Many children are reluctant to speak in certain situations—unfamiliar people or situations can often create shyness and make a child quieter than usual. However, in some cases, this goes beyond simple shyness and becomes a disorder known as selective mutism.
A child with selective mutism will choose not to speak at all during specific situations, although he or she will have no trouble with speech or language in other situations. Typically, this pattern will first occur before a child is five years old. In order for a child’s silence to be considered selective mutism, it must occur consistently for at least a month. and not be caused by another speech or language disorder.
Selective mutism is usually treated by a speech-language pathologist. In one method of treatment, the speech-language pathologist will engage the child in conversation in a comfortable or familiar setting, and then gradually introduce the type of situation which causes the child’s mutism. In another approach, the speech-language pathologist may attempt to shape the child’s behavior by offering encouragement and reinforcement for any attempt at communication. This may include whispering, or even mouthing words.
Want to learn more about selective mutism? Check out the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s webpage: http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/SelectiveMutism.htm
If you or a loved one are experiencing a communication disorder, contact Speech Associates of New York today to find a professional speech-language pathologist who can help you communicate to your fullest. Remember, early intervention is the key to maintaining and developing strong communication skills. Through speech therapy, children can learn to speak and communicate with their loved ones. Call us today at (212) 308-7725.