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What is behavioral therapy for selective mutism?

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Stimulus fading, shaping and self-modeling are three main behavioral therapy techniques therapists use to treat selective mutism, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Speech-language pathologists tailor treatments to suit individual needs.

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In stimulus fading therapy, the patient is in a calm situation with someone with whom he can speak comfortably, and the therapist introduces a new participant gradually, explains the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Shaping therapy involves positive reinforcement of all communication, such as gestures and whispering, on the path to speech. In self-modeling therapy a patient builds confidence by viewing videotapes of himself speaking without difficulty .

Selective mutism often occurs in children, notes the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. In many cases children are comfortable with family and friends but have trouble communicating in a classroom setting and with teachers. Speech-language pathologists work with teachers to build confidence and reduce apprehension in the classroom. Small group work helps children with selective mutism feel less intimidated as does communicating with hand gestures or cards and building to speech. Some children suffer from selective mutism due to self-esteem issues or a belief that their voices sound wrong or strange. These children benefit from self-esteem and confidence-building exercises. It is also important to have a medical professional screen for any hearing problems or ear infections that may be causing selective mutism.

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