SMart Tips for Preparing Your Child with Selective Mutism to Go Back To School based on Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum‘s evidence-based Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®) implemented at the Selective Mutism Anxiety & Related Disorders Treatment Center (SMart Center).

team approach is the best way to help your child overcome Selective Mutism and Social Communication Anxiety. 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 the person’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 individual build coping skills to combat anxious feelings and to progress across the Social Communication Bridge® into social communication.Work with your child’s teacher to help build social comfort and confidence.

Children with Selective Mutism cannot progress alone. Here are some ways you can facilitate a team approach now that school has started:

Staff Meetings

We suggest 30-60-minute meetings on a biweekly or monthly basis to ensure the school staff members have an accurate understanding of SM and your child’s specific baseline level of communication. We recommend sharing this video with your school team as a good starting point if they are not familiar with Selective Mutism.

IEP, 504, or no plan?

All children and teens diagnosed with Selective Mutism qualify for a 504 plan and IEP as school staff members are needed to aide in facilitation of communication. Meet with the school before the start of the school year to develop accommodations/interventions.

A 504 Plan covers individuals who meet the definition of qualified handicapped person. For example, a child who has or has had a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks. Selective Mutism affects the major life activity of speaking.

An IEP covers individuals who meet the definition of qualified handicapped person. To qualify, a child’s school performance must be adversely affected by a Specific Learning Disability (the conditions in this group affect a child’s ability to read, write, listen, speak, reason or do math; Selective Mutism affects the major life activity of speaking). As a communication anxiety disorder, Selective Mutism also covers “emotional disturbance” and “speech impairment.”

The clinicians at the SMart Center will consult with your school team to ensure proper accommodations are made for your child.

Peer Relationships

Organize “play dates” with other children in your child’s classroom so the Buddy Process can begin. Start with one child at a time. Have a get-together at your home and build up to playgrounds and restaurants.

Plan for the children to play board games or go on a treasure hunt. They can even do a scavenger hunt inside the school. These games involve the give/take of conversation and provide a distraction from the expectation to communicate.

School Consultations

The SMart Center provides a variety of services including training your school staff. Learn more about our school services by clicking here, or send our Clinical Coordinator an email for details.

Group Treatment

CommuniCamp™, our intensive group treatment and parent training program, is a great opportunity to practice goals in a small, peer-group atmosphere! Children and teens with Selective Mutism and social anxiety tend to show improvement in smaller groups, with fewer children for longer periods of time. Ease them back to school with our Fall 2019 group treatment, scheduled for Columbus Day Weekend, October 11-14 in Jenkintown, PA (Greater Philadelphia Area). Not only will treatment begin for your child, but you will receive intensive parent education and support breakout sessions! Learn more about CommuniCamp™ here.

The S-CAT® Selective Mutism Interview Game

Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum’s S-CAT® SM Interview Game™ helps children learn how to respond to and initiate with others—crucial communication skills:
  • It helps transition from one stage of communication to another.
  • It can be adapted to all phases of communication.
  • It’s an excellent tactic to use for children/teens with receptive and/or expressive language disorders.
  • It must be designed after defining the person’s anxiety level, abilities and interests. Understanding where the individual is on the Social Communication Bridge® is key to the effectiveness of the SM Interview Game™