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What is selective mutism?

Selective mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder that is manifested by a child who has normal speech at home but who cannot speak at situations such as school, athletic events or church activities.  In order to meet the Diagnostic Criteria for SM, the child must have normal speech at home and speak the same language at home that he/she is expected to be speaking in other places.  Typically, any diagnostician would have to either observe the child exhibiting normal speech through a one-way mirror or a video system, or observe the child on a videotape brought in by his parents/primary caregiver.  Other criteria: the SM must interfere with the child’s education, vocation or social development; the lack of speaking in appropriate situations must have lasted for at least one month (but not exclusively in the first month of school); and the lack of speaking is not better accounted for by a communication disorder or pervasive developmental delay.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.