I am a first grade teacher to a selectively mute girl, age 6. She has been in my class since August 2014 and will not speak to any adults at school. Occasionally she will whisper to me, but usually only nods as a response. She will speak to kids in the class at recess. At times, she seems terrified and chews on her fingers when she is nervous. She also moves robotically through the school, shuffling around slowly and making no eye contact. How can I help her?

  • How familiar are you with Selective Mutism?
    – Nick2253
    Feb 10, 2015 at 15:50
  • 3
    Have you discussed the issue with her parents? What was their response?
    – Acire
    Feb 10, 2015 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


I pulled the following advice from "What is Selective Mutism?" -- while the advice is directed at parents, it would at least be a start. Not pressuring her to speak seems to be the focus, since it's related to anxiety and therefore drawing attention to the issue will simply make her more nervous.

The main goals of treatment should be to lower anxiety, increase self-esteem and increase social confidence and communication.

Don't focus on the fact that she isn't speaking and look for ways to help her communicate non-verbally. Praise her work as you would any student, focusing on what she is able to accomplish in order to boost her confidence levels.

Bringing the issue up (non-judgementally) with her parents is going to be really important for long-term success, though. You'll only have her as a student for a few more months, and hopefully they will be able to establish a plan to help her throughout her school career. Not all her future teachers are guaranteed to be as understanding.

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