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Sometimes there are cases of children who do not speak, either in certain situations or when they are in front of some people.
We can define selective mutism as the difficulty that some boys and girls have when they have to communicate verbally in situations that are unfamiliar to them or when they have to do so with unfamiliar people.
Children who do not want to speak or with selective mutismhave age-appropriate language and communication skills, but they limit their oral communication to very intimate people and to very specific situations. That is to say, that in these children the difficulties to communicate are not due to language disorders or any other developmental disorder, but rather silence is a learned strategy to avoid situations in which they have to speak and that generate anxiety. For this reason, they usually compensate by using alternative means of communication such as whispering in the ear, making gestures, grimacing, shaking their heads, pushing to ask for something ...
Different variables influence the appearance and development of selective mutism, such as:
- Child's own variables: shyness, social withdrawal, dependency, vulnerability to anxiety, lack of social skills, etc.
- Environmental variables related to the child's context: overprotective or authoritarian educational style of the parents, low level of sociability or family isolation, excessive attachment of the mother, inadequate models of interpersonal relationship, traumatic social experiences, family or school perfectionism, etc.
All these variables increase the probability of suffering from mutism, but the disorder is usually triggered when there is a stressful life event in the child's life, appearing especially with the beginning of schooling.
Once the problem of selective mutism appears, the disorder persists over time mainly due to two conditions:
- These children they tend to have excess attention on the part of the adults around him, as well as an excess of protection or accommodation to the alternative way in which they communicate, which reinforces silence.
- On the other hand, other children often withdraw their attention completely, which causes interactions with peers to be reduced, aggravating the situation of social isolation.
Álava Reyes Psychology Center
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