Laila was always a happy, outgoing, verbal child at home and with her extended family in any setting. However, when she was around anyone else, adults or peers, she was never verbal with them and did not communicate in any way; she wouldn’t even gesture like nodding or pointing. Laila was completely mute and noncommunicative in the school setting when she began preschool. She was expressionless and extremely rigid in her posture. She would follow the routine but tried to be invisible to those around her.
Laila’s mom states that she has found S-CAT® to be the most effective for her daughter, stating “We found that focusing on talking did not address the other areas of concern for our daughter, as well as placed a high level of expectation on speech which heightened her anxiety. We have seen much better results that are longer lasting with S-CAT® than using the behavioral approach of focusing on talking.”
Laila’s mom described her progression to be “INCREDIBLE” with the use of S-CAT®! “When she attended CommuniCamp™ in October 2017 she was not even on the [Social Communication Bridge®]. At the end of the weekend she had made it on the bridge! Following camp we began implementing S-CAT® strategies daily and her school also put all of the strategies in place; buddies, SPOT, lunch bunch, and pull out, HO/TO, etc. exactly seven months—May 10, 2018—after returning from CommuniCamp™ Laila was verbal in her classroom setting! She then slowly added every peer and all her teachers. By the end of school— June 2018— she was reading aloud to a small group of one teacher and 2-3 peers, she had answered a question in a large group, she had started the Pledge of allegiance two times in front of the whole class, she was running around the playground and talking with all her peers, and she sang every song with her class (and was the LOUDEST) at her preschool graduation! Laila’s progress has continued. She is not almost always able to respond verbally in any setting. She is comfortable initiating verbally with many teachers. She was verbal with all her peers in her classroom setting. With warm up time she typically becomes verbal in many social situations.”
For parents going through it now, Laila’s mom said: “I can attest that the S-CAT® absolutely works! My biggest advice is to read and learn as much as you can about it. Make the [Social Communication Bridge®] and Feelings Chart® second nature. Use SMart Center staff as a resource whenever you can. And IMPLEMENT the strategies as frequently as you can. Try you hardest to get the school on board as they can be a HUGE help! It’s all about IMPLEMENTATION!”
If you are considering enrolling your family in an upcoming CommuniCamp™ Intensive Group Treatment & Parent Training Program with the SMart Center and would like to speak with Laila’s mom about her experience, please email CommuniCamp@SelectiveMutismCenter.org so we can connect you!
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. 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©.