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Selective Mutism? Extremely shy?

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Selectibe mutism

I have had parents seeking help because they are worried that their child is experiencing selective mutism or is extremely shy at school, affecting their social and developmental performance.

After many years of working with children with a variety of behavioral and developmental challenges, there are a few things that I have found useful when helping children who suffer in silence in their classrooms.

- First, I build a trustworthy relationship with the child by playing 1:1 with them. I want them to feel completely comfortable with me so they can open up and become the talkative children that they are at home.

- I make them feel confident by exposing them to a variety of play skills and ensuring that they have the skills needed and can express their wants and needs with confidence.

- I gradually introduce myself in the classroom and serve as a bridge between the “shy” child and their peers and support them in making connections with 1-2 children at a time.

- I enjoy combining 1:1 time with children, as well as working in the classroom with them, so they can pair the joy of playing and talking with me with being in their classroom.

I would think that if teachers were able to spend some extra time with the child who is experiencing shyness or mutism challenges, they could become that “security” person for the child and make their transition to the outer world easier. However, teachers are often busy building and implementing lesson plans and have little time to spend and play with the children individually or in smaller groups, therefore additional support is needed.

I encourage parents to seek help as soon as teachers report that their child is not socializing or talking in the classroom. ABA therapy or behavioral therapy is very effective for intervening selective mutism in the classroom. Small changes lead to a world of opportunities.


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