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Does your child seem chatty and expressive when at home, but struggles to speak in other settings?
If so, this is a sign of a condition known as selective mutism.
But while selective mutism can vary widely from person to person, pediatric speech and language therapy treatments can help.
Read on to find out more about selective mutism, and how speech therapy for selective mutism can address this issue.
What Is Selective Mutism?
Selective mutism is a childhood anxiety disorder that can affect the way your child communicates.
In some cases, your child may not speak at all outside your home and other settings where they feel comfortable – like a grandparent’s house, for example.
In others, they may speak in whispers, or speak openly only with people they know and trust.
In still other cases, they may communicate in unfamiliar situations only by pointing, gesturing, or writing their thoughts down.
But there’s more to selective mutism than just behavior.
If your child has selective mutism, they’re not just being shy – in fact they’re actually not able to speak in those situations.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
What Are The Symptoms Of Selective Mutism?
Children with selective mutism may display the following symptoms:
- Consistently not speaking but only in certain situations
- Difficulty making eye contact
- Hiding, running away, crying, or throwing a temper tantrum if pushed to speak
- Displaying anxiety while eating in public
- Displaying anxiety while getting their picture taken
- Displaying anxiety while using public washrooms
- Avoiding conversations whenever possible
It’s worth noting that some of these symptoms are similar to other disorders, like schizophrenia or autism spectrum disorder.
As a result, your pediatric speech therapist may recommend a pediatric therapy evaluation to rule out other potential causes for your child’s condition.
What Causes Selective Mutism?
We haven’t yet figured out what the direct cause of selective mutism is.
However, it’s thought that the following factors may play a role:
- The presence of another anxiety disorder
- Environmental factors
How Does A Pediatric Speech Therapist Test For Selective Mutism?
As mentioned above, there is significant overlap between selective mutism and a number of other conditions.
As a result, speech therapy screenings for selective mutism may include ruling out these other conditions.
A proper comprehensive assessment happens alongside other healthcare providers, which may include:
- A pediatrician
- A psychologist/psychiatrist
- A school guidance counselor
- And of course, a speech therapist
During the speech therapy evaluation portion, your pediatric speech therapist will gather information on your child’s:
- Language comprehension skills
- Expressive language skills
- Nonverbal communication skills
- Oral-motor function
- And more
It’s possible, however, that your child won’t allow your speech therapist to evaluate them.
There are ways around this, such as having you as the primary caregiver assess them at home while filming it.
It’s also a diagnostic factor in itself – if your child doesn’t allow a selective mutism screening, it may indicate they do in fact have selective mutism.
If it’s found that your child has autism spectrum disorder instead of selective mutism, they may refer you to a pediatric occupational therapist to complement speech therapy.
There are a number of occupational therapy treatments for autism spectrum disorder that can help.
Pediatric Speech Therapy Treatments For Selective Mutism
If it’s found that your child has selective mutism, there are a number of different approaches your pediatric speech therapist can take to treat it.
Let’s take a look at them.
1. Stimulus Fading
Stimulus fading is a modality where your pediatric speech therapist will gradually expose your child to the stimulus that triggers their condition.
This happens very slowly, with great care paid to making sure your child doesn’t get overwhelmed during the process.
For example, it may begin with you speaking with your child in an empty treatment room, then moving to speaking with your child with another person in the room present but not paying attention, and proceeding from there.
Your child will get a reward at each stage of this process.
2. Exposure Based Practice
Exposure based practice involves having your child say certain words in situations that may trigger their selective mutism.
The aim with this approach is to help your child build their ability to speak in challenging situations by practicing in a safe environment.
3. Self Modeling Technique
With the self modeling technique, you film your child interacting in a situation that’s entirely comfortable to them.
Then your speech therapist will show them that video in a situation that’s uncomfortable to them.
The idea is to teach them to follow their own example in treatment.
4. Augmentative And Alternative Communication (AAC)
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) refers to systems used to supplement your child’s communication.
If it’s found your child has selective mutism, your speech therapist may recommend using AAC.
This is often the most useful in classroom settings where communication is more important.
In most cases of selective mutism, AAC is not a permanent solution, and eventually your speech therapist will work to wean your child off of it.
Book Your Appointment With Triumph Therapeutics
If your child is showing the signs of selective mutism, it can be stressful and nerve wracking.
On the other hand, you might be tempted to shrug it off as just them being shy.
But if there’s more to it than that, it’s a good idea to have them speak with a pediatric speech therapist to help.
Book your appointment with a speech therapist at Triumph Therapeutics today.
If you’re ready to take the next step, reach out today for a free phone consultation.
Triumph Therapeutics is a team of highly experienced pediatric therapists specializing in physical therapy, speech language therapy, and occupation therapy for children, adolescents and their families as they work to reach their growth and wellness goals