Selective mutism is a form of social anxiety that renders a child or adult unable to speak in certain social situations. For children with selective mutism, heading back to school in the fall can be more than just a drag. It can be the beginning of anxiety-filled days, lonely lunches, and pressure to speak from teachers.
Middle-school teacher Eileen Dame has written an interesting account of her experiences teaching a boy with undiagnosed selective mutism. Above all else, she stresses the importance of recognizing the disorder in children so that the problem can be addressed. Although selective mutism is more prevalent than obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette's syndrome, it often goes undiagnosed.
Below are some tips for teachers of students with selective mutism according to Dame.
- Remove all pressure on the student to speak.
- Let the child know you will not call on him unless his hand is raised.
- Do not comment about his silence or make a big deal out of it if he does speak.
- Be aware that the student cannot ask you for help. Quietly review material and instructions if it seems the student does not understand.
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