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    I teach a child who talks to other children in my class but has never spoken to me. I can hear her chatting almost normally but she stops as soon as she sees me listening. Does this sound like selective mutism and what can I do to help the child eventually talk to me?

    Children with selective mutism commonly feel less anxious talking with their peers than with adults. If the child is already speaking to some of their peers, this is a good sign. It is important that you make the classroom environment as relaxed as possible and build good rapport with the child. Ensure that no consequences are placed on the child for not talking (by you or any auxiliary teachers) as this will worsen the mutism. Also ensure that no-one is placing pressure on the child to talk, making comments about her lack of talking, or asking open-ended questions if she is unable to answer. Those strategies will give you a good start. However, in order for the selective mutism to resolve, the child, their family, and the school will need support from a mental health professional. The Selective Mutism Clinic provides ongoing training and support for classroom teachers to implement a program that gradually builds the child’s communication until they can eventually talk directly to the classroom teacher and in front of the whole class.

    The clinic also has DVDs available to purchase, which provide details about strategies that teachers can use in the classroom. We also regularly run seminars for teachers.