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  • Selective mutism is a condition that affects many children, and can last into adulthood.

  • It’s like a phobia of speaking. The child will have at least onesafeenvironment,

  • where they are able to speak normally, but in other situations they don’t say a word.

  • Most people can think of a situation that gives them anxiety - like public speaking

  • or a job interviewThis anxiety can make you forget what you wanted to say, stumble

  • over your words, or even feel like the words just won’t come out.

  • People with sm experience this feeling daily, in any situation that involves talking. This

  • anxiety feels like the most extreme stage fright - they find themselves completely unable

  • to speak.

  • Selective mutism usually starts in early childhood. A common example is a child who talks happily

  • at home but seems shy in front of unfamiliar people. Then at 3 years old they go to nursery

  • and BAM overload. They feel scared and anxious in this unfamiliar place, and their mind connects

  • that anxiety with speaking.

  • Like any phobia, this connection is then reinforced by avoiding the scary thing. Expectation to

  • speak causes anxiety to rise, avoiding speaking reduces the anxiety, confirming the belief

  • that speaking is scary. The way to break these patterns is not by forcing the child to speak,

  • but by reducing the anxiety so that speech comes easily, just as it does at home.

  • It might seem completely illogical that a person can talk in one situation but not another.

  • For example, talking happily in the supermarket, and becoming completely mute in a clothes

  • shop. These are both just shops - what’s the difference?! From the individual’s perspective

  • though, the difference will be perfectly obvious. In this case the person knows that in the

  • clothes shop, at any moment a staff member might pounce, askingCan I help you?!’

  • and expecting a response. Thus the person feels more anxious, making them less able

  • to speak. However, in the supermarket, they know the staff will leave them alone, so they

  • feel less anxious, and more able to speak.

  • A major difficulty for people with sm is *pressure* to speak. Children are particularly subjected

  • to this - ‘say please!’ ‘say thank you!’. Pressure to speak is very unhelpful, but *opportunities*

  • to speak are useful... So instead of asking a direct question likeHow are you today?...‘I

  • SAID HOW ARE YOU??’ ’oh god I have to say something nowwhy did he even ask me

  • this? People only say this to be polite! Now he’s going to think I’m rude because I

  • haven’t answered yet! what can I do to fix this? It’s too much! Oh god, my voice just

  • won’t come outhe must think I’m stupid…’ ‘Well if youre not going to say anything’..

  • you could try saying instead: ‘I hope youre feeling well today.’ ‘ ‘ahhh, no pressure

  • to speak, now I feel much better, maybe so much better that I could even say someth…’

  • ‘I’m feeling very well today thank you. How are you?’

  • For support with selective mutism, contact a speech and language therapist. And take

  • a look at the links in the description for more information.

Selective mutism is a condition that affects many children, and can last into adulthood.

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B1 anxiety speak selective mutism mutism selective speaking

Why some children are silent - Selective Mutism

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    Liao posted on 2017/01/08
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