Selective Mutism in Children

Are you worried your child might have a speech and language disorder? Here’s what you need to know to help you recognise any potential problems.

WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI

 

A child with selective mutism does not speak in at least one specific social situation. For example, the child may be unable to speak in school but has no trouble speaking at home.

 

Symptoms

According to Upasana Bondopadhyay, consultant at Dynamics Psychological Practice, parents should look out for the following symptoms if they suspect their child might have selective mutism:

 

  • Lasts for at least one month
  • Inability to speak in specific social situations with other children or adults, but can speak at home with immediate family members
  • May be unable to speak with second-degree relatives, like grandparents or cousins
  • Has high degree of anxiety; insisting the child speaks reveals a ‘frozen’ or uncomfortable and blank look
  • Persistent questioning might make the child angry or irritated
  • Child might exhibit behavioural disturbances, such as temper tantrums and oppositional behaviours, particularly at home

 

Treatment

Selective mutism can be treated through a multimodal approach. “This model consists of psycho-education for the family, cognitive behaviour therapy, and medication if needed. The use of art, music and carefully designed therapeutic games and exercises helps the child express his/her anxiety in a safe manner and facilitates therapeutic procedures in the absence of speech,” explains Bondopadhyay. 

 

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