Post: Shy Children/Selective Mutism and the School Setting
Posted by Gail Kervatt on 12/28/02
Selective mutism is a complex psychological disorder caused
by anxiety. Average onset is 3.7 years of age. Generally,
selective mutism is called shyness for several years until
a child enters school and does not function verbally in
school and most social situations outside of school.
Parents and teachers become very concerned and seek further
assistance and diagnosis. These children have the ability
to speak and understand language, develop age appropriate
skills, and function normally at home with most family
members and are, therefore, often misdiagnosed. If this
nonverbal behavior outside of the home lasts for a period
of time, it becomes a learned pattern and is quite
difficult to overcome, because the longer a child is
silent, the more entrenched the behavior becomes.
Most school personnel do not have the expertise or
experience to deal with a child having this disorder which
is caused by anxiety and avoidance. The numbers of children
identified who are suffering with the disorder have risen
sharply in the past few years.
School interventions have proven to be difficult partially
due to teacher and administrator lack of knowledge and
materials, fear, and inexperience. Selectively mute
children quickly learn to use avoidance techniques, as do
their teachers, and to use the school environment to
accommodate this debilitating condition. Thus,
nonsupportive schools who avoid an intervention begin to do
unjust harm to these children.
It is evident that teachers who discover a selectively mute
child in their classroom do want to help. However, it
appears, they have a very difficult time finding research
based strategies and a format that can be used in a
sequential order within the school setting. They do exist.
I hope that I have given you some needed information so
that these children do not continue to suffer in silence.
Posts on this thread, including this one
Shy Children/Selective Mutism and the School Setting, 12/28/02, by Gail Kervatt.