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Our SEND Education Series covers different Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. Here we discuss research on Selective Mutism, what it is and its causes.

Selective Mutism Blog Title Image

What is Selective Mutism?

Selective Mutism is a type of childhood anxiety disorder that is characterized by a

child's difficulty in speaking and communicating effectively in certain social

situations. However, these children can communicate without difficulty in

environments where they feel comfortable, safe, and relaxed.

Over 90% of those who have Selective Mutism also experience social anxiety or social

phobia. This condition can be extremely challenging for children who often have a

genuine fear of speaking and participating in social interactions, and especially

where communication is expected. Many children with Selective Mutism struggle

with nonverbal communication, which can impede their ability to engage socially,

especially in situations where they feel overwhelmed or pressured to communicate.

Why does a child develop selective mutism?

Children with Selective Mutism often have severely inhibited temperaments.

Your temperament is your basic nature, especially as it is shown in the way that you

react to situations or to other people.

The specific behaviours exhibited by children with Selective Mutism can generally be

attributed to the theory that these children with inhibited temperaments have a

lower threshold for excitability in the amygdala, which is a region of the brain

responsible for processing emotions such as fear. When faced with situations that

trigger fear, the amygdala receives signals from the sympathetic nervous system,

which sends warning signals of potential danger and initiates a series of reactions

designed to help individuals protect themselves. In the case of children with

Selective Mutism, the situations that trigger fear are social settings like school,

birthday parties, family gatherings, and other routine activities.

Selective Mutism in children research

Although rare, there are some children with Selective Mutism who do not appear to

be shy at all. In fact, some of these children even perform and act in ways to draw attention towards themselves and have been described as 'professional mimes' The reasons for their mutism are not yet fully understood, but preliminary research suggests that they may have other underlying factors causing the mutism.

For instance, some of these children may have developed mutism due to years of living

without speaking, resulting in ingrained mutism behavior despite not having social

anxiety symptoms or any other developmental or speech problems..

The differences between selective and traumatic mutism

Tutors at Learn With SAT have undergone career development programs on Selective Mutism ( as well as other SEND education topics) , and can tailor their education to fit the needs of a child with Selective Mutism, whether this is for an Education Other Than At School (EOTAS) programme, or for top-up tuition. If your child has Selective Mutism and you'd like to discuss either of these options with us, we offer a free consultation, just fill in the free consultation form on our home page.

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