Being a school psychologist in a public school has taken me on journeys of discovery that I never dreamt when I began decades ago. One destination was learning about Selective Mutism. It is a fairly rare disorder, about 1 in one thousand, characterized by speaking freely and comfortably in some situations, but remaining mute (sometimes looking frozen) in other situations and with certain people. It has many aspects of a phobia, but you can’t do flooding therapy; you can’t make someone talk until their anxiety subsides. Sometimes children also have generalized social anxiety, sometimes not. While helping those children and the time comes that a child finally talks to a teacher—it feels wonderful, a magical moment! It has led me to become a state coordinator for the Selective Mutism Group of the Child Anxiety Network. (a non-profit: information at http://www.selectivemutism.org/ )
Through my work with many families, I have developed tools that help teachers reach out to students and help therapists treat children in the school setting. I am offering them here
If you know a teacher or family struggling with behavior that looks something like Selective Mutism, please direct them to both the above URLs. For just a few dollars they can have some of the materials that have assisted me in my work with these amazing kids. One of my favorite moments was with a teacher who was asking about a child that we were treating together, who was now talking in class. She asked me, “Now he’s calling out his answers without raising his hand. Do I say something to him?” My answer is , “Yes, treat him like any other student in your class!” That was our goal and his mother’s dream.