Imagine the disparity between a chatty, confident, even gregarious child at home and witnessing that same precious child struggle to indicate her needs and desires verbally in another environment, such as a classroom or perhaps during gymnastics class. How very confusing, to see your little “entertainer” at home somehow transition into a child who is unable to raise her hand to seek permission to use the restroom at school, even “refusing” to speak, according to her deeply concerned teacher. Devoted family members may protectively describe the remarkable change as a “shy stage.” Now consider the anxiety that darling child feels as she faces this struggle every single day.

Selective Mutism (SM) is a childhood social-communication anxiety disorder that demands a collaborative approach to treatment. Typically, SM is diagnosed by a psychologist, who may often refer a family to a speech-language therapist for treatment, in coordination with other disciplines (e.g. school support staff, occupational therapists, etc.). Treatment within the speech-language pathologist’s arena usually hovers around helping the child in several key areas. A speech-language therapist’s expertise surrounding the pragmatic issues that this little one faces will surely be instrumental, along with the often present difficulties with speech-language delay or disorder, and/or auditory processing and sensory processing disorders.

Speech-language intervention for children living with SM is usually incredibly rewarding for the child, her family and her therapist. As the child begins to acknowledge and evaluate the challenges surrounding her desire to communicate in various environments, she begins to feel as though she is, in fact, in charge!

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