Ask Jonathan

My 7 year old daughter has Selective Mutism

Asked By: Anonymous     Views: 2,011 times

My daughter was diagnosed when she was in pre school with SM. We always thought she was shy but when school started she was in a frozen state. She would not play in the centers and with the kids in the classroom but when they went outside to play she would play with the kids non verbally. The next year in kindergarden it was much better she did the work in class and also did alot more non verbal things. Now she is in 1st grade and she is about the same. But this summer we had family visit that come every year and she use to talk with them but doesn't anymore. Also my son, her older brother got out of the Air force and she quit talking with him. She will play and pick on him but she can't get her words out. It has been 7 months. The only adults she talks with now are myself, her dad, her grandma and her older sister and her other brother that is 17. She does not talk to most of our family members and to the kids at school. She will talk with her friends at our home and out in public when we are at a store or kid friendly place.Also we have taken her to 4 different therapist .  My question is how to I get her to share her feelings and teach her how to open up? I have been listening and reading everything on your website about not enabling which we have been doing her whole 7 year life. And the thing you said about SM kids being detach is  my daughter. She has never been able to explain her feelings. Also you mentioned about starting about 5% ,not take everything (enabling) away. Can you explain how to do it? My husband and I are very motivated to help her and agree on what you are saying. We are going to have Christmas at our house this year and most everyone that is coming she does not speak too. I usually answer for her and I don't want my relatives and her feel bad should I explain to them what we are doing they all know she has SM? And should I explain to my daughter I am not answering for her? Thank you

The non-enabling strategy is multi-dimensional. It's not just about talking. It's about helping your daughter access her neural pathways that are under-utilized due to her anxiety and the avoidance-dependence dynamic.Why don't you google "developmental milestones" to get a better picture of where she needs to catch up regarding age appropriate independent functioning. Remember the architecture of selective mutism = F.A.T.E.: F = Function (physiology) A = Action (behavior) T= Thinking (cognition) E= Emotion Teaching your daughter to "open up" and share feelings requires a developmental, and sustained, synergy of teaching her an emotional vocabulary (see the 3-step process elsewhere in the log) concurrent with a process of interpretation. Her stress (adaptation) response needs to monitored carefully during this process. Usually this process requires parents monitoring and manageing their own emotions. In my clinical work I teach parents how to "contract" (communicate) with the child to explain how things will be different (for example methodically learning how to not talk for her). The non-enabling scenarios need to be "procesed" carefully after they occur. PLease understand my reference to "methodology". It's a system; not a hit or miss approach. Fragmented approaches worsen the situation.

The following is part of a collection of questions and sharing by our readership community about a wide variety of aspects of social anxiety. Dive in and receive practical insights and advice. If you have a question that is not included you can contact Jonathan at

Relating to these Area of Concerns

Berent Associates, 10 Bond St., #371, Great Neck, NY 11021
Tel: (516) 872-9383, Fax: (516) 487-7414, E-mail:

Privacy Statement: All information collected from this website, including E-mail addresses, mailing addresses and personal
information, will not be shared or sold. Any information collected through this site will be used by Berent Associates only.