sq_redsm.gif sq_grnsm.gif sq_grnsm.gif sq_grnsm.gif sq_grnsm.gif selective_mutism003003.jpg selective_mutism003002.jpg

by Dr. Lynn Lunceford, Clinical Psychologist

The Do’s and Don’ts of Helping
the Selectively Mute Child



1.  Listen and encourage

2.  Parents should form a united team and work together to help the child

3.  Parents should privately discuss the SM behaviors and create a plan they can both agree to.

4.  Educate others; this is not “stubbornness” or willful behavior on the part of the child, as is commonly believed.

5.  Reward communicative behavior (nodding, note writing, waving, etc.)

        not speech.

6.  Build upon the child’s existing strengths (singing, reading, etc.)

7.  Know how and where the child communicates so you can build plans to expand the child’s communication skills

8. Help the child build friendships one at a time

9.  When ready, introduce the use of audio and video taping





1. Ask, “Did you talk today?”

2.  Criticize the child for not talking

3.  Pressure by demanding speech or trying to trick him or her into speech

4.  Forget to give as much attention to the other children in the home

5.  Foster dependence.  Instead, find ways to help him or her communicate with others nonverbally

6.  Discuss the child and his or her problems in front of the child or the other children in the family.

7.   Praise in public; this attention makes the child feel more self-conscious


8.   Try to bribe the child to speak