Dear Doctor, I am a new member of the Selective Mutism Association. Upon finding your website, I was thrilled. Without a doubt, I am convinced my daughter suffers sm. She has just turned 4 this month, and with the passage of time her speaking in most social settings is worsening. She began a preschool program (2 mornings per week) this past fall. Both the teacher and the school administration informed me that they have never encountered a child such as my daughter. S….not only does not speak, but also does not engage in any play with other children, nor does she complete any projects independently. When entering the classroom, she basically stiffens, making even her entry to the classroom very difficult. However, she does not fuss about going to school; she tells me about the activities quite extensively when she returns home.

By recommendation of a friend, I have contacted an early childhood specialist, who specializes with children exhibiting social behavioral delays. She has met with my daughter at our home. S…. loves her playtime with the teacher, but has never spoken to her. The “special instructor” has also visited the classroom, and has written up her observations and several recommendations for the teachers. The teachers implemented some of her ideas after the Christmas holidays and had limited success. My daughter began walking on her own to the playground instead of being carried; sat at the snack table; and, on occasion worked on a craft (with a lot of assistance from the teacher). But there has been no speaking at all to her classroom teachers. Since the start of school, S…. has extended her non-speaking to other family members and friends to whom she had previously spoken. On one occasion, she spent an entire day not speaking to her favorite cousin (age 12); then suddenly told me “I’ve decided to talk to Amy” and then talked and played all evening with her. I have given you probably more background than necessary. My question is: Where do we start in helping her through this? Our pediatrician does not feel this is a problem. Whatever guidance you can provide us would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, H D


Without fully evaluating your child it seems to me that she clearly has SM characteristics. Obviously a professional evaluation is warranted to be certain this is SM.

I do have to mention that I strongly disagree with your doctor! We hear this often. Your doctor is mistaking your child’s SM with shyness, and assuming she will grow out of this. Unfortunately many of the teens I am treating were told this too when they were daughter’s age. We do not know that she will outgrow it, and most do not.

My recommendation would be to find a Doctor or therapist who understands SM and can help diagnose and develop a proper treatment plan for your child. When diagnosed early, and treated from an anxiety perspective the prognosis is excellent for overcoming SM. Fortunately your child is very young, and attacking this early prevents in-grained, learned behavior from developing. And remember, your instincts with your child are usually correct.