Typically, the disturbance lasts for a minimum of one month and interferes with the individual’s social communication, academic/educational or occupational achievement.
Selective mutism is not attributed to a knowledge or comfort level surrounding social communication, and is distinct from other communication disorders such as, the onset of fluency disorder, autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia or other psychotic disorder (DSM V, 2013).
What are some characteristics of Selective Mutism?
- Individuals with Selective Mutism do not initiate speech or respond to other when in social situations.
- Children with Selective Mutism will often speak to immediate family members in the home, but may not speak to close friends or second-degree relatives (eg grandparents or cousins).
- A high degree of social anxiety is often present.
- Children with Selective Mutism often refuse to speak at school and academic achievement may be negatively affected (eg reduced results associated with reading tasks).
- Individuals with Selective Mutism may use non-verbal means to communicate such as grunting, pointing or writing.
- Individuals with Selective Mutism may engage socially when speech is not required (eg non-verbal parts in school plays).
In addition to these characteristics, individuals with Selective Mutism may appear excessively shy, withdrawn or ‘clingy’. Some individuals may display compulsive traits and mild oppositional behaviour (DSM V, 2013).
At what age does Selective Mutism appear?
The onset is different for each person; however the characteristics of Selective Mutism are typically present before the age of 5 years. This may be in part due to the increased social expectations associated with school (eg reading, interactive play).
What can I do if I think my child is experiencing Selective Mutism?
You could book a free Emotional Health Checkup, to assist you with through the process of finding a psychologist, accessing any Medicare or health fund rebates, or just finding out how therapy can help.
Therapists treating Selective Mutism
Freecall 1800 877 924 today to book a free Emotional Health Check or an appointment with one of our psychologists experienced in helping children with selective mutism.
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. pp. 195-197.