What Are the Characteristics of Selective Mutism in Children?


Quick Answer

Characteristics of selective mutism in children include consistently not speaking in certain situations, extreme shyness, fear of social embarrassment, anxiety and social isolation, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. It is a rare disorder that affects only about 1 percent of the population.

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Full Answer

For a definitive diagnosis of selective mutism, the period of not speaking must last more than a month and must not be associated with the child lacking knowledge or comfort, explains the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The lack of speaking must also interfere with school and cannot be associated with a communication disorder such as stuttering or a behavioral health issue such as autism.

A team is typically required to diagnose selective mutism, notes the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Most children are seen by a mental health professional, a pediatrician and a speech-language pathologist. The team reviews the child's academic history, screens his ability to hear, interviews the parents for possible behavioral health problems, evaluates speech and language, and conducts an oral-motor coordination examination.

Treatment for selective mutism depends on the underlying cause of the condition, adds the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Many times, the team employs a number of treatment options, including teachers to help the child at school, treating speech or language issues, and behavioral treatment.

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