Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What is Selective Mutism....again

What is Selective Mutism (SM)? — Selective Mutism Group: "Diagnosis of other comorbid anxiety disorders are also commonly diagnosed with SM and social phobia (Biedel & Turner, 1998). The name change from 'elective' to 'selective mutism' in DSM-IV deemphasized the oppositional behavior connotation that a child elected not to speak and rather emphasized the characteristic of the disorder, that there are select environments in which speaking does not occur (APA, 1994). The term selective mutism is consistent with new etiological theories that focus on anxiety issues (Dow et al., 1995).
The current edition, DSM-IV-TR (APA, 2000) states that the following criteria must be met in order to qualify for a diagnosis of selective mutism:
An inability to speak in at least one specific social situation where speaking is expected (e.g., at school) despite speaking in other situations (e.g., at home); The disturbance has interfered with educational or occupational achievement or with social communication; The duration of the selective mutism is at least one month and is not limited to the first month of school; The inability to speak is not due to to a lack of knowledge of or discomfort with the primary language required in the social situation; and, The disturbance cannot better be accounted for by a communication disorder (e.g. stuttering) and does not occur exclusively during the course of a pervasive developmental disorder, schizophrenia or other psychotic disorder.
Consistent with current research, SMG believes that Selective Mutism is best understood as a childhood social communication anxiety disorder. SM is much more than shyness and most likely on the spectrum of social phobia and related anxiety disorders. SM is NOT a child willfully refusing to speak."

I had an incident today that caused me to look up Selective Mutism. Because of one person I was in a terrible mood all day.

I have been trying to get Larissa into the 4K program in the school in which we are zoned. I feel that it would better prepare her for kindergarten the next year. With her anxiety it would be nice to have that transition in the same school in the same environment. However, the special education department doesn't agree with me. Larissa will be going to a different school this year....her third.
During our discussion I mentioned that with her Selective Mutism Larissa's needs would be best met by attending her zoned school. I was told, "it is not like she has a disability or anything, she just chooses not to speak". Needless to say, she received a lecture on how debilitating SM can actually be.

She honestly thinks that my child is just being willful. No wonder she is not interested in actually helping with her issue. I had just spoken with the private speech therapist today and she also thinks that Larissa should go to her zoned school. She wants to talk with the school. I don't think that it will help. Closed minds are so hard to open.

This is not the first time I have met with this opinion. We were actually told by a therapist that we should punish her every time she wouldn't talk. My husband was with me at the time and was shocked. We can both tell that it is not just a willful act, we are sure that if she could get those words out she would gladly. We have never punished her for not talking to others and we never will, our hearts tell us it is wrong.

So, tomorrow I will be sending the above description of Selective Mutism from the Selective Mutism Group to the special education department of our district office. I will underline a few sentences for her. Maybe, someone there will learn something new. All I know is......... she is worth the fight.


  1. We have had to fight this fight more than once. Each and every time we have to prove what selective mutism is and that Larissa does in fact have it. This has turned into an annual fight to get Larissa the educational benefits she needs.
    This school administrator does not know who she is dealing with. Felicia is a very experienced fighter for special needs educational services.

  2. We are dealing with this very issue right now. My 4 yr. old daughter has SM, I am fighing to get her on the special needs bus and in the classes. They will not allow her to ride the SN bus without an IEP but will not give her an IEP because they don't believe that she has an ACTUAL disability. My biggest fear is that she will be so afraid to speak or stand up at her bus stop that she will pass it up and stay on the bus. I will be the squeaky wheel and fight for what I feel that my child needs. God bless. Keep fighting.

  3. I know that when I got Larissa's original IEP I had to fight for it. When I said she had SM I was told it was not a qualifier for services. I went a different route and requested speech testing. Larissa wouldn't say a single word at all during the testing (and the tester tried because she didn't believe that SM existed). So, the tester determined that she was speech delayed and she qualified for services. Larissa is behind in speech and I believe it is because of her lack of speaking outside of the home.

    I know that Larissa would not stand up and say that her bus stop was missed. I hope you can get the services you need. It all comes down to money. But, early intervention is the key, catch a problem before it gets worse.