For students with selective mutism, what school placement/environment is best?

Although the child with SM may require an IEP (Individual Educational Plan), which might include such as alternative academic assessment, the best place for him/her is in the regular classroom. Children with SM need the reassurance that they are part of the normal population and that their difficulty speaking will not last forever. If the child has other comorbid disorders such as a learning disability or speech and language delay, additional assistance from a specialist may be needed.

How shall I approach a student with selective mutism to make him/her feel comfortable around me?

Reassure the child with selective mutism that there is no pressure for her to speak to you.

  • Tell her that you understand it is difficult for her to speak at school, because school is a very big place with lots of people, and is very different from home.
  • Tell her you have met other children just like her. This will make her feel better as she isn’t the only one.
  • Tell her that her difficulty speaking will not last forever.

A child with selective mutism will eventually speak when there is a need to, right?

Remember, speaking is not a choice for a child with selective mutism. A child with selective mutism can speak and wants to speak, but is unable to. People who have recovered from selective mutism reported that their throat simply “closed up,” or there was “a lump” blocking their throat for sounds to pass through. Due to extreme fear of speaking, a child with selective mutism will go to extreme measures to avoid speaking, and is unable to report urgent needs, even if s/he is hurt or being bullied!