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.
  • Consider involvement in a treatment program, such as CommuniCamp™ Intensive Group Treatment & Parent Training Program and Individual Intensive Treatment which employ the evidenced-based Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®) approach, developed by Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum.
When interacting with a child 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.
  • 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
  • Games: board games, card games (Go Fish, War), complete back/forth interview games
  • Jokes & Riddles
  • Treasure Hunts/Eye Spy
  • Puppets
  • Art Projects
  • Helping around the house, cooking/baking

During these games and activities, relatives, friends, or school staff should ask the child questions. It is how these questions are asked that will make the difference. For example, if the individual is typically mute with someone, but becoming nonverbal, using a parent, sibling, or someone else he or she is verbal with as a Verbal Intermediary® is suggested. As the individual responds by telling his or her Verbal Intermediary®, the relative should repeat what was said. The repetition of what the individual said, if done in a very subtle way, helps him or her know that they were heard and it was not a “big deal.” Therefore, when repeating, eye contact should be minimized and a very nonchalant, no-big-deal attitude should be adopted.

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 & Parent Training Program. Developed by Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum, this holistic or “whole-person” treatment approach is designed to reduce anxiety, build self-esteem, 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®.