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Selective Mutism

Selective Mutism


Selective mutism (SM) or elective mutism (EM) is an anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s persistent inability to speak in select social situations (e.g. school). This occurs even though they have normal language skills and can speak in places where they are comfortable like the home. Failure to speak often occurs when one is expected to speak (i.e. for school presentations or social activities). To correctly diagnose this disorder, failure to speak must generally last for at least 1 month and be unrelated to lack of knowledge or comfort with the spoken language in question.

Besides failure of speech, other characteristics of selective mutism include the following:

  • Extreme shyness
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Fear of social embarrassment
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Clinging
  • Temper tantrums

At The OCD & Anxiety Center in Chicago, we pinpoint the specific issues that are contributing to selective mutism and use customized behavioral therapy to help each child overcome these issues. Our experienced specialists work with the child’s family and teachers to help reinforce and encourage communication while also lessening social anxiety. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.