Summertime is one of the most joyful times in a child’s life! But while summertime can (and should!) be a period of fun and relaxation, parents should not overlook the importance of friendship building and maintaining social communication opportunities for children with Selective Mutism (SM).

As many parents of children with SM realize, children rarely “become confidently verbal” with peers without comfort, purposeful exposures and practicing skills.

Therefore, parents should create frequent and consistent opportunities for peer interaction throughout the summer.   This will foster friendships as well as social and communication confidence.

Ideally, choosing peers who can be in your child’s class or neighbor friends.  For some children, just having 1-2 peers at home, in their safe environment, may be enough to create the comfort and spontaneous verbalization.

While others may need more parent /adult facilitation. Choosing high interest  and task-based activities, parents to facilitate engaging activities (Handover/Takeover), focusing on the other child first (to decrease expectation), asking choice or direct questions, and focusing on visual tasks of high interest, helps to lower anxiety and help the child progress into speech.

While having awareness to environments that feel safe and not overwhelming to a sensitive child, outside of the home activities, such as visiting parks, public pools, etc. and taking friends to restaurants and stores is a way to foster relationships, help build social connections but also to practice skills.

With awareness to comfort level, baseline stage of communication and parent awareness to what skills to implement, below are sample peer social interactions during the summertime:

At home, parent/adult facilitated and task-based peer get-together ideas include:

  • Blowing bubbles
  • Drawing letters using chalk in the driveway
  • Baking, reading recipes out loud
  • Arts and crafts
  • Creating a lemonade stand
  • Team backyard scavenger hunts

These activities should foster engaging, build skills, and encourage children to use sounds and phonetic words. We encourage parents and adults to “gamify” these activities by giving children points or rewards for ‘playing games’ that allow for communication progression.

Outside of the home, parent/adult facilitated get-together ideas include:

  • Going to the movies
  • Attending an outdoor concert
  • Going to a water park, nature center or zoo

These activities should allow children to Handover/Takeover money to staff, provide a great opportunity to practice greetings and respond to common questions. These activities also allow space ‘scripted’ questions with respect to the communication stage they are working on.

With summertime upon us, getting creative and making consistent and frequent time for peer socialization will benefit every child with SM as comfort, confidence and communication skills increase. In addition, it will allow for a smoother transition into the next school year.