Many children are shy and quiet at school. They eventually find a friend or two, begin to open up in class, and may even initiate conversations with a teacher or unfamiliar student. This is not your child. At school, your child freezes when asked a question, speaks in a whisper, or is completely silent. Yet at home, in the comfort of close family and friends, he or she has no problem rambling on about his or her day. This severe discrepancy in behavior may be caused by Selective Mutism (SM).
SM is a childhood anxiety disorder that prevents a child from speaking and communicating in social places like schools. Signs your child has SM include severe shyness, timidity, fearfulness, crying, withdrawal and moodiness. Unfortunately, many children with SM are misdiagnosed as autistic or delayed when, in reality, they are rather gifted. Other times, SM may accompany a diagnosis of autism or other disability. This makes it even more important to distinguish SM as its own condition.
Misunderstanding. The #1 reason kids with SM are mistreated and misevaluated in schools is that adults do not understand SM. It's crucial to understand children with SM are not voluntarily choosing to be silent. They are actually unable to communicate in most social settings.
Your child's school must provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This may require accommodations to help overcome the anxiety and self-esteem issues that cause your child's silence. SM is a condition; not a choice. As such, it is critical the school works with someone knowledgeable of SM who has the right training to evaluate and treat your child.
Remember, SM is not autism. It is not a cognitive delay. It is an anxiety disorder and should properly be categorized and treated in a positive, encouraging manner through your child's Individual Education Plan (IEP). The right services are essential to enable your child to communicate.
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If you have any questions about your child's special education services, Contact us by email or call us at 714-602-1498 or 866-781-7723 (toll free) for more information.
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