Often described as “social phobia’s cousin” and misdiagnosed as autism, selective mutism is a debilitating fear of speaking in some situations experienced by some children. The disorder usually presents in children before the age of five, but it may not be recognized until the child starts school. When requested to speak, children with selective mutism often look down, blush, or otherwise express anxiety that disrupts their engagement with people and activities. Selective mutism is related to social anxiety and social phobia, and more than 90 percent of children with selective mutism also manifest symptoms of one of these problems.
This book is the first available for parents of children with selective mutism. It offers a broad overview of the condition and reviews the diagnostic criteria for the disorder. The book details a plan you can use to coordinate professional treatment of your child’s disorder. It also explains the steps you can take on your own to encourage your child to speak comfortably in school and in his or her peer group. All of the book’s strategies employ a gradual, “stepladder” approach. The techniques gently encourage children to speak more, while at the same time helping them feel safe and supported.
Angela E. McHolm, Ph.D., is director of the Selective Mutism Service at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, ON. The Selective Mutism Service offers outpatient psychiatric consultation to families and professionals such as school personnel, speech and language pathologists, and mental health clinicians who support children with selective mutism. She is assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON.