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Sad Young Girl


in Children, Teenagers, and Adults

Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate in specific social settings, such as school. 

Individuals who suffer from Selective Mutism(SM) may be extremely talkative at home with their families but unable to speak at school or in other social situations outside in the community.  Parents, teachers, and other individuals may believe that these children are willfully not speaking.  They may even feel that at times they are acting out of defiance.  However, these children are unable to speak due to their extreme anxiety. 


Children with SM often do not participate in the classroom due to not being able to speak to the teacher and other students.  They have accidents in their pants because they are afraid to ask to use the bathroom.  They don’t eat in school because they are afraid to eat in front of other students and/or adults. They are nervous to ask their teachers for help when they need it because they don’t want others to hear their voice. 


When such children are asked why they don’t speak to others they often say they are afraid if they finally do speak that the other children will all say, “Oh so and so spoke” or “I am afraid I will get something wrong and they will laugh at me”; “they” being the other kids in the class.  Other times the child is worried that the other children will look at them when they speak in the classroom.  Left untreated SM can possibly lead to children developing social anxiety, school refusal, depression and other mental health disorders.

Children with Selective Mutism are physically incapable of speaking in specific social situations, often due to paralyzing anxiety. Their silence is not a choice.

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