Children with Selective Mutism often have severely inhibited temperaments. Studies show that individuals with inhibited temperaments are more prone to anxiety than those without shy temperaments. Most, if not all, of the distinctive behavioral characteristics that children with Selective Mutism portray can be explained by the studied hypothesis that children with inhibited temperaments have a decreased threshold of excitability in the almond-shaped area of the brain called the amygdala. When confronted with a fearful scenario, the amygdala receives signals of potential danger from the sympathetic nervous system and begins to set off a series of reactions that will help individuals protect themselves.
In the case of children with Selective Mutism, the fearful scenarios are social settings such as birthday parties, school, family gatherings, routine errands, etc. They may be sensitive to sounds, lights, touch, taste and smells. Some children have difficulty modulating sensory input which may affect their emotional responses. DSI may cause a child to misinterpret environmental and social cues. This can lead to inflexibility, frustration and anxiety. Others may have subtle learning disabilities including auditory processing disorder. In most of these cases, the children have inhibited temperaments prone to shyness and anxiety.
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These children are usually temperamentally inhibited by nature, but the additional stress of speaking another language and being insecure with their skills is enough to cause an increased anxiety level and mutism. A small percentage of children with Selective Mutism do not seem to be the least bit shy.
Many of these children perform and do whatever they can to get others attention and are described as professional mimes! Reasons for mutism in these children are not proven, but preliminary research from the SMart Center indicates that these children may have other reasons for mutism.
These children are literally stuck in the nonverbal stage of communication. Selective Mutism is therefore a symptom. Studies have shown no evidence that the cause of Selective Mutism is related to abuse, neglect or trauma. What is the difference between Selective Mutism and traumatic mutism? Children who suffer from Selective Mutism speak in at least one setting and are rarely mute in all settings.
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Most have inhibited temperaments and manifest social anxiety. For children with Selective Mutism, their mutism is a means of avoiding the anxious feelings elicited by expectations and social encounters. Children with traumatic mutism usually develop mutism suddenly in all situations. An example would be a child who witnesses the death of a grandparent or other traumatic event, is unable to process the event, and becomes mute in all settings.
It is important to understand that some children with Selective Mutism may start out with mutism in school and other social settings. Due to negative reinforcement of their mutism, misunderstandings from those around them, and perhaps heightened stress within their environment, they may develop mutism in all settings. What behavior characteristics does a child with Selective Mutism portray in social settings?
It is important to realize that the majority of children with Selective Mutism are as normal and as socially appropriate as any other child when in a comfortable environment. Parents will often comment how boisterous, social, funny, inquisitive, extremely verbal, and even bossy and stubborn these children are at home! What differentiates most children with Selective Mutism is their severe behavioral inhibition and inability to speak and communicate comfortably in most social settings. Some children with Selective Mutism feel as though they are on stage every minute of the day!
This can be quite heart-wrenching for both the child and parents involved. Often, these children show signs of anxiety before and during most social events. Physical symptoms and negative behaviors are common before school or social outings. It is important for parents and teachers to understand that the physical and behavioral symptoms are due to anxiety and treatment needs to focus on helping the child learn the coping skills to combat anxious feelings. It is common for many children with Selective Mutism to have a blank facial expression and never seem to smile.
Many have stiff or awkward body language when in a social setting and seem very uncomfortable or unhappy. Some will turn their heads, chew or twirl their hair, avoid eye contact, or withdraw into a corner or away from the group seemingly more interested in playing alone. Others are less avoidant and do not seem as uncomfortable. They may play with one or a few children and be very participatory in groups. These children will still be mute or barely communicate with most classmates and teachers.
Over time, these children learn to cope and participate in certain social settings. They usually perform nonverbally or by talking quietly to a select few. Social relationships become very difficult as children with Selective Mutism grow older.
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As peers begin dating and socializing more, children with Selective Mutism may remain more aloof, isolated, and alone. Children with Selective Mutism often have tremendous difficulty initiating and may hesitate to respond even nonverbally. This can be quite frustrating to the child as time goes by.
Ingrained behavior often manifests itself by a child looking and acting normally but communicating nonverbally. This particular child cannot just start speaking.
Treatment needs to center on methods to help the child unlearn the present mute behavior. What are the most common characteristics of children with Selective Mutism? Most, if not all, of the characteristics of children with Selective Mutism can be attributed to anxiety. When are most children diagnosed as having Selective Mutism?
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Most children are diagnosed between 3 and 8 years old. In retrospect, it is often noted that these children were temperamentally inhibited and severely anxious in social settings as infants and toddlers, but adults thought they were just very shy. Most children have a history of separation anxiety and being slow to warm up. Often it is not until children enter school and there is an expectation to perform, interact and speak, that Selective Mutism becomes more obvious.
What often happens is teachers tell parents the child is not talking or interacting with the other children. In other situations, parents will notice, early on, that their child is not speaking to most individuals outside the home. Why do so few teachers, therapists and physicians understand Selective Mutism?
Studies of Selective Mutism are scarce. Most research results are based on subjective findings based on a limited number of children. In addition, textbook descriptions are often nonexistent, or information is limited, and in many situations, the information is inaccurate and misleading. As a result, few people truly understand Selective Mutism. Professionals and teachers will often tell a parent, the child is just shy, or they will outgrow their silence.
Others interpret the mutism as a means of being oppositional and defiant, manipulative or controlling. Some professionals erroneously view Selective Mutism as a variant of autism or an indication of severe learning disabilities. For most children who are truly affected by Selective Mutism, this is completely wrong and inappropriate!
Mutism not only persists in these children, but is negatively reinforced. These children may develop oppositional behaviors out of a combination of frustration, their own inability to make sense of their mutism, and others pressuring them to speak.
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As a result of the scarcity and often inaccuracy of information in the published literature, children with Selective Mutism may be misdiagnosed and mismanaged. In many circumstances, parents will wait and hope their child outgrows their mutism and may even by advised to do so by well-meaning, but uninformed professionals.
However, without proper recognition and treatment, most of these children do NOT outgrow Selective Mutism and end up going through years without speaking, interacting normally, or developing appropriate social skills. In fact, many individuals who suffer from Selective Mutism and social anxiety who do not get proper treatment to develop necessary coping skills may develop the negative ramifications of untreated anxiety see below.
Our findings indicate that the earlier a child is treated for Selective Mutism, the quicker the response to treatment, and the better the overall prognosis. In other words, Selective Mutism can become a difficult habit to break! Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses among children and adolescents. Our main objective is to diagnose children early, so they can receive proper treatment at an early age, develop proper coping skills, and overcome their anxiety.
If parents suspect their child has Selective Mutism, what should they do? However, please note that having experience with Selective Mutism does not guarantee that the treatment approach and understanding is correct. In fact, a clinician with less experience, yet who has an excellent understanding of Selective Mutism may be an ideal choice for your child. What are the key questions to ask a potential therapist or physician? To try and improve this situation — namely both an absence of real information and a lack of easily accessible CBT therapists for so many in difficulties — Flagging Anxiety and Panic was born.
The first key understanding was that the anxiety pathways in our brain can be reshaped by our mind — a process called neuroplasticity. This is best done with the harnessed use of our mind.
This sets up the incredible capacity of using key CBT exercises to reshape our anxious mind and as a result to reshape the very anxiety pathways that are causing the problem. The second key understanding was that anxiety is not only a cognitive condition where we worry and catastrophise all the time — but also a strongly physical condition involving parts of our emotional brain and our internal stress system.
The physical symptoms we experience in all forms of anxiety and panic are created by the firing of our internal stress system by a little organ in our emotional brain called the amygdala which is increasingly been seen as a key player. It keeps us alive when faced with danger by firing our stress system to pump out, for example, our fear hormone, adrenaline. It is this hormone that makes us feel our stomach in knots, our heart going quicker, our breathing faster, our mouth dry, muscles feeling tense and general feelings of dread. Everybody who suffers from anxiety and panic can relate to these symptoms.
But it is also the gunslinger of the stress system — it shoots from the hip often without thinking and does not really worry about the consequences. The gunslinger is not particularly smart, has a long memory, does not respond to normal talk therapies, and regularly disregards instructions from head office our logical brain.
So one of the objectives of Flagging Anxiety and Panic was to highlight new techniques to put him back in his box. The third key understanding related to the fact that the worrying side of anxiety comes from the left prefrontal cortex part of our brain and the catastrophising comes from the right prefrontal cortex part of our brain. With these simple concepts I decided to use simple clinical cases which it was felt that people suffering from panic attacks, social anxiety, general anxiety or phobias could easily relate to. In each case, we would show how the person — from the second they sat down to open up to their distress — could learn the simple CBT techniques necessary to learn how to manage their anxiety or panic.
As an example, a panic attack is where, out of nowhere, a person suddenly finds themselves short of breath, heart pounding, mouth dry, dizzy, stomach in knots, muscles tensed up, shaking, sweating and feeling as if they are going to die. They can strike suddenly, for no obvious reason and terrify the sufferer. Many think they are going to die, go mad or run amok. Sufferers live in a state of constant fear as to when the next one is going to strike.
At the heart of panic attacks is the understanding that the attack is simply due to an adrenaline rush created by the gunslinger firing inadvertently and seemingly without warning. We now know that the amygdala or gunslinger only responds in panic attacks to a concept called flooding. This involves learning how to go with the physical symptoms caused by the adrenaline rush. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam.
Learn how your comment data is processed. No problem! It was hypothesized that this is because those of this type of intelligence have a biological incentive to worry. Emotional Intelligence — On the other side, emotional intelligence has an inverse relationship to anxiety. Those with a higher emotional intelligence tend to be far better at coping, and much more resilient to the effects of anxiety and stress. This also makes a great deal of sense as well.
Developing Healthy Emotional Intelligence This research indicates something that EQ experts have promoted for years — that emotional intelligence is a key component in adjusted living. Several times a day, give yourself six seconds to feel the physical sensations of your emotions e. Making this a practice will help you detect emotional signals before they become overwhelming.
Try the Intend App for help with this! Consider your emotional logic. For example, if you want to feel relaxed, mimic the physical sensations of being relaxed so that you can get used to that feeling and hopefully adopt it. When you have a great day, reward yourself. Tell your friends, congratulate yourself, maybe even treat yourself to something nice.