Often described as "social phobia's cousin" and misdiagnosed as autism, selective mutism is a debilitating fear of speaking in some situations experienced by some children. The disorder usually presents in children before the age of five, but it may not be recognized until the child starts school. When requested to speak, children with selective mutism often look down, blush, or otherwise express anxiety that disrupts their engagement with people and activities. Selective mutism is related to social anxiety and social phobia, and more than 90 percent of children with selective mutism also manifest symptoms of one of these problems.
This book is the first available for parents of children with selective mutism. It offers a broad overview of the condition and reviews the diagnostic criteria for the disorder. The book details a plan you can use to coordinate professional treatment of your child's disorder. It also explains the steps you can take on your own to encourage your child to speak comfortably in school and in his or her peer group. All of the book's strategies employ a gradual, "stepladder" approach. The techniques gently encourage children to speak more, while at the same time helping them feel safe and supported.
“Taking their school-based approach and adapting it for use by parents, the authors enlarge the audience who can benefit from their sound intervention program. The program is well-organized and employs graduated and systematic strategies that are both reasoned and researched. Building on established principles of learning, the program thoughtfully guides parents in how to teach, shape, and practice a step-by-step method for youth to overcome the fear of speaking. A welcomed addition to the literature that strives to reduce anxiety in youth, I encourage parents to read and apply the program.”
—Philip C. Kendall, Ph.D., ABPP, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology and director of the Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Temple University
“This is, without exception, the best book for parents on the topic of selective mutism I have had the pleasure to read. Loaded with information on the nature and causes of this childhood condition and filled with practical advice on how to cope with and effectively treat it, this book provides parents with a highly useful, trustworthy, science-based program for the child with selective mutism. Few if any professionals have more clinical experience with such children and the treatment of their condition than do McHolm and Cunningham. My congratulations both to the authors for putting together such a finely crafted book and to you, the reader, for having the good sense to buy it.”
—Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D., research professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Upstate Medical School in Syracuse, NY
“Silence, indeed, is not always golden. Helping Your Child with Selective Mutism is a must-read for parents, educators, clinicians, and developmental researchers. McHolm and her colleagues have provided a scholarly, lucid, and practical account of how to understand and manage the child with selective mutism. The authors’ step-by-step program will help even the most silent child.”
—Louis A. Schmidt, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and director of the Child Emotion Laboratory at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON
“Finally! A well-informed perspective on an often undiagnosed, mismanaged, and misunderstood childhood anxiety disorder. The practical insights of Drs. McHolm and Cunningham and Ms. Vanier are necessary reading for parents and teachers alike. These are real strategies that can be easily incorporated into a classroom setting! Helping Your Child with Selective Mutism is a necessary addition to the bookshelves of parents and teachers everywhere!”
—Lin Gorenkoff, parent of a child formerly with selective mutism, and facilitator and founder of the Selectively Silent Child Support Group and Web site, www.designandcopy.ca/silentchild
“Finally, parents of children who suffer from selective mutism have a comprehensive, well-written resource to help them deal with this challenging problem. This book provides a thorough description of the disorder as well as a detailed, practical, step-by-step program for helping the child overcome selective mutism once and for all. If someone you care about suffers from selective mutism, this book is a must! It is also a great resource for teachers and for professionals who treat selective mutism.”
—Martin M. Antony, Ph.D., ABPP, director of the Anxiety Treatment and Research Centre at St. Joseph’s Healthcare and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University, Hamilton, ON
About the Authors:
Angela E. McHolm, Ph.D., is director of the Selective Mutism Service at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, ON. The Selective Mutism Service offers outpatient psychiatric consultation to families and professionals such as school personnel, speech and language pathologists, and mental health clinicians who support children with selective mutism. She is assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON.
Charles E. Cunningham, PhD, is a staff psychologist at McMaster Children's Hospital and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University-both in Hamilton, ON. He also holds the Jack Laidlaw Chair in Patient-Centered Health Care at McMaster University. He has published and presented widely on various topics related to children's mental health. Within the field of selective mutism, he has approximately thirty years' clinical experience and has coauthored various manuscripts including a review of effective behavioral approaches to the treatment of selective mutism.
Melanie K. Vanier, MA, is staff clinician with the Selective Mutism Service at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, ON. In her direct clinical work with children with and their families, she has collaborated on the development and writing of a manual for a group workshop series offered to parents and professionals who work with selective mutism.
Foreword author Ronald M. Rapee, PhD, is currently professor in the Department of Psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and director of the Centre for Emotional Health. He has been involved in an advisory capacity with the DSM-IV and DSM-V, and he is a member of the US-government-sponsored Project Liberty, which works to develop anxiety management programs for children affected by disasters. He is on the scientific advisory committee for the Swiss Etiological Study of Adjustment and Mental Health, and the editorial board of several international journals.