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Selective Mutism

Our teenaged daughter has stopped talking at school and in social situations. Is this common in CdLS? Can anything be done?

The following comments are what I usually tell a family when they have a child with CdLS who also has selective mutism. Selective mutism is not the fault of the parents It is considered to be more of an anxiety problem than a speech problem; consequently, if the family had easy access to all therapy options, the best treatment option would be a multidisciplinary approach led by a psychologist. Typically, the best treatment approach follows behavioral methods, which means that the child would probably be engaged in a progressive-relaxation, systematic-desensitization, hierarchically-based process, while being reinforced for all behaviors that approach the target of speaking in the presence of the interested parties.There are a number of reasons why the above approach may not be easy to implement in a child with CdLS. For one, it may be difficult to find an item or activity that the child will work for, but I would try it anyway. I have used this approach successfully with other selectively mute populations, in partnership with a psychologist or social worker. If all else fails, I would recommend that the family be supportive of their child and not criticize him/her for being selectively mute. They may have some insight about why it happened when it did, and about how to provide comforting behaviors in the presence of anxiety-producing environments. They should provide encouragement for any attempts to communicate. It is interesting how it usually seems to be females who become selectively mute. I also know of a few older males with CdLS who have just stopped talking, but the females seem to be more likely to continue to talk, just to selected audiences. MG - TK 3/25/11



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