This is an extract from the book written by Dr. Elisa Shipon-Bloom from the Selective Mutism SMART Center.
When interacting with a child with Selective Mutism, DO:
- Allow for warm-up time.
- Monitor the child’s body language.
- Talk “around” the child at first with focus on parents or siblings.
- Get down on the child’s level and focus on a prop.
- Ask choice and direct questions to the child with focus on the prop.
- Allow for hesitation.
- Re-ask questions if needed.
- Accept nonverbal communication (e.g., pointing, nodding, gesturing) without an expectation for speech.
- Accept the child’s level of communication as the first step to securing comfort.
- Understand that strategies can be used to help the child progress into speech, and that developing the child’s comfort, engagement, and nonverbal communication is a vital step in the process.
with Selective Mutism, DO NOT:
- Try to be “the one who gets this child to speak.” These efforts did not work in the past, are not working now, and will never work in the future!
- Disregard warm-up time.
- Approach the child without preparation.
- Look directly at the child without focusing on a prop.
- Ask open-ended questions, which require the child to think in order to formulate an answer.
- Ask, bribe, or beg the child to talk to you.h
- Appear upset if the child does not respond to you.
Suggested Games and Activities to Complete with Relatives & Friends!
- Show off school work, drawings, photo albums, etc. where the relative can ask direct/choice questions regarding the ‘prop’ shown
- Play board games
- Card games (Go Fish, War)
- Complete back/forth interview games
- Jokes & Riddles
- Treasure Hunts
- Eye Spy
- Art Projects
- Helping around the house
During these games and activities, relatives, friends, or school staff should ask the child questions.