2004-2015 by David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP. All rights reserved.
Guidelines for Classroom Teachers Regarding Selective Mutism
David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP, RPT-S
- In a
quiet, comfortable, and private setting (even better in a playful
context like down on the floor with the child in the play corner)
explain to the child that some children find it frightening when
they first speak at school. Empathize with that fear—“It can be a
little scary at first when you speak in school—but you will be able
to do so when you are ready and it will get easier each time you
- Ask the
child when they think they will be ready to speak in school—ask the
child to write down the day of the week when they think they will
speak: Monday? Tuesday? Wed.? Thurs? Friday? Also ask her/him
whether they think it will be a sunny day or a cloudy day when
she/he will speak. Finally, ask her/him when she/he speaks will it
happen in the morning or afternoon. These questions firmly establish
the expectation that the child will speak—it is a matter of when not
if the child will speak.
classroom seating arrangements that facilitate peer interactions and
conversation. In addition to circle time on the floor and round
table seating arrangements—it may be possible to seat next to the
child with selective mutism, a child that she/he talks to outside of
school, a regular playmate of the child.
an individual relationship with the child by asking the child if
she/he would remain behind a few minutes to help the teacher with
some kind of errand, collecting or arranging things in the
inviting the parents or an older sibling to come into the classroom
to initiate conversation in a quiet area to “practice reading” or
“to do math problems” as a way of desensitizing the child to
speaking in the classroom.
- Avoid at
all costs putting the child “on the spot” where there is a demand
for the child to speak. This almost never works out.
- Also do
not allow other students to pressure the child to speak.
emphasis rather should be on creating relaxed, playful, comfortable,
interpersonal contexts that makes it simply natural for the child to
- Should the
child speak try not to react in a way that puts the spotlight on the
child. The least attention paid the better because if a lot of
attention is focused on the child speaking, it will almost always
cause them to shut-down.
the other children if they make a big deal about the child speaking.
The teacher can simply say, “We always knew that _________ would
speak when she/he was ready. Not let’s get back to spelling.”
Copyright © 2008 by David A.
Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP. All rights reserved.