Q: My 6-year-old son seems to be super comfortable. However, he often grunts and makes sounds when I want him to be able to use his words instead. My current therapist told me that the SMart Center considers making sounds as being verbal. Is that true? I am not willing to accept my child’s sounds/noises as talking.
A: NO, this is not true, we do not consider making sounds as ‘speaking;’ however, your child IS communicating via sounds/words based on the Social Communication Bridge® that Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum developed, he is functioning at Stage 2 in such settings. Our ultimate goal, is for all children to speak; however, not all children are able to ‘just speak’ via rewards or our encouragement. In fact, many become MORE anxious and avoidant if there is a push to speak when they are not able to. Therefore, we accept and respect the child’s baseline stage of communication and use purposeful strategies to help him shape sounds into words. For younger children, this is usually via a strategic fun use of sounds. For older children or even teens who are ‘stuck’ in nonverbal (Stage 1), we use a very cognitive approach and help them shape sounds into words via a controlled and ritualistic process or the Ritual Sound Approach®. Therefore, NO, we do not consider sounds as ‘speaking’ but since we understand it’s a Bridge® of communication, we accept this as a step in the process into becoming verbal!
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 CommuniCamp™ Intensive Group Treatment and Parent Training Program and Individualized Intensives. Developed by Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum, this holistic or “whole-person” treatment approach is designed to reduce anxiety, build self-esteem, and increase social comfort and communication in all settings.
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 a child’s baseline stage of social 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®.