I’m not sure if my youngest mentally disabled grandson has Selective Mutism as he hasn’t been identified as having such, but after comparing his symptoms, especially in early childhood, to facts I have read on websites, I believe there is a strong possibility he does. In fact, thinking about it now, I believe my eldest grandson might have the disorder also, as he would never speak to anyone outside of the home but just stand and stare when being spoken to. Even at his age of sixteen today, he still has difficulty communicating with strangers, never voicing his opinions, and either just nodding or shaking his head when asked questions.
One of the websites I browsed for info on Selective Mutism was http://www.minddisorders.com whose definition of Selective Mutism is… a childhood disorder in which a child does not speak in some social situations although he or she is able to talk normally at other times.
The article continues with … Selective mutism is characterized by a child’s inability to speak in one or more types of social situations, although the child is developmentally advanced to the point that speech is possible. The child speaks proficiently in at least one setting, most often at home with one or both parents, and sometimes with siblings or extended family members. Some children also speak to certain friends or to adults that are not related to them, but this variant of selective mutism is somewhat less common. The most common place for children to exhibit mute behaviour is in the classroom, so that the disorder is often first noticed by teachers.
Causes and Symptoms…The symptoms of selective mutism are fairly obvious. The child does not talk in one or more social situations in which speech is commonly expected and would facilitate understanding. Some children with selective mutism do not communicate in any way in certain settings, and act generally shy and withdrawn. The disorder is also often associated with crying, clinging to the parent, and other signs of social anxiety. Other children with the disorder, however, may smile, gesture, nod, and even giggle, although they do not talk.
Fortunately, my grandson, who is currently registered in a residential care program is receiving a lot of help from the staff regarding his reluctance to speak to adults or when adults are around. His current teacher at the school where my grandson attends a specialized program is also using strategies which aid in bringing him “out of his shell” and giving him the confidence he needs to take the next step in openly communicating with adults (see my post: The Quiet Child).
If you believe your child has Selective Mutism disorder, contact your doctor to discuss the situation and for information on how you can get a diagnosis plus help locating services for your child.