processing disorder can struggle with loud noises or bright lights, this may seem okay to others but this can be very overwhelming, and can lead to anxiety and result in the child’s inability to speak.

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that can significantly affect a child’s ability to communicate in unfamiliar social settings. It is very important for parents to recognize the selective mutism symptoms early and seek medical from your doctor to help your child.  

DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional.

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