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Does your child talk at home or with friends but refuse to talk at school? A child with selective mutism will talk at some times and in some places, but not in others. This might start when your child goes to school. Sometimes, it starts when a child is younger.
If your child has selective mutism, you may notice that:
Selective mutism is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition, or DSM-5. Doctors and others use the DSM-5 to help diagnose social and mental problems. In the DSM-5, a child with selective mutism may:
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about how and when your child talks. Your child should also see a psychologist or psychiatrist to see if they have a problem like anxiety. A speech-language pathologist, or SLP, can test your child's speech and language. These experts may work with your family and your child's teacher if there are problems at school.
Speech and language testing may include:
Some children will not talk to the SLP. If that happens, the SLP may ask if you have a video of your child talking.
Each person with selective mutism needs to work on different skills. Your doctor may suggest medication, which works for some people. SLPs will work to get your child comfortable talking in all situations. Your child may need to work to change how they behave at those times when they won’t talk. Or, they may need to work on their speech and language.
To help change your child’s behavior, the SLP may use:
The SLP will also work with your child on any speech or language problems that they may have. This may include helping them say sounds clearly or helping them say words loudly. The SLP may also help them use words to ask questions or talk about their thoughts. Your child may be more willing to talk to others once they feel better about how they sound.
The SLP may also work with others in the places where your child has trouble. This may include your child’s teachers, counselors, coaches, or family members. The goal is for your child to be comfortable talking in any situation.
See ASHA information for professionals on the Practice Portal’s Selective Mutism page.
To find a speech-language pathologist near you, visit ProFind.