My son N…… six years old. He was promoted from kindergarten to the second grade this past August. Unfortunately, the school did not inform us before the first day of school. He has since refused to speak in the classroom of the second grade class. He speaks at school in aftercare and with his friends from his old class. He has been getting excellent grades in this new grade and actually now admits that he likes it. He has expressed a desire to me (the parent) to “want to” talk in the classroom but doesn’t know how to start. He has been getting some behavioral therapy but to no avail. I have an appointment scheduled in January with another psychologist.


I am assuming your child was not SM prior to the grade skipping. It seems quite obvious that your child is very anxious with his move to the second grade. He may have academically been ready for the second grade, but obviously socially and developmentally he was not. He feels insecure and uncomfortable with these older children and is so afraid and scared, he is now SM. SM is a result of anxiety, and your child is clearly so anxious, he is mute in this setting.

Please do not use the word REFUSES to speak. If he is truly SM, he CANNOT speak from severe anxiety. Recommendations would be that behavioral techniques to help lower his anxiety be instituted, especially because he tells you he likes school. If, by the end of the school year, he is still SM, despite a behavioral approach to treatment of anxiety, I would seriously consider whether or not to repeat this grade, with extra academic enrichment in place for next year. Social development is incredibly important and crucial to a child’s emotional growth.

Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum