Educating Students With Selective Mutism Mollie Culmone Abstract Selective Mutism is not a disorder that can be immediately diagnosed, but it is better to catch it at an early age. It is usually misdiagnosed or brushed off as a child being “shy”. Parents, teachers and society alike have seen the characteristics in these children and unknowingly hoped that these children would just “grow out of it”. Because Selective Mutism is often misdiagnosed, children can go without treatment and this makes it difficult to reach the child in time for this not to affect them long term.
It is hard for children with Selective Mutism to form personal connections with peers or people that are not in their family. By taking a stand as parents and teachers and educating ourselves about this disorder and how to treat it, we might be able to help these undiagnosed children who are silently suffering with this disorder. Educating Students With Selective Mutism Selective Mutism is described as a “persistent failure to speak in specific social situations (such as school, or with playmates) where speaking is expected, despite speaking in other situations” (Camposano, 2011).
Children with Selective Mutism will not have problems speaking and interacting with people that they are close to and trust. The problems occur when they are outside of the home and their comfort zones. Most people mistake Selective Mutism for a speech disorder because the children that have this disorder are so quiet that they automatically assume that the child has a problem with their speech or understand the language. Anxiety seems to be the biggest problem for children with this disorder.
Lisa Camposano in 2011 states that, there is evidence that family history of anxiety often plays a role in the disorder while speech and language problems along with will full opposition, do not seem to contribute to the development of Selective Mutism. Because shyness is usually what people blame first when it comes to this disorder, this makes it hard for a child to interact and connect with peers. To try to understand Selective Mutism we must first understand the feeling of having fears or phobias.
Regardless of how others see our fears, our anxiety over these fears become very personal to us and some can even have the ability to cripple us emotionally. To be diagnosed with Selective Mutism, a child’s lack of speech must either last for at least one month, must interfere with educational or occupational achievement or with social communication, lack of speech cannot be due to the lack of knowledge of the language and cannot be due to a communication disorder (Downey, 2010).
Because this is so commonly misdiagnosed, studies on Selective Mutism are few and far between and we don’t have much information on the causes of the disorder. Studies also show that it is rare, and only takes up about 2% of the population, with girls more prevalent than boys (Buzzella, 2011). This disorder is a social phobia and makes it extremely difficult for children to participate with their peers and sometimes their teacher in a class situation.
This makes it hard for the child socially by participating but not being involved in talking with children their own age, the successfulness of their language and by decreasing knowing how to read social cues. This can also harm their education by not being willing to participate in group discussions, projects, and could play a big role on their grades because the child shuts down and blocks out unwanted forms of communication. If caught at a young age children can start treatment, therapy and interventions.
These can be a huge part to developing a child’s willingness to figure out their fears and even rationalize them or start to talk about them. There are many ways that schools can help children with Selective Mutism become successful with their education. By educating ourselves on the disorder we can then figure out how to educate the children that have the disorder. Interpersonal interactions, social and emotional development, and academic performance are all areas of concern about a child with Selective Mutism (Ford, 1998).
Children might benefit from not being completely mainstreamed in school during the early stages of Selective Mutism. Big classrooms could seem to overwhelming for the child and could cause them to dig deeper within themselves and hide, this is where Special Education teachers with smaller rooms and a better chance of more one-on –one with the child could be something that is highly beneficial to a child with Selective Mutism. One of the most effective interventions that is said to help dramatically with children who have Selective Mutism is using indirect communication.
For young children this can be a window to getting them to talk to other people. Doing this you can have the child talk through a toy as you play with them, or sit back to back with them while they talk to you (Porter, 2008). By talking through play with a child this helps them open up the lines of communication with you, and it takes the anxiety away from the child to talk in a relaxed environment. Although this is something that is going to be hard to do during a lesson it will over time help the child form a bond with you and let you in to their small circle of trust.
There are also other treatment options that help lower the anxiety of the child and help them by giving them healthy options to relax them and help them cope with their anxieties. Interventions aimed at achieving this goal include relaxation skills, meditation and breathing exercises (Camposano, 2011). These techniques can help the child by helping them relax at any point in the day if they feel anxious. Other than helping the child feel relaxed and calming their nerves, it is important to also try to boost the child’s self esteem and make them more confident with themselves.
This is a big one because when a child feels more confident in what they are doing, they are able to speak about it in a confident way as well without second guessing themselves. The most important goal for a child with Selective Mutism is to help the children feel more comfortable with verbal communication in settings that are social and out of their comfort zone. In 2011 Camposano states that, increasing verbal communication may take years as well as long-term therapeutic intervention depending on factors such as the duration of the mutism and the severity of the symptoms.
This is not something that will be quick and easy for the child, but it is something that needs to be made a priority by the adults and educators in the child’s life. Because the subject of Selective Mutism is still uncharted territory for most people, we are still so far behind on being able to help these children. The misdiagnosed children that are left to dwell in their own silence need the help and cooperation of their family and educators to help them be more comfortable socially. As an educator, being informed and nbiased is a huge advantage to catching this disorder in the classroom. Being able to talk to parents about their child having something much more serious than just “shyness” and informing them to get their child tested or giving them options on how to treat the Selective Mutism is a top priority. Leaving a child misdiagnosed and untreated could potentially cause language barriers and emotional stress on the child. Because school is the best place to practice and develop social and verbal skills it is important that interventions happen sooner than later for the child.
References Buzzella, B. (2011). Comorbity and Family Factors Associated With Selective Mutism. Child Development Research, 1-9. Camposano, L. (2011, January). Silent Suffering: Children With Selective Mutism. The Professional Counselor: Research and Practice, 1(1), 45-56. Downey, J. (2010). Selective Mutism :a three-tiered approch to pervention and intervention. Contemporary School Psychology. Ford, M. A. (1998). Selective Mutism: Phenomenological Characteristics. School Psychology Quarterly, 1-39. Porter, L. (2008). Young Children’s Behavior. East Street Publications.
Cite this Selective Mutism
Selective Mutism. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/selective-mutism/