Selective mutism is a complicated developmental anxiety disease marked by an inability to talk and communicate successfully in certain social environments, such as school. These youngsters can speak and converse in environments where they feel safe, secure, and calm. However, if these circumstances change or are removed, for example when going to the doctor's office or court appearance, they may not be able to speak up for themselves.
Young people with this condition often experience other problems as well, including anger issues, depression, and anxiety. They may also have difficulties forming relationships with others. Although most children outgrow selective mutism, it can continue into adulthood. Adults who were once unable to speak now use signs, gestures, or written words to get their needs met.
Psychologists believe that selective mutism is caused by a combination of factors, including biological, psychological, and environmental influences. The brain of a young person with selective mutism functions normally but might respond more quickly to threats than those without the condition. This hyper-vigilance causes some youths with this problem to shut down socially in order to protect themselves from further harm.
Children who are born into families with a history of silence are at greater risk of developing this condition. Other factors that may play a role include sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional neglect, family turmoil, or a highly authoritarian household structure.
Selective mutism occurs when a youngster is unable to talk in some situations but can speak normally in others. For example, a youngster may be unable to talk in school yet may speak freely at home. Or, he or she may not say a word in church but sing along with the congregation without hesitation.
These children are often very intelligent and have just found certain topics (such as school exams) to be too stressful so they decide not to talk about them. But there is usually a reason why they behave this way; sometimes it is because they do not want other people to know what they are thinking, while in other cases it may be due to fears associated with speaking in public.
Children who suffer from selective mutism can often be identified by their behavior before they actually start refusing to talk. If a child seems anxious or depressed, talks about things that are forbidden by his or her parents, or shuts down emotionally in response to stress, then this may be an indication that he or she is suffering from selective mutism.
Treatment for selective mutism depends on what cause you identify. If the cause is psychological, such as anxiety, then therapy may be all that's needed. However, if it's due to something physical, such as a brain tumor, then surgery will be necessary to correct the problem.
Selective Mutism is a type of social anxiety condition that is most common in youngsters and is sometimes misinterpreted as autism. Some of the traits may appear to be similar to autistic behaviors on the surface. However, people with selective mutism are able to communicate with others through other means than by speaking. They simply do not want to speak in certain situations.
This can happen in situations involving both children and adults. Children with selective mutism can communicate clearly and efficiently in environments where they feel safe, secure, and calm. These youngsters will converse at home with intimate family members or close friends. But in stressful or unfamiliar settings, such as at school or in the office, they may refuse to speak.
Parents should not worry if their child goes without speaking for a few days. It is normal for children's speech patterns to change as they get older. In fact, many young people remain silent for part of each day. When they do talk, they usually have lots to say!
If you are wondering whether your child's silence is due to autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, anxiety, or another condition, ask them about their experiences at school and with friends. They may benefit from counseling from an experienced therapist who can help them work through any problems that may be preventing them from communicating.