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What success rate is given to treating teens with SM?

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What success rate is given to treating SM with the treatment starting with a child 15 years old? Would medication be the best way to treat SM at this age?

Answer

It is never to late too begin treatment for his Selective Mutism. Studies clearly indicate the earlier the treatment begins the better, but just as an adult can undergo successful treatment for an anxiety disorder, so can a teenager. As you know, Selective Mutism is primarily an anxiety disorder, so the means of treatment focus on treatment for anxiety.

I am assuming your child was already diagnosed by a professional; whether it was a psychiatrist, psychologist, pediatrician or family physician. Depending on the severity of your son's condition, a treatment plan should be determined for him. The most common way to begin therapy would be in the form of behavioral modification (where your son's selective mutism is gradually changed over time), i.e. if your son is mute in public places, we try to train him to "see himself " talking in these places. Or we would give him specific goals of talking by using positive reinforcement.

Another form of therapy is cognitive behavior therapy (this is usually reserved for older teens and adults). This type of therapy focuses on re-training your son's attitude towards specific anxiety provoking stimuli, i.e. if your son is mute in school, we try to get him to "realize" that school is a non-threatening place. Various techniques are used to encourage a more "cognitive" way of seeing a potentially anxious situation in a relaxing way.

Another popular way of treating Selective Mutism or anxiety is by using medication. The most popular medications used for Selective Mutism is the "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors" (SSRI's) such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. This route of treatment is becoming more and more popular as studies are confirming safety and success with using this type of treatment.

A few words of advice: make sure to get your son into some sort of treatment immediately. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is to adequately treat, simply because a child/teen gets more and more set in their ways.

Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum

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