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My 8-year-old has selective mutism. She is very talkative at home, but when it comes to school she will not say a word. She went the whole school year without her teacher hearing her voice. When I go to her school with her she won't even talk to me. I feel bad because I can tell her anxiety is very high and when I try to encourage her to respond to someone it gets worse. She is very smart and is above where she needs to be in school.

I'm so frustrated because I don't know how to help her. Her dad says he knows how to "fix" her and wants to switch schools so she can be around new people and make friends. I feel like that would be traumatizing to her, pulling her away from her familiarity. She knows the routine where she's at and everybody knows her.

Any suggestions on what I can do to help my daughter?

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    There are many possible causes, so it would help if you provided some more information: Is she talkative in other social situations or only at home? Was it like that from the start or did she stop talking at some point? Have you asked her about school or changing schools? What have you done so far to investigate? – Cyrus Jul 26 '16 at 7:14
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    In addition to @Cyrus question: does your daughter meet her class friends outside the school? At your home, at their homes, in a park, at playgrounds, during a walk...? Does she talk to them then? Does she talk to adults outside the school – to her doctor, to a seller in a shop, when you buy her favorite candies, in a cinema...? How does she behave in the presence of them, not just the family and the class and teacher? – CiaPan Jul 26 '16 at 7:51
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    SM is an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are a medical problem; this question is asking for medical advice. – user19912 Jul 28 '16 at 12:08
  • I've taught selective mutes, and they are not stupid; anecdotally, they seem rather above average. If this really is her problem, pushing her to talk will only make matters worse. If you're in the US, her school should have a speech pathologist. Call him or her to get sound advice and to educate her teachers on how to best work with her. – Marc Sep 26 '16 at 2:12
  • Have you considered virtual schooling? In today's world, an inability to communicate in person does not need to be a handicap. – pojo-guy Jul 22 '18 at 18:48
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I disagree that switching schools won't help. One of the problems with selective mutism is that peers begin to expect the child not to talk. When the child does speak, it may elicit reactions of surprise from peers. From personal experience, I know that these reactions are very uncomfortable to a person with selective mutism. At a new school, peers won't have these expectations. The Wikipedia page for selective mutism actually does mention switching schools as part of treatment, but it also has this cautionary statement:

However, changing school is worth considering only if the alternative environment is highly supportive, otherwise a whole new environment could also be a social shock for the individual and/or deprive them of any friends or support they have currently.

I do agree with Leopoldo Sparks that early treatment is best and that you should seek professional treatment, but I think you need to consider how the child will react to treatment. From personal experience, I know that there is a chance seeking treatment will cause a backlash: When my parents tried to get me treatment for selective mutism in middle school, I was very offended and angry at them and refused to cooperate. According to The Older Child or Teen with Selective Mutism children of eight or nine years old are considered to be older children and will be able to see through some treatments as attempts to get them to speak, and they might resist treatment.

The article goes on to suggest that older children need to be in control of their own treatment, which I think is true. My advice would be to be very open and supportive with your child when seeking treatment. You need to tell her that you're trying to help her and make sure she agrees to treatment rather than trying to force her. As for determining whether to switch schools, I would ask the child if she thinks that would help and have her make that choice. You said she was bright, so you might even be able to use the opportunity to find a school with a better curriculum.

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Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder. It affects about 1 in 150 children. Anxiety disorders are very treatable. Treatment is provided by specialist clinicians (speech and language therapists) although most children with selective mutism will work through it with support.

Pulling your child out of one school probably won't help. Treatment would instead focus on making the child comfortable with speaking in front of a single person at the school, and building up from there.

Early intervention is important.

Here's some information: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/selective-mutism/Pages/Introduction.aspx

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