What if a child has selective mutism in school

selective mutism

Children with selective mutism prefer not to talk in social settings as a result of the extreme anxiety they feel. A school is not a quiet place for them. If your child has selective mutism.You may worry about him. Sometimes it is a problem that is solved only with the maturity of the child, but at other times, you will need the help of a professional to be able to advance.


the selective mutism

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder. It is important to know that many children with selective mutism spoke without any delay or speech disorder. Parents often feel confused and surprised when they receive comments that their child never communicates at school, since these children are often noisy at home and extremely verbal. This shows that they can speak selectively and communicate in environments where they feel comfortable and relaxed.

It is very important that the child with selective mutism be treated normally , as any other child in the class, even if they do not speak in the environment in which they are expected to do so. It can also happen in public places such as a restaurant, family reunions or as we are commenting, in the school environment … That is, in any place where it requires social interaction that produces a certain level of anxiety. These children try to go unnoticed.


The most important thing is to focus on how to relieve anxiety. One must be aware of the child’s tendency to go unnoticed in class for his own tranquility. Eliminating all the pressure and expectations for the child to speak is essential.

As a teacher, there is a tendency to speak for the child or just to answer yes or no questions. Work as a teacher is not to make the child talk, but to minimize the anxiety he feels about the activities in the classroom. In some cases, these children develop one or a few friendships and will whisper or even talk to some children at school, especially on the playground.


Feel the child in the classroom in a place where it is not the center of attention and avoid eye contact at the beginning to give comfort. It is better to gain the confidence of the child by not having any kind of pressure on them and also by not excluding them from class activities. The idea is to create spontaneous opportunities for him to speak.

Children with selective mutism become involved and excited as other children when given the opportunity to respond, even if they do not always do so, for example, in an assembly passing a ball to each child to say something related to what is working at a certain time.

If the child does not answer, do not give more importance and continue with the game and act as if that behavior was normal. Do not judge or minimize the anxiety that the child may be feeling at that moment. If you see that the situation is complicated, then you will have to talk to your parents to get involved in the possible treatment you receive outside of school to reduce anxiety.

Selective mutism in children

Why do you speak only when you want?

Many times we confuse selective mutism with language difficulties or problems in learning, further aggravating the emotional imbalance that can cause in children who suffer and their parents and relatives more direct.

When does it usually manifest? On the first years. Normally the child uses the language at home and with the most intimate people, but when he goes out the door there is a silence, sometimes absolute, in a diversity of places (school, park, leisure center …) and with numerous adults or children outside to its closest nucleus.

When we mentioned selective mutism , elective mutism or partial mutism we refer to the initial difficulty establishing communication presents the child at certain times, situations, environments or with certain people who almost always are not common or close in their immediate surroundings. It can mean defensive or aggressive reaction; This behavior disorder begins in childhood, between three and seven years approximately.

Characteristics of the children who suffer from it: shyness, an exacerbated sensitivity, anxiety in social situations , anguish in crowded places with strangers, difficulties in expressing their emotions and feelings, difficulty in expressing basic courtesy greetings and difficulty in maintaining eye contact …

The fundamental question is to investigate what causes are the causes of the choice of these particular environments.

How is selective mutism treated?

The treatment of selective mutism should focus on coping with three basic difficulties:

  • The anxiety before social situations.
  • The lack of safety of the child especially in new environments and contexts and before unknown persons.
  • The attitudes of the family that can reinforce mutism through support for nonverbal communication, overprotection …
  • If selective mutism occurs essentially in the school setting, for example, we will take into account a series of aspects:
  • The way of expressing oneself and of communicating in school : With whom you speak, if you only address adults, only children, what happens when you intervene in a common conversation with other classmates …
  • The avoidance of situations in which there is an exchange of language , of group games.
  • The anxiety manifested when addressing him, the stiffness in his body language.

How can we act from home?

A global assessment of their characteristics and communication skills, their initiative in social interaction, their involvement in new experiences and their concerns is fundamental; A detailed and recorded observation for a few weeks or a month, will give us fairly reliable elements of judgment.

Some recommendations:

  • Promote the socialization of the child by favoring social contact.
  • In public it is not advisable to be perseverant and f orzar communication if the child does not want.
  • Beware of falling into the excessive dramatization of the problem or, on the contrary, in minimization or indifference, thus the situations of mutism will increase.
  • Beware of putting the child “on trial” in front of certain strange people for him, what really demands us is understanding, trust and security.
  • Avoid criticizing, judging , or labeling the child’s behavior, as well as ridiculing the lack of speech.
  • It is convenient to recognize which situations produce in the child a greater or lesser degree of anxiety and stress in order to control them.
  • It is necessary to examine the existence of some traumatic event that could have triggered the mutism.
  • The trust is the best partner to reduce muteness in any of the settings where children interact and, especially in schools.
  • The comprehensive attitude of the child’s behavior, with serenity and without manifestations of anxiety, will favor the relationship.
  • The excessive protection and the interpretation of the messages of the small one will obstruct the situation producing isolation; it is convenient to reduce them.
  • It is important to approve with a smile or a compliment without too much emphasis, with moderation and balance, any attempt at communication on the part of the child (gestures, signs, speaking in the ear

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