Braving COVID-19: Suggestions for Youth with Selective Mutism
Amidst school closures and home quarantines, it has become more difficult (but not impossible!) to support children struggling with selective mutism and/or social anxiety with their brave talking goals. We are sharing some ideas for maintaining continuity of treatment goals and progress given the current COVID-19 health crisis. Some of these suggestions may be standalone while others may require therapeutic support. With the help of technology, youth can continue to work on speaking goals through video exposures/bravery practices.
- Schedule video sessions (using Google Meet, Facetime, Zoom, Houseparty, Facebook Messenger, etc.) with preferred peers, family members, and others in your child’s social network (e.g., classmates, teachers, coaches). Consider regularly scheduling video sessions to allow for repetition and bravery momentum over time.
Schedule telehealth therapy sessions with your child’s therapist so that your child can maintain the therapist-client relationship during this period of uncertainty. Some therapists may be amenable to shortened sessions. Telehealth sessions can target a variety of individual goals including:
- Strengthening the therapist-child relationship
- Learning how to identify and understand emotions in a developmentally appropriate way
- Learning how to manage emotions through the use of coping skills
- Engaging in exposures/bravery practices in session
- Planning exposures/bravery practices for outside of session
Telehealth sessions can also be utilized for parent coaching. Many families are balancing working from home while both parenting and homeschooling their children right now, which is a stressful and effortful balance. Parent coaching can provide support and behavior management strategies to get through this difficult period.
Send and receive audio and/or video messages with others in your child’s social network. Making these recordings can happen anytime, without needing to schedule with another person, and can provide meaningful social connection.
Continue to reward your child for engagement in video exposures/bravery practices (e.g., bravery star charts, reward menus).
Nonverbal Games for Video Sessions
Consider using these nonverbal games for warm-up activities, along with Child-Directed Interaction (CDI) skills (reflections, labeled praises, behavior descriptions).
- Charades (http://www.playcharades.net/ will prepopulate words for the child to act out)
- Simon Says
- Arts & crafts (e.g., simultaneously making paper airplanes, coloring, making origami)
- Yoga poses
- Fitness challenges
Verbal Games for Video Sessions
- Would You Rather (https://conversationstartersworld.com/would-you-rather-questions-for-kids/ or make up your own)
- 20 Questions
- Show & Tell
- I Spy
- Madlibs (https://www.squiglysplayhouse.com/WritingCorner/StoryBuilder/)
- Two Truths & A Lie
- Heads Up
Games Using Google Whiteboard (https://www.webwhiteboard.com/board/4t9kju9c)
- Dots and Boxes
For questions regarding any of these suggestions, please contact your child’s therapist or Dr. Kaitlyn Wilbur-Smith, Director of Selective Mutism Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) at BCSC.
* Some of the ideas and suggestions shared have been adapted from Veronica L. Raggi, Ph.D. and other members of the Selective Mutism Association.