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What not to say in front of a child with Selective Mutism

When speaking in front of a child with Selective Mutism, it's important to be mindful of the language we use and the messages we convey.

Here are some things to avoid saying:

1. Don't pressure the child to speak: Avoid putting pressure on the child to speak, as this can increase their anxiety and make it harder for them to speak.

2. Don't label the child: Avoid labeling the child as "shy" or "quiet," - this can reinforce negative self-perceptions and can contribute to low self-esteem.

3. Don't assume the child is not listening: Just because a child is not speaking, it doesn't mean that they are not listening or understanding what is being said. Please be aware that the child is taking in everything that is being said.

4. Don't make assumptions: Avoid making assumptions about the child's abilities or motivations. Instead, try to understand their unique perspective and individual needs.

5. Don't ignore the child: It is important to acknowledge the child and include them in conversations, even if they are not speaking. This can help to build their confidence and make them feel valued.

6. Please, please never say the following:

  • "Why don't you talk?" - This puts the child on the spot and increases their anxiety. And they don't actually know the answer to this question, they don't talk because they can't sometimes.

  • "Just speak, it's not that hard." - This is dismissive of the child's anxiety and the fact that it's an inability to speak sometimes.

  • "I don't understand why you're not talking." - This can make the child feel like they are doing something wrong or being difficult which isn't the case.

  • "Don't be shy." - This can make the child feel like their behaviour is due to shyness rather than anxiety.

7. Don't give up: Children with Selective Mutism may require a lot of patience and support in order to overcome their anxiety and begin speaking. It is important to continue to provide support, even if it feels that progress is slow. One day you will look back and see how far your child has really come.

The good news is that children can absolutely overcome Selective Mutism - we have been specialising in SM for over 10 years and see children overcome it all the time!

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We can help you wherever you are located in the world, if you would like our help with your child's Selective Mutism, find out about the services we offer here and drop us a message here.

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