Selective Mutism

Selective Mutism (SM) is a disorder in which someone is nonverbal in certain situations due to anxiety despite being able to communicate freely at home and with family. SM is most often diagnosed in children but can also affect teens and adults at a lower rate. Kids with SM can also present as behaviorally inhibited and struggle to make eye contact. SM can occur at higher rates in children who speak two or more languages. Contrary to how it may appear to observers, SM is neither shyness nor a behavioral disorder; it is diagnostically an anxiety-based disorder.

Additional Symptoms

  • persistent inability to use verbal skills in public or around people not in the comfort or speaking circle

  • difficulty with normal physical movement and activity level when triggered

  • reliance on nonverbal communication when triggered

  • speaking quietly or whispering

  • speaking through a comfort person when around strangers (i.e., when asked a question, telling the answer to the comfort person who then communicates the answer)