Selective Mutism

2 February 2017

To provide practical guidelines for the assessment and treatment of children with selective mutism, in light of the recent hypotnesis that selective mutism might be best conceptualized as a childhood anxiety disorder. Method: An extensive literature review was completed on the phenomenology, evaluation, and treatment of children with selective mutism.Additional recommendations were based on clinical experience from the authors’ selective mutism clinic. Results: No systematic studies of the phenomenology of children with selective mutism were found. Reports described diverse and primarily noncontrolled treatment approaches with minimal follow-up information. Assessment and treatment options for selective mutism are presented, based on new hypotheses that focus on the anxiety component of this disorder.

Ongoing research suggests a role for behavior modification and pharmacotherapy similar to the approaches used for adults with social phobia. Conclusion: Selectively mute children deserve a comprehensive evaluation to identify primary and comorbid problems that might require treatment. A school-based multidisciplinary individualized treatment plan is recommended, involving the combined effort of teachers, clinicians, and parents with home- and clinic- based interventions (individual and family psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy) as required.

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