Selective mutism should be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.
It is difficult to predict what a child with Selective mutism might need before I meet him/her and the family. My sessions can be in their own home, initially (if required) to look at emotions, using a narrative approach and playing. These sessions are used to help prepare the child for the school and real world environments by developing strategies to help the child unlearn his or her conditioned behaviour. Then, in the real world and within the school setting, the strategies and interventions are implemented. However, I believe in mainly working in the environment where the child’s anxiety is at its highest level, so school and nursery.
In my therapy I incorporate anxiety lowering techniques, methods to build self-esteem, and strategies and interventions to help with social comfort and communication progression.
Treatment focuses on:
- Lowering the anxiety that the child has for speaking in a particular setting
- Reinforcing desired behaviours and eliminates undesired behaviours. It concentrates on eradicating the difficulty in a practical way.
- Step-by-step approach focusing on techniques and exercises which help them conquer their fears.
The sessions are always delivered in a fun and playful manner and this provides a way for your child to express experiences and feelings through a natural, process. As children’s experiences and knowledge are often communicated through play, it becomes an important vehicle for them to know and accept themselves and others.
Children with SM need to understand, feel in control, and have choice in their treatment (age dependent). These are critical components in my therapy which provide the child with choices and help to transfer the child’s need for control into the strategies and interventions.
Games and goals (based on age and stages of communication) are used to help develop social comfort and ultimately progress into speech via the use of ritualistic and controlled methods. Strategy charts are used to help develop social comfort and progress into speech.
Silent goals (environmental changes) and active goals (child directed goals based on choice and control) are other tools used.
At no time should a child suffering from this condition be expected or prompted to talk. Instead attention should be focused on making the child feel comfortable and confident in social settings.
By lowering anxiety, increasing self-esteem, and increasing communication and social confidence within a variety of real world settings, the child suffering in silence will develop necessary coping skills to enable for proper social, emotional, and academic functioning.
Through games, fun activities and using techniques such as sliding in (link) and shaping (link), the child starts feeling more comfortable as there are no expectations.