There are a few ways to approach educating the other children about their classmate and/or SM, and this decision should be made on a case-by-case basis with input from the child/family. One option may be to read a story to the class featuring a protagonist with SM (e.g., Leo’s/ Lola’s Words Disappeared, Maya’s Voice, etc.) and talking about it in the context that the child in the story feels nervous about speaking in certain places. Its a great time to normalize anxiety in general– that while many of the students may not feel nervous about speaking in school, they may feel nervous about other things–like storms, or being separated from their parents, or taking a test. Such books could also lead to discussions about how students may help a classmate who does feel nervous about speaking in school by including them, not demanding them to speak, not making a big deal about it if they do hear the child speaking, and not speaking for the child. Depending on where the child is in terms of their symptoms, additional discussion about how to use choice questions to encourage speech (e.g., “During recess, would you rather swing or play tag?”) may also be appropriate. For some older students, there are several videos online explaining SM that may serve a similar purpose as the story but would be more developmentally appropriate to the audience.

One question school teams usually have in this process is “should we include the child in this discussion or should we do the story/video during a time that they are out of the class?” This is where the input of the child and their parents would come into play. Some kids with SM would be even more nervous being in the classroom, while others don’t mind at all and actually appreciate that their peers are learning more about them. It may be best to send home the book to be read with parents in advance so the child can “preview” the discussion so they can participate in the decision-making process.

It is probably also important to provide education on an individual level to specific kids who frequently interact with the child with SM. Usually, this is done on an incidental basis. If a teacher observes a classmate saying, “s/he doesn’t talk” or “s/he’s shy” or otherwise speaking on their behalf (e.g., “we like to play tag”), it is probably necessary to provide a gentle correction. Something like “Actually, our friend isn’t shy at all, but its hard for them to use their voice here at school right now” or “I can see that you want to be a good friend and that you’re trying to help ____ here by speaking for him/her. Its important to make sure we give him/her a chance to speak for themselves too! Just because s/he wanted to play tag yesterday doesn’t mean s/he will want to play tag today too.” Another situation that would likely require adult intervention would be if the child with SM did begin to speak at school in a limited way–e.g., with one friend on the playground– and the friend starts making a big deal about it (e.g., “___ just talked!! Say it again! Lisa, did you hear ____ just talked to me!!”) Something simple like, “I can see that its really exciting for you to have heard ___’s voice. I’m also very proud of ___ for being so brave here at school. Remember though, its important to not make a big deal about it because that may make ___ feel even more nervous” may be appropriate.