Selective Mutism is fear of speaking in public, despite the ability to speak, and affects 1 of 140 children. Selective Mutism (SM) was first recognized by the American Psychological Association in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980 as Elective Mutism, and later in 1994 as Selective Mutism. Before 1980, SM cases were either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Since then, knowledge and understanding of SM has grown. Experts now recognize SM as an extreme social anxiety disorder. It is not uncommon for a child to be diagnosed with both SM and Social Phobia, as the correlation exceeds 90%.
As SM knowledge grows, so do effective treatments. Understood as a phobia, effective SM treatments take into account the power of exposure based therapy, which includes taking systematic steps towards facing one's fear. Systematically planned steps gradually increase exposure and lead to desensitization, reducing the fear response.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about your child:




  • Does your child speak at home but become excessively quiet when others are around, and doesn't seem to warm up?


  • Does your child fail to speak to peers in school or community?


  • Does your child cling to you excessively in public settings?


  • Does your child look around before talking to you, to make sure others aren't close by to hear?


  • Does your child appear frozen, stuck, or unsure when in a social or public activity?


  • Does your child's teacher say he/she is grunting or making noises to communicate, but not talking?


  • Does your child's teacher say he/she uses nonverbal body language to communicate (pointing, gesturing, head nods/shakes) but does not talk, even after the first month of school?


Answering "yes" to any of these questions may indicate a possibility of Selective Mutism (SM). Selective Mutism affects about 1 of 140 children, and is usually first recognized when the child starts preschool. Teachers typically report that the child is not talking but using nonverbal means to communicate instead. Parents usually report that their child talks fine at home. Parent education and early intervention is pivotal in the trajectory of this disorder. Selective Mutism can be successfully treated, and early intervention yields best results. For information about treatment in Oak Brook, a suburb of Chicago, and surrounding suburbs, visit