Ask-the-Doc: SMart Tip for in the Classroom

Question: “Dr. E, what should a teacher do if a student with Selective Mutism freezes in the classroom and won’t move?”

Answer: “This happens quite frequently, especially with younger children. Mornings are difficult, as is returning to school after an illness or vacation. The teacher should greet the child just as they would with any student. If the child is standing in one place, not moving, and looking expressionless, recommendations would be for the teacher to take the child’s hand and direct him/her where he/she needs to go. It is unusual for a child to stay frozen for an extended period of time.
Many children with SM love to create. We suggest easing anxiety by directing the child to a table or desk and allowing him/her to draw or color. In the majority of cases, the child with SM will go with the teacher and be relieved to sit and draw before making a transition to other activities.”
Want more tips? Download a copy of Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum’s Ideal Classroom Setting book which goes into detail about tactics that can be easily incorporated into the classroom to benefit and accommodate the needs of the Selectively Mute child.
SMart Center’s Guide to Holiday Prep: A Free Webinar to Help Continue Communication This Season
The holidays are a meant to be a joyous time for everyone. However, for someone with Selective Mutism, the preparation for social events, school performances/parties, changes in routines and visiting with countless relatives and friends be anxiety-provoking. Here are some ways to help you prepare for a comfortable, fun Thanksgiving!
  1. Take note of friends and family with high expectations. Prepare them ahead of time using strategies from our free, The Holiday Season: Preparation and Practicalities webinar.
  2. Encourage family and friends to ask choice questions rather than open-ended, thought-provoking questions.
  3. Remember: Don’t focus on talking. Instead, build comfort and implement communication strategies (based on your clinician’s recommendations) to help your child progress across the Social Communication Bridge® into speech.
  4. Prepare and practice questions that relatives and friends might ask of your child, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?,” “What are you most excited to eat?,” “What has been your favorite subject in school?,” etc.
  5. Since comfort precedes communication, preparing your child/teen for parties and events is a crucial step! Give them a sense of control by letting them know who, what, when, where, and how. Give them a job to do, as well. E.g. set the table, take the coats, decorate, help prepare the food, etc.
Help us rid the silence of Selective Mutism!
  1. Read Touched by SM: Dr. E’s Personal Story
  2. Share our pamphlet, A Guide to Helping Parents, Educators, and Treatment Professionals Understand Selective Mutism As a Social Communication Anxiety Disorder
  3. Share our What is Selective Mutism and How Do We Treat It? webinar with teachers, treatment professionals, and on your social media!
To effectively overcome Selective Mutism and all anxieties, an individual needs to be involved in an Individualized or Group Treatment program, such as those rooted in the evidenced-based Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®). Developed by Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum, this holistic or “whole child” 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 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.