Selective mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder impacting as many as 1 in 140 children. Individuals with selective mutism experience significant anxiety speaking in certain social situations, most commonly at school, with peers, and in the community. In these settings, they frequently don’t speak at all, often relying on gestures, other forms of nonverbal communication, or others to speak for them.
In contrast, in situations in which they are comfortable (e.g., at home or with close relatives), these individuals are able to speak openly and easily. SM is different from the more normative shyness many children experience when meeting new people or in new places; it is pervasive and negatively impacts an individual’s ability to build age-appropriate friendships, participate optimally in school and extracurricular activities, and independently get basic needs met. SM typically emerges during the preschool years but at times can persist into adolescence, especially if left untreated. It is common for SM to present with other forms of anxiety, particularly separation anxiety or social anxiety.
SM-oriented services at BCSC: