Despite having a cheeky, assertive personality at home with his parents and some extended family members, he is unable to speak to the preschool staff and most of his peers. He sometimes nods his head if asked simple questions but is unable to join in play with his friends. He is also unable to use the bathroom at preschool and in public places. His parents are concerned that he will not develop close friendships and are saddened that others don’t get to experience his true personality.
She has always been a shy child and despite speaking normally with her preschool teachers Sally has had difficulty speaking to school staff since Grade 1. Sally has a couple of close friends whom she can speak to at school, but will stop speaking if she thinks anyone else, such as her teacher, may be listening. She has difficulty participating in group work tasks and is unable to ask questions to facilitate her learning.
If any of the above describes the difficulties your child is facing then therapy can assist your child to develop the confidence to let their authentic self shine.
Situational Mutism is condition where children experience anxiety about communicating with others. Commonly, children speak comfortably with their parents and siblings and with some other familiar people, but feel anxious about communicating with teachers and peers at school and in other public environments.
Situational Mutism is a more extreme form of social anxiety where children are worried that others will hear their voice and make negative judgements about them or respond in another negative way e.g., by getting overly excited or making a “big deal” out of their speaking.
You may have heard the term Selective Mutism, which is currently the formal diagnostic term for communication related anxiety. At The Talbot Centre, we choose to use Situational Mutism as this term is preferred by those with lived experience. Situational Mutism emphasizes the role of external factors and contexts in communication challenges, rather than implying selectivity or willful avoidance on the part of the individual.
Extreme shyness is similar to Situational Mutism and can be thought of as a less severe form of social anxiety. Although shy children are usually able to provide some response when communicating with familiar people, children with Situational Mutism are often unable to respond verbally at all, sometimes even in situations where they have been seriously injured and need assistance.
While some children may start speaking to new adults or peers spontaneously this is relatively uncommon and these children tend to continue to feel anxious in certain social situations such as when speaking in front of the class or in situations where they may need to be assertive.
The skills taught to children and parents to develop confident communication are beneficial for all children who experience anxiety, whether they have started to speak more freely already or need some additional assistance to get started.
Early intervention can prevent your child’s anxious coping behaviours (e.g., not speaking when anxious) from becoming firmly established and therefore more difficult to treat long term. It also provides opportunities for you and your child to learn skills to develop confident communication prior to starting school.
We have assisted teenagers even in their late teens to improve their confidence in communicating with others and to improve their academic engagement, friendships and quality of life as a result. It is normal to feel discouraged or stuck if symptoms of Situational Mutism have persisted over many years.
If you would like to discuss how our psychologists might be able to support you or your child in communicating confidently in a wide range of settings please get in touch and speak with one of our client care team members.
Over 100 families and schools have supported the development of confident communicators with our guidance and assistance.
We are passionate about ensuring that every family has access to the best treatment available to develop their child’s confidence with communicating. Our services are available to families both within Sydney and throughout Australia.
Many of our families have seen their child develop increased confidence about communicating without ever having to attend a face to face session!
If you live outside of Sydney and would like to access our services please contact us to discuss options for phone or video consultation.
The Talbot Centre is a contemporary health service focussed on providing integrated health care programs. Our speech pathologists work in collaboration with other professionals as part of a multidisciplinary team providing patient-centred care.
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