Selective mutism (SM) is a rare anxiety disorder in which children and teens are selective in which locations and people they choose to speak around. Often times, the symptoms or cause of selective mutism is misinterpreted as the individual being unable to speak or being oppositional and refusing to speak. The Child Mind Institute has an article that demystifies a lot of the common myths out there about SM (Myths, 2021). Below are the myths that they demystified:
- A selectively mute child has been traumatized or abused.There is no evidence linking selective mutism to trauma. SM is typically related to anxiety one experiences in social situations. This condition can be familial or possibly genetic (Myths, 2021).
- SM is just shyness. Kids with SM will grow out of it. SM stems from social anxiety which is more than just shyness. This fear or anxiety of speaking in public interferes with their interactions and development (Myths, 2021).
- Kids with SM have speech problems. SM and speech delays are two separate conditions. Many SM children do not have a speech or language learning problem (Myths, 2021).
- Children with SM or oppositional or manipulative. SM stems from social anxiety and the inhibition to speak. this is not related to any anger or desire to control their speaking but rather an inability to speak in social situations (Myths, 2021).
- Children with SM can speak if adults make clear demands. One of the factors of SM is that pressure or that expectation to speak. By allowing extra time for a response, lowering the expectations, and even not addressing the verbalization if they do respond, are all helpful tips to give that individual confidence and comfort with speaking in different situations (Myths, 2021).
- SM is a form of autism. Some of the symptoms are signs of SM can look similar to autism spectrum disorder, such as the lack of eye contact, blank expression, or other anxious behaviors. These symptoms are related to the anxiety the individuals feeling with the social environment and with the expectation to speak in certain settings, not autism (Myths, 2021).
Jessica LaMont, M.S., LBS
Myths about selective mutism. (2021, August 29). Child Mind Institute. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/myths-about-selective-mutism/.