Did what we do for my daughter help her selective mutism?

I have recently had a comment by one of my readers who asked me about “whether treatment given to your child has helped her or not?”

Well, you can read about what treatment she did receive by clicking on Our daughter’s selective mutism journey as well as So what has worked for her selective mutism.

Did it work?

Well, she was officially diagnosed with selective mutism at 4.5.  She’s just turned recently 9 years old.  On Tuesday, her 3rd grade class had to give two minute speeches on their chosen historical figure for Historical Halloween.

My daughter chose to give her speech on Anne Sullivan, who was best known as a teacher and a companion to Helen Keller, the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, thanks to the committed work of Anne Sullivan.

I would love to share a video, but I’m not sure how.  Instead, pictures will have to do.

We are so proud of how far she has come.


And a close up of her speaking into the microphone.


And the audience was filled with her 23 classmates and their parents and some of grandparents.  There is dad and grandma watching intently.


So, did our treatment strategies for her selective mutism work?

Yes, I do think so.

She is not medicated (and never was), has no more need of an Individualized Education Plan and Speech Therapy (she had it for about a year and a quarter), tested into the gifted program, and she excitedly wants others to know what she has to say.

Will what we’ve done work for other parents? 

I don’t know.   But I sure do hope so.  Early detection and intervention is best, which is why I write so much about it on my blog, to help inform and support other parents.

Another parent that commented on my blog shared with me something about “the transitional stage of SM”.
When I looked up what that was, I found this helpful link containing the following information by one of the leading experts on selective mutism,  Elisa Shipon-Blum.


Q: For the nonverbal child, is lowering anxiety enough to stimulate speech?

A: For the majority, the answer is NO, especially as a child ages. For the child who is able to respond via nodding, gesturing, pointing, writing, etc. he/she may actually appear comfortable, relaxed and engaged, yet mutism persists.

Q: HOW then do you get a child to speak if lowering anxiety is not enough?

A: By helping the child unlearn their conditioned mute behavior and using TRANSITIONAL strategies to BRIDGE from nonverbal to verbal

It is this stage of communication that is the MISSING LINK in MOST treatment plans.

Treatment that focuses solely on lowering anxiety without regard to structured ways for parents and CHILD to UNLEARN conditioned  behaviors. For the mute child, if focus is on in-office therapy without implementation of transitional strategies outside the office, treatment resistance will occur.

According to the handout, there are thousands of strategies that fall under three kinds of transitional strategies:

1.  verbal intermediary (like whispering to another person or a puppet to speak for them).
2.  ritual sound approach (and example of which is  something like tapping twice for yes, and once for no).
3.  augmentation devices (tape recorders, blowers, voice changers, etc).

My daughter used verbal intermediaries – she could whisper to me, sometimes could whisper to a friend in class, and then whispered to her one of her preschool teachers, just before she had a breakthrough.  At the time, I had no knowledge of the term verbal intermediaries.  This is just what happened.

What will work for your child? 

I don’t know, but I do know there are people out there who believe you WILL be able to help your child find out which intereventions will work.  Keep trying until you find something that works for your child.

And ultimately, parents and individuals sharing their stories and what they’ve had success with is a part of that process, so please, if you care to share your success stories that might help others, please leave a comment.

This entry was posted in selective mutism, social anxiety. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Did what we do for my daughter help her selective mutism?

  1. Phil says:

    What a lovely young girl you and Mr. RSG have! I’m delighted that your approach worked, and I am sure that all the information and help offered and shared here will indeed help others with children going through a similar situation. Well done and congratulations to one smart girl.

  2. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Phil – Thank you so much on the compliment about my daughter.

    We are truly grateful that the approach worked. When she was in the grip of her mutism, it was so hard to see if she’d come through to the other side. As a parent, you’d do anything to spare your child a hardship like this that might affect the rest of their lives.

    I felt so incredibly scared for her and alone, because about 5 years ago, there weren’t many personal accounts or parental perspectives on this disorder. I think maybe I found one. I started blogging to articulate my own fears and frustrations because my daughter was able to talk in some social situations, but not in others. Some people who knew her able to speak basically said, “she’s fine”, “she’ll outgrow it”, “don’t worry” and yet, she was not fine, and there really was a lot to be worried about – as evidenced by some of my adult commenters who’ve been struggling with selective mutism their entire lives.

    I think the most heart-wrenching moment for us was when she stood frozen, with tears running down her cheeks during a little informal ballet recital her ballet class gave for the parents. She participated in the steps during the class when it was just the kids, but when it came time to be in front of the parents, she just locked up. She wouldn’t leave the floor, and wouldn’t let me come get her. She just stood there in tears.

    We enrolled her in the ballet class with her sister because one of the therapists suggested we try that as an alternative to something called Feldenkrais – a body movement therapy. Since we didn’t have access to a certified therapist in our area, we opted for the ballet class.

    At any rate, this is one reason why I just wanted to share information with other parents. I didn’t want them to feel as alone and scared as we did.

    By the way, I hope Superstorm Sandy didn’t leave a lot of devastation in your area. You guys were hit hard last year with the weather.


  3. Deanna says:

    Really good information. Thank you! I’ve been homeschooling my two since July this year and they’ve made strides. We’ve had a lot more opportunities to work on their “speech ladder” but I’ve never heard much about intermediary speech methods. This is so helpful, thanks again for sharing. You’ve set an amazing example with your child. Well done.
    It seems we’ve just started this journey, but I’m positive they will overcome. I too have a blog if you’d like to share the link.

  4. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Deanna –

    Thanks so much for your reply. Yes, absolutely I will share your blog. I’m so glad your children are improving.

    I think I’ll share your blog here, as well as to my sidebar. I think it’s very important to parents to see as many perspectives as they can and see how strategies are implemented and what results from them.

    I will take a look at your blog, Homeschooling Kids with Selective Mutism.

    I might actually blog about your blog, in the near future if you don’t have any objections to that.

    Good luck to you on the homeschooling front. I always wished I could do that, but when I asked my children if they wanted to be homeschooled, they never did. They seem to be thriving where they are, so we are keeping them in P.S.

    Best wishes,


    • Deanna says:

      Thank you! You’ve been an inspiration to me. I’ve followed you now for about a year. I have no objections. Thank you. I need to post a new entry for the blog. It’s working for now. If they want to go back to P.S. I have no problems with that. Whatever it takes right? Glad to know your family is doing so well and your daughter seems to have overcome so wonderfully.

      Best Wishes to you and yours as well,

  5. Melissa says:

    Hi our daughters 7 1/2 she has come along way in the last couple of years. But we find it hard keeping the momentum going the school terms are so short and the year races by. She is answering the roll, doing news in a smaller group, answering the odd maths or yes/no question directly to the teacher (might only be once a week), talks to most of the kids. When we get the opportunity to do sliding in she can read out loud, answer questions if they are very easy, even instruct the teacher how to play a game. We have started working on primitive reflexes the last two months. I guess the question is how do we encourage her to be more verbal with the teacher? they just dont have time to give her opportunities without the pressure of the rest of the class. She is keen to doing something verbal in front of the class after success with a one word role in a class play last term, but again there’s just not the time or opportunity. I have just started a brave book where she’s gets stickers when she is verbal with the teacher or class. Any advice would be appreciated!

  6. C says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. You must be so proud of how far your daughter has come. It is encouraging to read about your positive outcome. My daughter has been in the same daycare for a year now, and only says one or two words, and only occasionally. We have just started therapy for her, and I hope we can have as good an outcome as you have.

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