Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
(603) 742-5252
Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+) font size
Physicians
Site Search

Definition:

Selective mutism is a condition in which a child who can speak well stops speaking, usually in school or social settings.



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Most experts believe that the causes of selective mutism involve the following factors:

  • Anxiety
  • Biological
  • Environmental
  • Social

Most children with this condition have some form of extreme social phobia .

Parents often think that the child is refusing to speak, but usually the child is truly unable to speak in certain settings.

Some affected children have a family history of selective mutism, extreme shyness, or anxiety disorders, which may increase their risk for similar problems. This condition is most common in children under age 5.

This syndrome is not the same as mutism. In selective mutism, the child has the ability to both understand and speak, but fails to speak in certain settings or environments. Children with mutism never speak.



Symptoms:
  • Ability to speak at home with family
  • Failure to speak in certain social situations
  • Fear of people
  • Shyness

This pattern of mutism must be observed for at least 1 month. (The first month of school does not count, because shyness is common during this period.)



Signs and tests:

Teachers and counselors should consider cultural issues, such as recently moving to a new country and speaking another language. Children who are uncomfortable with a new language may not want to use it outside of a familiar setting. This is not necessarily selective mutism.



Treatment:

Current treatment involves behavior changes, family participation, and the child's school. Certain medications that treat anxiety and social phobia have been used safely and successfully.



Support Groups:

For more information and resources, see selective mutism support groups .



Expectations (prognosis):

Children with this syndrome can have different outcomes. Some may need to continue therapy for shyness and social anxiety into the teenage years, and possibly into adulthood.



Complications:

Selective mutism can affect the child's ability to function in school or social settings. Without treatment, symptoms may get worse.



Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if your child has symptoms of selective mutism, and it is affecting school and social activities.



Prevention:




Review Date: 2/6/2008
Reviewed By: Christos Ballas, M.D., Attending Psychiatrist, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com


Find What You Need

Events
Careers
Foundation
About Us
Contact
Directions
News
Social Media Agreement
Joint Notice
Web Privacy Policy
WDH Staff Portal

Centers & Services

Cancer Center
Cardiovascular Care
Joint Replacement
Women & Children's
Physician Offices
Other Services

Conditions & Treatments

Health Library

Support Services

Support Groups
Care-Van
Dental Center
Social Work
Food & Nutrition
Integrative Wellness
Spiritual Care
Concerns & Grievances
Homecare and Hospice

For Patients

Pay Your Bill Online
Pricing Estimates
Financial Assistance
Interpreter Services
Surgery Preparation
Medical Record Request
Advance Directives
Clinical Research & Trials

For Healthcare Professionals

Work and Life
Financial Well-Being
Career and Growth

The Wentworth-Douglass Health System includes:

 

Address

Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100