What is Selective Mutism?
Selective Mutism (SM) is a situational anxiety disorder which affects both
and adults. The condition generally starts in early childhood but can, if not treated early
enough, continue into adulthood. Children and adults with SM are fully capable of
speaking, but cannot speak
in certain situations because they are too anxious to speak.
A "situation" in which someone with SM cannot speak may be a particular setting,
or the presence of
a given collection of people or indeed an individual person. The pattern of speech-related anxiety
varies depending upon the person's
life-experience, but the most common pattern is that the sufferer is a child who cannot speak
SM usually begins age 3-5 but is often first noticed when a child begins school.
Sometimes SM (either absolute silence or
extreme reticence) can last for a child’s entire time at school - until the day they leave at
16 or 18. Generally,
but not always, it contributes to academic underachievement, school refusal, and a torrid school
life, etc. despite
children with SM often being of "above-average intelligence".
Other patterns also exist: children and adults with SM may not be able to talk to certain relatives
(e.g. grandparents or aunties or
uncles etc.) Some children with SM may not be able to talk to their parents or step-parents
as was the case for me.
Children and adults with SM do not choose to be silent in the situations
in which they cannot speak. They genuinely cannot speak because they are
too anxious to speak. Almost all children
and adults with Selective Mutism would love to be able to speak in every situation they cannot.
The are not making it up,
being difficult, antisocial, rude or anything else.