Selective Mutism

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What Is Selective Mutism?

Children and adolescents with selective mutism do not speak to most other people, even though they are comfortable speaking at home to their family and close friends. Their refusal to speak in situations where talking is expected or necessary makes it difficult for them to be at school and make friends. Such children may stand motionless and expressionless, turn their heads, chew or twirl hair, avoid eye contact, or withdraw into a corner to avoid talking. Parents are sometimes surprised to learn from a teacher that their child refuses to speak at school.

Less than 1% of the population suffers from selective mutism. Children usually develop selective mutism around 5 years of age, or around the time when they begin school. It may be caused by negative affectivity, behavioral inhibition, and/or subtle deficits in receptive language abilities. Parental social inhibition and shyness serve as a model of social inhibition for children and increase their likelihood of developing selective mutism. Overprotective and controlling parenting have also been found to increase the likelihood of selective mutism in children.

 

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