Does your child have problems speaking aloud in some circumstances? Do they seem exceptionally shy or reserved? If so, they may have selective mutism – and speech therapy for children near me can help. Here at Voz speech therapy in Washington DC, we offer speech therapy screenings, evaluations, and treatment for selective mutism. But what is selective mutism? And if your child has it, what can you do about it? Keep reading to find out. What Is Selective Mutism? Selective mutism is a speech disorder that causes children to have difficulty speaking under certain circumstances. Selective mutism often presents in childhood, which is why it’s mostly pediatric speech therapy that addresses it. However, it can also affect adults, especially if they went undiagnosed as children, so speech therapists for adults are also trained. One of the most common circumstances for selective mutism to present is when you’re with people you don’t know. It can be a frustrating condition for a child with selective mutism and for the people around them who are trying to communicate with them, but don’t know the best strategies for communicating with someone who has selective mutism. Even though selective mutism can be a challenging condition, help is available. Keep reading to learn more about selective mutism and what you can do if you have it, or how you can support someone in your life if they have selective mutism. What Are The Symptoms Of Selective Mutism? If your child has selective mutism, they’ll often remain silent, even when it’s expected that they’ll talk. This includes in environments such as school, or playtime with other children they don’t know well. To be understood as selective mutism, this behavior must persist for at least one month. The first month of school doesn’t count towards this month, because it’s more difficult to distinguish selective mutism from regular shyness during this period. Your child may be very chatty at home or in other familiar environments. If your child doesn’t know the language being used for a conversation, that’s a language barrier preventing them from contributing, not selective mutism. If your child has a different speech or language problem that might cause them to stop talking, it might be that speech or language difficulty, not selective mutism. As well, if your child doesn’t speak at all, that’s not selective mutism either. Regardless, it’s a good idea to seek early intervention speech therapy for your child. Studies show the earlier your child receives treatment, the better the results will be. What Causes Selective Mutism? If your child has selective mutism, they may have an anxiety disorder, be shy, be scared of public embarrassment, or prefer to be alone. Anxiety is a disorder characterized by severe worry, nervousness, fear, or uneasiness. Anxiety can make a child afraid to speak in public. Shyness can also be related to selective mutism. Shy children with selective mutism may feel comfortable talking only with people they know, like, and trust. Sometimes, it’s fear of public embarrassment that prevents a child from talking and causing selective mutism. It’s important to know, however, that selective mutism isn’t a disorder of not knowing what to say. Much like with stuttering, kids with selective mutism often know exactly what they want to say, but they’re incapable of speaking. It’s not that they’re refusing to speak, but rather that they actually can’t. In some cases they may want to speak, and in others they may not, but the defining factor for selective mutism is a genuine inability to speak. So much like in speech therapy treatments for stuttering, the focus is in learning how to better manage their condition. How Do We Test For Selective Mutism? Selective mutism is a well understood condition and there are a number of ways to test for it. If you’re concerned that your child might have selective mutism, you should talk to your doctor. You should also get in touch with a psychologist or psychiatrist to see if your child has a problem like anxiety. Additionally, your pediatric speech therapist can test your child's speech and language skills. Here at Voz Speech Therapy, we will work with you, your family, and your child's teacher to address problems at home and school. The test for selective mutism includes discussing your child’s development and medical history, to see if there were other possible signs of selective mutism that may have presented earlier. The test may also involve screening your child’s hearing. It’s a possibility that your child may have hearing difficulties and they aren’t participating in conversations and talking aloud because they can’t hear what others are saying. Your child may also be assessed for the movement in their lips, jaw, and tongue. If they have trouble moving these parts of their body when speaking, it could be a different issue, not selective mutism. If it’s related to their brain having difficulty sending the proper signals, it could signal your child needs . Testing your child’s comprehension is also important, because if your child is having trouble understanding what others are saying, they may not know that they can reply. Some children won’t be able to talk with their speech therapist, in which case, the speech therapist may ask for a video of your child talking to you or someone else they are comfortable with. How Does Speech Therapy Treat Selective Mutism? Each child with selective mutism is different and will need to focus on different skills. A speech therapist works to improve your child’s comfort when talking in all situations, not just situations that they know. Your child may need to work to change how they behave at those times, or they might need to work on their speech and language skills. Speech therapists use a variety of techniques to work with your child in key areas and reduce their selective mutism symptoms. Some of these techniques include: Stimulus Fading Stimulus fading involves starting your child off in a conversation with someone they talk to easily. Then, a new person may slowly join in. This technique helps to get your child comfortable with new situations. Shaping Your speech therapist may praise or reward your child for their communication efforts. At first, your child may only point or use other gestures. Later, your child might try mouthing a word, or whisper it at a low volume. The end goal is for your child to feel comfortable speaking in all situations. Self Modeling Technique The selfmodeling technique involves your speech therapist showing your child a video of themselves talking in a comfortable situation. This may help them feel more confident about how they speak. They may then try speaking in other situations. Book Your Appointment WithVoz Speech Therapy Today If you suspect your child has selective mutism, we can help. At your appointment, you’ll meet your speech therapist and they’ll ask you questions so they can learn more about you and your child. They’ll help you identify the areas where your child is having difficulties and work with you to design a personalized treatment plan for your child. Your speech therapist will also suggest exercises to do with your child at home to improve their speech in any environment. Book an appointment with us today, and start your child on a path to confidence and comfort when speaking to new people. Book your appointment with Voz Speech Therapy today.