Selective Mutism

Will Selective Mutism go away?

Will Selective Mutism go away?

Selective Mutism is an inability to speak selectively in certain situations. This is a severe form of anxiety disorder. The child can speak at home one to one with family members. He/she may have an issue speaking in front of relatives. In addition, group situations may be difficult. Parents consider this as shyness however, it is not. It can occur at any age. Mostly occurs post 3 or 4 years of life. When it comes to treatment there are many questions. Above all the question is will selective mutism go away? In this blog, I am going to answer these questions. In addition, some other queries will be answered.

It is a type of anxiety disorder in which a child consistently refuses to speak in certain social situations, such as at school or in public places. It can be a difficult condition for parents to understand and manage, but with the right approach, it is possible to help your child overcome their anxiety and gain confidence in their ability to communicate. Here is a Parents’ Guide To Selective Mutism.

The mechanism behind selective mutism

Selective mutism is the most underrated and undiagnosed condition. To know whether selective mutism will go away. It is crucial to grasp its mechanism.

It is not like kids are choosing not to speak. They are unable to speak in certain situations. For instance, something has fallen inside your eye. Your mother wants to blow air in your eyes. But you instinctively shut your eyes. It is not like you don’t know how to keep your eyes open. Or you think that the air is harmful. But it’s the body’s fear response. Everybody has these fears. But if this gets in the way of functioning. Academically, professionally, or socially. Then it’s an issue. Treatment is done via therapy or medically.

To further grasp the brain mechanism. Firstly, our body has a fight, flight, and freeze response in risky situations. The autonomic nervous system in our brain handles this. This has kept us alive through the years. Similarly, in the case of selective mutism. The sensory input of fear activates the amygdala. It is a part of the brain.  It processes fear. Therefore when the adult or child sees or hears someone.  This situation activates the fear response. It means extreme danger. In selective mutism, only the freeze response is activated.

These kids or adults become terrified to speak in such situations. Their anxiety level increases. By remaining silent, they decrease their anxiety level. Hence, remaining silent serves as a defense mechanism. It is also a maladapted solution to these situations. This is temporary relief. These kids or adults suffer in silence if not treated.

What causes selective mutism?

The causes are not clear. There is an association with anxiety. This anxiety can be due to various reasons. It can be due to physical or mental abuse. Some kids have difficulty processing sensory information. This may overwhelm them resulting in mutism. Mutism can also occur as a result of post-traumatic stress. A common myth is a child has autism hence he or she has selective mutism. There is no evidence to suggest this. a child can have both. It is also not necessary all kids with autism have selective mutism. It is a myth that they will develop the same.


Teachers and parents play a very crucial role. They identify and refer to an SLP. If diagnosed early on, the prognosis will be better.  During the diagnosis, the SLP might want to talk to you alone. This will help you to talk freely regarding your child’s anxieties and fears. They will also take a thorough medical history. It will include milestones etc. Any previous history of anxiety in your family. If the child went through any recent distress or changes. The behavior of your child. Post this the clinician will talk to the child using either verbal, written, or pictorial mode.

An SLP and a mental health professional looks after adults.

Guidelines for diagnosis of selective mutism are:
  • Firstly, they speak in other situations, only specific situations are tough.
  • Speaking normally in situations where they feel comfortable.
  • The inability to speak in certain situations or with a person has lasted more than a month.
  • This inability to speak interferes with their day to day function
  • Any other behavioral, mental, or communication disorder cannot explain mustim.
Associated problems:
  • A child or adult with selective mutism may have social anxiety and other fears.
  • They may or may not have other speech and language difficulties.
  • A child will not perform tasks that gather attention. For instance, changing routine or doing the best in class.
  • They would vary in making mistakes
  • Accidents and urinary infections can occur. As they cannot express they want to go to the toilet. They may end up holding it for a long time.
  • Avoiding eating or drinking
  • Have difficulty in the classroom as they are unable to clear doubts o to ask questions.
  • Teenagers will lack independence.
  • Adults may lack experience as they are unable to participate in college events and all.

An SLP and a behavioral specialist handle treatment. Techniques used are – behavioral modifications along with speech-related techniques. Shaping and social stories are used. In addition, reinforcements and CBT are also used. Diagnosis decides the intensity of treatment. It is tailor-made for every individual.

To read more about it, read the 1special blog here

Will selective mutism go away?

Now, coming to the most awaited part of the blog. The above information is vital to grasp the reason behind the answer. In most cases, Selective Mutism can go away. This answer comes with a lot of terms and conditions.

  • Early identification and diagnosis are crucial.
  • Remember the longer you wait the fear becomes strengthened. Habits become hard to change.
  • if there is a speech delay in diagnosis. Make sure you take the treatment. Without treatment, this will just worsen. Complete recovery may not be possible.
  • Full recovery varies from person to person. it depends on the severity of their anxiety and mutism.
  • Some minor difficulties may remain to post the discharge.
  • A collaborative approach is vital. Between treating experts, home, and school.
In conclusion, some tips for parents
  • Do not force or bribe your child to speak in feared situations.
  • Let your child know you understand their feelings. Moreover, you know they have difficulty speaking in certain situations.
  • Reassure and have patience. In other words, reassure any form of communication is okay.
  • Ask them to take small steps
  • Praise them privately for speaking in tough situations not publicly.
  • Do not avoid parties or family visits. Keep in mind the environmental changes.
  • Ask friends and relatives to give your child time to warm up. In addition, let them focus on fun activities rather than talking.

Remember to keep your mental health and stress under check. We don’t want to pass it on to the kids. Have patience and have fun.

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