Welcome to the Selective Mutism Clinic,
in Sydney, Australia
The Selective Mutism Clinic provides assessment and treatment for preschool and school-aged children and teenagers with selective mutism and extreme shyness in Sydney and throughout Australia through our Outreach program. We provide training for teachers, parents, and other health professionals via Seminars, Training DVDs, and Phone Supervision. The clinic is also affiliated with Dr Elizabeth Woodcock & Associates, Clinical Psychologists, which provides general psychological services for children and adults.
Selective mutism (SM) is a condition where children are able to talk comfortably in some situations such as at home or around familiar relatives, but are not able to use their voice in other social situations where there is an expectation for speaking such as at school or with less familiar people. SM is a form of social anxiety where the child fears that when people hear their voice they will react in a way that might be embarrassing for them or that they may be judged for how they sound or what they say. This fear prevents the child from being able to speak freely. Sometimes children with SM are unable to speak to adults or peers at school. Sometimes they can speak to select people (e.g., 1 or 2 peers, or adults but not peers), and sometimes children are able to whisper to a large number of people but unable to use their vocal cords.
Although Selective mutism usually appears around three years of age, it is often not diagnosed until much later (e.g., early to mid primary school). The delayed referrals to treatment is often due to the belief that the child will ‘grow out of it’ and eventually start talking. However, this is often not the case, as improvements tend to occur very slowly (if at all) if it is left untreated and children tend to still experience anxiety. Early childhood workers and speech therapists play a key role in early detection of the condition and in ensuring that steps are taken before the mutism becomes more habitual.
In the past ten years or so, the recognition that selective mutism is a form of social anxiety has led to the development of effective treatment programs, such as cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT). CBT programs aim to gradually practice ‘brave talking’ in social situations, including school and preschool.