Although Selective mutism usually becomes apparent around three years of age, the condition is often not diagnosed until much later (e.g., early to mid primary school). The delayed referrals of children to appropriate services is often due to the perception 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. Preschool workers, early childhood carers, and speech therapists play a key role in early detection of the condition and in ensuring that steps are taken before the mutism becomes firmly established.
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 expose the child to anxiety-provoking social situations and assist them to build up nonverbal, and later verbal communication.
Read our FAQs for much more information about Selective Mutism.