Growing Up with Selective Mutism

Today we have a special guest writer. Her name is Julie, and she grew up with selective mutism. For most of her school life, she was shackled by silence until a kind family took her in and guided her to break those chains. The most striking thing about her story is that after she graduated from school, she could not fit in with the rest of the community because of the long term effects that SM had on her, and she became very depressed. For those of us who have been through hard times, this could very well be a…
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Emotional Regulation in SM Kids

A new study shows that children with selective mutism are more chronically over-aroused than children with social phobia alone. Although they outwardly appear similar to their social phobia counterparts, kids with sm struggle with a constant alertness more often than other kids. In the study led by Deborah Beidel, , ABPP, children with sm and children with social phobia were tested while playing the Nintendo Wii, with a device that measures skin conductance (like what a lie detector looks for, or what an 'e-meter' from the Church of Scientology measures - when something affects you emotionally, it responds). What Beidel found…
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Do’s And Don’ts of Working with Children with SM

Last August, 22 kids experienced the Brave Buddies program, where they were able to speak in situations they never thought was possible. If you don't know about this wonderful program, you can read more about it here. As a follow up, ABC published an article by Lauren Effron, featuring helpful examples by Dr. Steven Kurtz, on their website with tips on the do's and don'ts of working with children with SM, reproduced here verbatim: Kurtz  recommended these tips for parents with selectively mute children, but said this advice could help any parent improve communication with their child. 1. DO wait five seconds before you…
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22 ‘Brave Buddies’ Find a Voice

"Last week the Child Mind Institute hosted 22 children with selective mutism (SM) and their families as part of the weeklong Brave Buddies summer program. During these exciting and intense five days, which followed the contours of a regular school day, children who could previously speak in few, if any, social situations outside of the home made remarkable progress. By the end of the week these brave and wonderful children were ordering ice cream by themselves from complete strangers! At the same time, their parents attended training sessions to learn the skills that will ensure that gains made in this…
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Selective Mutism vs Shyness

Once when I was 6 or 7 at school, I was walking with the rest of the class to go to the playground. The rest of the kids were chatting away while I was quietly reflective and listening, when one of the teachers asked me why I didn't talk. I automatically shrugged with a preprepared look of slight confusion. She then persisted, "Are you just shy?" My normal response to this was to nod in approval, not because I had any profound awareness of myself, but just because it was the easiest answer to give them. This particular time, some…
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The High Diving Board

Selective mutism and social anxiety is like being afraid to jump off of a high diving board. You climb up and up and up, finally getting to the top. You sort of look down at the specks of people from the high and you freeze. The fear hits you. And you can't move. After what seems like ages, you slowly climb back down embarrassed and bewildered. The very thought of going up there again is terrifying. --- Similarly, a teacher asks a kid in class how many sides a square has. She knows the answer, but she feels the anticipatory…
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