Ten Things To Do for Selective Mutism

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Ten Things To Do

Ten Things To Do to support children with

Selective Mutism


Do not force the child to speak

Any pressure to talk can be catastrophic for a child who is struggling with managing their phobia of talking. Instead allow any form of communication that the child is willing to use.


Have a key worker

Establish a trusting relationship with the child by having an adult who can meet with them regularly - at least once a day.


Encourage non-verbal responses

Children with selective mutism may be willing to nod or shake their heads in response to closed questions. Key workers can help encourage this and teach this explicitly in safe 1-1 interactions.


Encourage sound making

Activities that involve clapping in time, playing a musical instrument in response to others and animal sound making can often work with selective mute children.


Give indirect invitations to speak

Use statements about yourself that invite a response such as 'My favourite ice-cream flavour is vanilla.' and more explicitly utter out loud ponderances of what the child might say; 'I wonder what your favourite ice-cream is?'


Build in daily time for class chants, rhymes and actions

Provide regular opportunities for whole class and large group singing of familiar songs. Do not draw any attention to the selective mute child regardless of whether they join in or not.


Use sound recorders

Some children can benefit from being able to rehearse, record and re-record themselves as an alternative to speaking in front of others. Initially this should be done just for them to hear. Once confident in using sound recordings gradually increase audience.


Partner with friends

Children with selective mutism are often more prepared to engage in communication tasks if partnered with a friend they trust. When successful extend to include a third less well known child added to the pairing.


Mentoring younger children

By working with younger children the selective mute child is placed in a socially dominant context where they are less likely to experience anxiety over speaking.


Progress very slowly

It is extremely important not to build on successes too quickly. Consolidate and reinforce every step forward and do not assume that the child has overcome their anxiety of speaking in that context. Gradual desensitisation of a phobia takes a long time!

Other Things To Do

Empathise with the child

Older children and teenagers are more likely to trust someone who empathises with the nature of their phobia and anxieties.

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Model getting things wrong and laughing

Show the child that we all make mistakes and that we can often just laugh them away.

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Broaden their experiences

It is important to encourage and support the child to try lots of different activities and build confidence in their own abilities.

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Ensure all staff including supply staff are aware of the child's needs

A poorly informed member of staff can unwittingly cause a great deal of damage to the child’s progress.

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Selective Mutism

Five Minute Guide to Sleep

A handy printable version of this Ten Things To Do guide suitable for handing to parents, school staff and other professionals and carers. Use 2-sided printing (set printer to flip on short side) and fold in half to produce A5 leaflet.

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Got more than five minutes?

You may be interested to read more:

Selective Mutism

Selective Mutism Management

Back to the Ten Things To Do Index

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