Selective Mutism: A voice not heard.

Where did your voice go?

Our four-year-old twins began preschool this year. However, of all the great things about to happen, nothing could have prepared us for the big thing we did, Selective Mutism.

The girls walked into school, and on that day, one of them lost her voice completely. In mid-October came a day that she would also speak her last words at home. Today, it breaks my heart knowing that my girl wakes up daily, and not a word escapes from her little body.

Sharing our story brings hope of awareness, a sense of understanding, and support to recovery for those individuals and families that are affected by Selective Mutism (SM)

I am not a member of the medical profession. I am simply a mom spending a lot of time searching for answers. Please seek medical advice for your personal experiences.

What is Selective Mutism? (SM)Sexual Violence Doesn't Always Look the Way You Think It Will

Selective Mutism, also called SM, is a severe anxiety disorder. It often begins in early childhood, becoming more noticeable when school starts—defined as one’s inability to speak in social settings, including but not limited to peers, teachers, and other persons who are distant or unfamiliar. The word selective is deceiving as if they choose not to speak, but it is about when they cannot. 

Perspective: When you think of things you choose to do, can you imagine your four-year-old choosing not to speak for six months?

What we know now and what we are learningSurvive Summer using summer bridge learning books.

A handful of similar statistics say that about 1 in 140 children are currently experiencing SM and risk being misdiagnosed due to the lack of resources and understanding of why and how it occurs. Depending on the degree, SM may be classified as behavioral, mental, or more like a fear or phobia that can be outgrown. Early intervention is essential; however, what that looks like can vary. Consult your family physician on the steps you and your family will take going forward based on your current situation.

There is no speedy recovery for SM. There is no definitive timeline, but there are daily steps to better days, and patience has to be step one.

Communicating outside the box (both inside and outside the home)

Non-verbal options can come simply as learned gestures between your child and trusted individuals. Other communication options: 

  • Sign language (ASL) Is its language and may be taught/known to help with the communication gap.  
  • Whiteboards. For those who have learned to form letters, words, and sentences or illustrate their needs.
  • Picture cards and charts. Yes/no resources can be made at home or purchased online. Some schools may have posters posted in common areas, such as near the bathrooms, drinking fountains, or near areas of play.

Stay in it together and keep the conversations open. Share the Love 5 Ways for Children to Show Love to the Community

It has not been easy. The one we would love to hear is missing in our house, full of noise. We try not to talk about “not talking,” When blurbs come, we try not to bring attention or raise excitement.

We never single out or stop having conversations, including her, just as the others, because she can hear us, and she knows that when she is ready and able, we will listen to her.

Our journey continues day to day and is full of hope! Watch for more resources and updates!

Resources and Credits:



Books: ** NOTE **When our SM journey began, I reached out for information at our home libraries and found most information about general anxiety. I also visited our local Barnes and Noble, which had nothing on hand, and referred me to independent authors on Amazon.

Maya’s Voice by Wen-Wen Cheng (age 4-6) https://a.co/d/9JGQ0xV

The Invisible String (ages 4-7) https://a.co/d/9JGQ0xV

The Loudest Roar https://a.co/d/8H8C1Qa

Helpful search terms:

Selective Mutism

Social Anxiety in Children

Separation Anxiety

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