Meet Tessa

At around age 2 to 3-years-old, Tessa’s parents noticed that she was always mute in public settings, with people she was unfamiliar with, and she would only speak to immediate family members.

Tessa and her family kick-started treatment via the S-CAT ® Individualized Treatment Program at the SMart Center. Since treatment, Tessa’s family expresses that they have seen “major changes!” They say that “Tessa started to open up as she was beginning her transition to kindergarten, and once getting into her kindergarten setting, we have since seen such amazing changes! She has spoken to teachers, classmates, and therapists. We have had many play dates and she will talk to most of her friends that she interacts with regularly. She has even started speaking at family events if they are at our house in front of cousins and other close relatives. Last week was the first time some have ever heard her voice!”

Tessa’s family explains that “consistency is key” when it comes to the S-CAT® strategies. “Bringing her to familiar places and seeing familiar faces of employees has been helpful. Same with play dates. Seeing the same friends until you can branch out to include a couple others is a great strategy as well. Slow change is helpful. It’s extremely important for those who interact with your child know what to do and not to do.”

Some key advice that Tessa’s family offered for other parents going through it now: “Day-by-day is the most important thing to focus on. Some days are better than other, regression does happen and it can be heartbreaking, but there is always a better day around the corner. You are your child’s best advocate. Do not be afraid to stand up and demand what you think is best, because after all, you do know best! Educate those around you. Most will have no idea what SM is. Make sure they follow your example and same with schools because your child will be spending a lot of time in that setting. Get everyone on the same page! Let them know what you expect the best from them!”

According to her parents, treatment at the SMart Center has helped Tessa immensely, and she now expresses to her parents that “her voice is no longer “stuck” in her throat!”

If you or someone you know if considering treatment at the SMart Center and would like to speak with Tessa’s family about their experience, please email so that 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©.