most of children with selective mutism they tend to be like any other child their age. So they behave like them when they are in an environment that they do not perceive as dangerous. That is, when they are at home or familiar places, with people they know and with whom they feel comfortable and protected, they are communicative, funny and playful. Apparently nothing happens to make the parents suspicious.
The problem appears when they have to face social situations that they perceive as threatening or dangerous. Situations in which they feel great anxiety and shame and, as a consequence that characteristic inability to speak appears. And although it is a rare disorder and considered rare, we must know how to detect it in time to be able to help these children overcome it and improve their emotional and social well-being.
Selective mutism is a childhood-onset disorder. Usually appears before age 5 and is characterized by a reluctance to speak in very specific social situations, including school.
It is framed within anxiety disorders and, as such, hinders or prevents children from interacting with their peers and / or adults, limiting and impeding, in some cases, their personal, social and academic development.
Despite having the ability, they selectively stop speaking when faced with some circumstances, conditions, or social situations. There are some, for example, who they only speak to people they are used to and with whom they trust, such as only their parents or the caregivers they are with the most.
We usually detect it when the little one or the little one begins their schooling in the second cycle of early childhood education. Generally, and to the surprise of many parents, it is the teachers who alert the family of what happens.
But as always, before raising alerts, we must be very prudent and be clear that many boys and girls during the first days, and even weeks of the first year of schooling, they may have similar behaviors to those described. So, we must always allow more than a month to pass to see if it is a mere process of adaptation to the school, the teacher and her new classmates, rather than a case of selective mutism.
However, we must pay attention to some warning signs that could make you suspicious. Children with selective mutism are children who may have headaches, low-grade fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea both before facing the dreaded situation (school, party, family reunion ...) or when they are in it.
But this is not always the case, so they can go unnoticed because some are only distant and apparently calm, like the first of the girls I worked with. The case was of a 4-year-old girl who after several months in the school he refused to talk to his classroom tutor, although with his classmates more or less he played and communicated. Once the case was detected, the parents were interviewed and referred to a child psychology center for evaluation and treatment.
Although we do not know the causes of this problem 100% we can say that anxiety is the most important vulnerability factor in the appearance of this disorder. As I have been insisting throughout this post, children with selective mutism present something similar to what we call social phobia, so much so that in some cases they occur together. That is to say a child with a social phobia may present selective mutism at the same time.
The fear of strangers, the fear of not knowing what to do or what to say, the fear of what they will say and do ... All this fuels anxiety and provokes this extreme anguish that prevents speaking. A situation that increasingly isolates the little ones.
If you think your child might be suffering from selective mutism, I recommend that you go to a specialist. In general, as I have said, it is the teachers who usually alert us to the existence of this problem. To find a solution as soon as possible, an evaluation of the situation and the minor by a child psychologist or psychologist is necessary, who will carry out the diagnosis and treatment if necessary.
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