Question: “How is school phobia related to Selective Mutism?”

Answer: “Selectively Mute children have an innate fear and/or anxiety when in social settings, such as school. In response to this, some students with Selective Mutism may try to avoid school. This can be due to physical symptoms that often accompany anxiety symptoms. Stomachaches, nausea, headaches, etc. can make a student want to avoid school in order to relieve their symptoms. Fears of embarrassment, social interaction, making mistakes, changing in gym class, etc. are enough to cause many SM children to beg to stay home. Over time, these children, if left untreated, may try to avoid going to school or other social events as a means of alleviating their anxiety. They realize, whether subconsciously or consciously, that they feel calmer and more relaxed in the comfort of their own home or away from the stress that they feel in the school setting. Parents may have a difficult time getting the child or teen to school or may be reluctant to send their child to school in case they are truly ill.”

 

To effectively overcome Selective Mutism and all anxieties, an individual needs to be involved in a treatment program, such as those rooted in evidenced-based Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®), like Individualized Intensives and CommuniCamp™ Intensive Group Treatment and Parent Training Program. Developed by Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum, this “whole-person” treatment approach is designed to reduce anxiety, build self-esteem, increase social comfort and communication in all settings. Strategies used in S-CAT® treatment are based on an individual’s presentation, i.e. the Stage of Social Comfort and Communication® and are purposefully used to help with crossing the Social Communication Bridge® into speech.
As a physician, Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum (“Dr. E”) views SM as a social communication anxiety where mutism is merely a symptom. The key to an effective treatment plan is understanding factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of SM as well as understanding an individual’s baseline Stage of Social Comfort and Communication® on the Social Communication Bridge®. Then, working as a team, the treatment professional, parents, and school staff members help the child build coping skills to combat anxious feelings and to progress across the Social Communication Bridge®.