One of our main specialties is in the area of selective mutism. Since 1995, Bryan has worked with over 200 children and teens with selective mutism.
People with selective mutism talk at home, but don't talk at school or in public settings. Some of these children are shy, quiet, and experience social anxiety. A small percentage of quiet children have selective mutism. Selective mutism is typically first encountered in pre-school or kindergarten age children, when a child who is very talkative at home does not talk to adults, students, or anyone at school. The child appears very uncomfortable and freezes up when he/she is spoken to in public or at school.
Children with selective mutism do not like crowds, loud noises, or being judged by others, so school is always the most difficult place for them to talk. They do not like to be the center of attention and freeze up when they feel pressured to answer a question or speak to others. Children with selective mutism can work up to talking with others and answering questions in school and in public, but until they feel comfortable it is best for adults to ease pressure and not force them to speak.
Many people have never heard of selective mutism and not many therapists in Illinois specialize in working with children with selective mutism. Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be very effective in helping diminish the freezing response of children, providing them with the tools to feel more socially comfortable. A therapist who specializes in selective mutism will help the child to make step by step progress. For example, in the first few sessions the child may begin by responding to questions non-verbally with thumbs up or down, then respond to yes/no questions, and later build up to answer simple forced choice questions (Which color do you like better, blue or pink?)
In our office, we have had significant success in helping children talk in public by reducing the freezing and discomfort that occurs in social situations. To help children be more comfortable in our office we play fun talking games, do graduated exposures, and use the sliding in technique. When children are comfortable talking in our office we work on helping them to talk to others. A frequent occurrence in our office is two or more families with selective mutism children meeting to share commonalities they see with their children and talk about what has been successful in helping their children talk in public. We use this social opportunity to help the child with selective mutism work on talking with adults, children, or both.
After children and teens are comfortable talking to others, the next stage is improving their confidence and communication skills when they talk in groups, public speaking, increasing content and quality of written school assignments, communicating at longer lengths, reducing the fear of being judged, and reducing perfectionism.
Children with selective mutism are often well behaved in public and some of them have control and behavior issues with parents which range from mild to significantly high. We work on reducing the control and behavior issues and offer parents specific parenting strategies to use with their children.
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