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AN INFORMAL ALLIANCE OF SELECTIVE MUTISM SUPPORT GROUPS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN.


 

Selectively mute children do not speak to people beyond the immediate family. This includes neighbours, relatives not seen regularly, teachers, classmates and the participants in any group activity, whether unstructured play groups or organized sports or hobbies. Within the family their conversation is typically age-appropriate, quite often to the extent that they are considered to be chatterboxes.

The problem can go unnoticed in the pre-school years and, sometimes even during the first years in primary grades when teachers or facilitators assume the child is shy and that the parents are aware of the child's lack of verbal participation. It may become apparent when the child begins to attend nursery school or other form of structured play but may easily go unnoticed at that stage. For a child not exposed to organized preschool group activities, the first indications of the problem may not be noticed until kindergarten or beyond. Many children - especially when the problem is diagnosed early, and they are given the support and understanding that is needed - are able to speak comfortably in the classroom by the end of the school year. However, when the problem is especially persistent, dismissed or unnoticed in over-crowded classrooms and, consequently, not treated, it can continue into high school years.

First identified in 1934, but not investigated to any extent until the 1990s, selective mutism is still widely misunderstood and, like other childhood anxiety disorders, subject to misconceptions about its causes - even health professionals still often wrongly assume that it is caused by trauma, abuse and family dysfunction. Both parents and children benefit from the exchange of information and ideas gained by participating in selective mutism support groups.

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