Selective Mutism

Also known as: elective mutism, anxiety disorder, phobia.

What is selective mutism?

Selective mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder in which the child will speak at certain times when in a comfortable secure and relaxed environment, but not necessarily in other situations (lasting for more than one month). An example might be that the child will speak while at home, but not at school. Most of these children have social phobia or social anxiety.

What causes selective mutism? 

Many children have a genetic predisposition to anxiety, or are temperamentally shy, self-conscious, are sensitive to sounds, light, touch, taste and smell and have difficulty in managing them with a result that they become anxious and avoid and withdraw when exposed. 20%-30% have subtle speech, hearing and/or language difficulties or other learning disabilities which cause the child feel more anxious, insecure or uncomfortable in situations where they are expected to speak.

What are the symptoms of selective mutism?

Children will speak in most situations but may consistently fail to speak in certain social situations. When anxious these children will in addition children have poor eye to eye contact, rarely smile, hold their bodies stiffly, avoid crowds and noise, and have a problem expressing emotions. The condition often can interfere with a child’s ability to connect with others, as well as his or her performance in school and other activities.

What are selective mutism care options?

Treatments include individual behavioral therapy, family therapy, psychotherapy and medications which may include antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 2/22/2018 11:28:00 AM

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​F.O.C.U.S. Program

This group therapy program is designed for children ages 7 to 17 with behaviorial issues, including but not limited to ADHD. This support group meets on Wednesdays.   Learn more.

Calm Kids

Calm Kids is a weekly group therapy course designed to teach children strategies on how to take control over anxiety symptoms. Children will learn how to cope with fears and worries, identify anxiety triggers, how to relax the mind and body and maximize their self-confidence. This group meets on Tuesdays. Learn more.

Camp DMC

Camp DMC is a summer program for children with special needs run by Nicklaus Children’s Dan Marino Outpatient Center. Please note: We will not offer Camp DMC during summer of 2019. Learn more.

Pain Management Group

This eight-week program is specifically designed to empower children ages 7 to 18 through complex sensory experiences. Learn more.

Teen Sleep Group

This six-week program is designed for teens ages 13 to 16 experiencing difficulties related to sleep, including daytime sleepiness, trouble waking in the morning, difficulty falling asleep and waking in the middle of the night. Learn more.

Social Skills Group

Children and teens ages 7 to 17 are invited to join this small discussion group to learn how to make, cultivate and maintain friendships. Participants will learn basic conversational skills, and discuss the use of appropriate humor, how to electronically connect with others, and how to manage disagreements. Learn more.