Things to Remember When Choosing Games and/or Goals to Motivate Speech:
- If the child or teen perceives you are trying to get them to speak then it will reinforce mutism and anxiety will result, often leading to secondary speech phobia.
- Although social comfort and verbal communication is the ultimate goal, we need to take our time and accomplish this in a comfortable manner.
- For younger children, therapeutic activities and strategies should be presented as a Older children and teens are aware of their strategies and so you can refer to them as goals.
- The specific games/goals are chosen based on your child’s beginning or baseline level of social communication.
- The Social Communication Bridge®is a useful tool when determining what games to use. For example, one child may begin with simple Handover/Takeover™ games while others may begin with transitional games, such as using a tape recorder, verbal intermediary, or different sounds.
SMart Tips for Rewarding Progress Towards Social Communication:
- Don’t push the individual to complete games/goals when they are not comfortable.
- Do have a plan to give your child suggestions to complete games or goals in a positive, motivating manner.
- For children who are self-motivated to feel more comfortable, the reward of their accomplishments are enough. However, for those who are not so motivated to do the games, motivation in the form of concrete rewards can be used.
- For very young children, such as preschoolers or kindergartners, stickers can be very motivating! Especially when charts are used to display progress.
- When older children complete their goals, dollar store items and other small trinkets are great options for concrete rewards.
Remember: It’s not about focusing on talking, it is about building comfort and implementing communication strategies (based on your clinician’s recommendations) to help the child progress across the Social Communication Bridge® into speech.
To effectively overcome Selective Mutism and all anxieties, a child needs to be involved in a treatment program, such as the evidenced-based Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®). 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 into the development and maintenance of SM as well as understanding a child’s baseline level 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©.