5 things you should NOT do if your child is selectively mute!
What is Selective Mutism?
Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim
Selective Mutism is diagnosed when a child is not able to talk freely in one or more situations or with more than one group of people.
It can be considered a serious communication problem if this behaviour persists for more than a couple of months, as it can have disastrous impacts on a child's educational performance and behaviour, as well as general wellbeing at school.
I have discussed in another article some things to do if your child has selective mutism.
Here I discuss what NOT to do if your child is not talking!
Some children who are new to a language of instruction in school, like English stop talking for a while or become very quiet in school until they feel confident to use the new language. Or there may be an emotional or health issue that results in the child being withdrawn and silent for a while.
Whether temporary or long-term, here are some steps for what NOT to do when these situations arise:
Do not press the child to talk with your guests, or put them in a position where they will be pushed to talk. Help your child by letting your guests / family know that they should not press the child to talk till he / she is comfortable to do so.
Do not make them feel they are being silly, or a nuisance, or laugh at them with your friends. Sometimes we parents tend to cover our embarrassment about what we see as our child's weakness by talking about them laughingly and the child is very aware of this.
Do not encourage your child to whisper to you. This will only prolong getting them to the stage of being able to talk properly. It is hard to stop whispering once allowed.
Don't put your child with children who will push him / her to talk – find ways to let your child be with quieter children where he/she can be confident.
Do not take it personally when your child is not talking! It is so easy as a parent to feel that you child's behaviour reflects on you, and that he / she is deliberately defying you or being silly. Give your child the space needed to get past his/her fear of talking, and be ready to talk.
These are just some of my ideas about what not to do with a selectively mute child: I would love to hear any ideas you have to share. I am happy to discuss techniques you can use to help your child or related concerns.
Let me know what you find useful in dealing with Selective Mutism in the comments.
Margi Kulsoom Orchard
(MRCSLT & HCPC, UK Reg.)
Specialist Speech & Language Therapist