Selective Mutism Among Children - Paper Example

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Sewanee University of the South
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Today, selective mutism affects numerous children situated in different parts of the globe. It is an anxiety disorder that affects children at a young age. The condition renders a child unable to speak effectively with others in his/her immediate social environment. The condition mimics the attributes of autism, but it is a largely social disorder. Additionally, children affected by selective mutism can only speak effectively in an environment where they feel comfortable, relaxed as well as secure. This research provides a comprehensive discussion of the disorder, its DSM-V conceptualization, required symptoms, prevalence rates, treatment and impact of a patients loved one.

DSM-V Conceptualization

The DSM-V characterizes selective mutism to be a condition that renders children unable to speak effectively in certain situations CITATION Pat17 \l 1033 (Meador, 2017). The required symptoms under DSM-V for a diagnosis vary from child to child. However, the primary symptom is a change in a child who communicates effectively at home to the usage of monosyllabic utterances as well as gestures for communication. Additionally, to qualify as a symptom, such changes may have been observed over a long time, for instance over a few months.

Conditions Prevalence Rate

The recent prevalence rates estimate selective mutism to range from 0.47% to 0.76% (Viana et al., 2009. However, prevalence rates that are as low as 0.02% and as high as 1.9% have also been reported (Kumpulainen et al. 1998). Moreover, the condition affects more females compared to males. This is at a ratio of 1.5-2.5:1 (Cunningham et al., 2004). Moreover, the high prevalence rates of the condition have been evidenced among immigrant children belonging to language minority children. That is compared to children who are not from immigrants households (Toppelberg et al., 2005).

Proposed Causes of the Disorder

There are no certified factors that have been classified as the reasons why selective mutism occurs (Cohan et al., 2006). Nevertheless, there are three factors which are attributed to be the leading factors that cause selective mutism. The first factor is related anxiety disorders such as social phobia, an obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as separation anxiety. The second factor is a genetic or hereditary component, and the last factor is shyness or timid temperaments amongst the affected children.

Impact On the Loved Ones

Families with children affected by selective mutism suffer from a psychological burden. This is because most parents are worried about the slow social development of their children compared to other children of the same age. Also, the relatives of a child with selective mutism are also forced to bear the financial burden of seeking treatment or psychological help for their children.

Treatments for the Disorder

Numerous approaches have been scientifically proven to be effective in the treatment of selective mutism. However, behavioral strategies are among the best strategies, and they entail developing a coping mechanism for the children affected by the disorder. Three behavioral methodologies can be employed in the treatment of selective mutism. These include exposure-based practice, where a child with selective mutism is encouraged to say some words repeatedly in anxiety-provoking situations.

The second method is systematic desensitization, which entails the use of anxiety reduction methodologies while gradually exposing the affected children to anxiety-provoking situations. The last method is stimulus fading, which entails gradually exposing a child with selective mutism to a fear-evoking stimulus. For instance, a child can be encouraged to talk in the presence of a person he/she is unfamiliar. Additionally, in stimulus fading, the child is rewarded every time he attempts to speak in front of the unfamiliar person.


In conclusion, selective mutism is a condition that renders young children unable to communicate effectively within their immediate social environment. Additionally, the DSM-V characterizes selective mutism to be a condition that renders children unable to speak effectively in certain situations. Moreover, selective mutism affects more females compared to males, and it is also prevalent in children from immigrant families with language-minority problems. Furthermore, selective mutism is caused by related anxiety disorders, genetic or hereditary components, and shyness or timid temperaments amongst the affected children. Ultimately, the behavioral strategies of treating selective mutism include exposure-based practice, systematic desensitization as well as the stimulus fading methodologies.


Cohan, S. L., Price, J. M., & Stein, M. B. (2006). Suffering in silence: Why a developmental psychopathology perspective on selective mutism is needed. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 27, 341355.

Cunningham, C., McHolm, A., Boyle, M., & Patel, S. (2004). Behavioral and emotional adjustment, family functioning, academic performance, and social relationships in children with selective mutism. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 45, 13631372.

Kumpulainen, K., Rasanen, E., Raaska, H., & Somppi, V. (1998). Selective mutism among second-graders in elementary school. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 7, 2429.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Meador, P. (2017). Selective Mutism DSM-5 312.23 (F94.0). Retrieved from Theravive:

Toppelberg, C. O., Tabors, P., Coggins, A., Lum, K., & Burger, C. (2005). Differential diagnosis of selective mutism in bilingual children. Journal of American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 44, 592595.

Viana, A. G., Beidel, D. C., & Rabian, B. (2009). Selective mutism: A review and integration of the last 15 years. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 5767. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2008.09.009


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