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Selective Mutism

Parkwood Clinic provides an individualized therapy program for selective mutism disorder.

Selective Mutism Therapy in Portland, OR

What is Selective Mutism?

Selective mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in one or more social settings (e.g., at school, in public places, with adults) despite being able to speak comfortably in other settings (e.g., at home with family). This select communication may vary across ages (preschool-adolescence) and manifest differently in various settings.

Children with selective mutism typically do not speak at school, which interferes with academic, educational, and/or social performance. These kids may fail to speak up about their challenges or lack of understanding in the classroom (or with homework). They may isolate themselves to the point of withdrawing from rituals like birthday parties and playground friendships.

Children with this disorder sometimes communicate via nonspoken or nonvocal means (e.g., pointing, writing, gesturing, nodding, or whispering).  They may have fears of being ignored, ridiculed, or harshly evaluated if they speak. Individuals with selective mutism may present with social anxiety and social phobia.

Symptoms of social anxiety and social phobias may include the following:

  • Clinging to parents (especially when entering social settings)
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Headaches, stomachaches, vomit, or diarrhea before social outings or events.
  • Hiding
  • Running away
  • Crying
  • Freezing
  • Tantruming if asked to speak publicly
  • Avoidance of eating in public
  • Anxious when having picture or video taken
  • Anxious to use public restrooms
  • Stiff posture or body language
  • Compulsive traits
  • May disguise speech/voice
  • Expressionless, flat, or “deer in headlights” face
  • Slow to respond in a social situation

Intervention is most successful when a team of professionals (SLP, clinical psychologist, school social worker, classroom teacher and caregivers) team together for the greatest outcomes. Early intervention for selective mutism is key as it typically does not go away on its own and can lead to worsened anxiety and social difficulty if not addressed.  Long term effects may include increased anxiety, decreased self-esteem, poor peer relationships/social skills, increased isolation, and difficulty in the work setting.  A team approach that establishes consistency and expectations in the intervention is an important part of the individualized treatment plan.

Our Parkwood therapists will provide an individualized therapy program for your child that works to their pace in order to decrease their anxiety and restore a level of comfort in which they feel both supported and motivated to speak.

Reach out to schedule a complimentary speech and language screening

CALL US: 503-894-1539

Parkwood Speech & Therapy Clinic provides on-site and remote (tele-health) speech therapy sessions for toddlers and children across Oregon. Our brick and mortar location in Portland, OR near the Bridgeport shopping mall is within ideal driving distances for families in Portland, Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tigard, Beaverton, Oregon City, Clackamas, Wilsonville, Canby and more.

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