Dealing with selective mutism in the classroom can be very difficult and frustrating for teachers. After all, sometimes it seems that a child with selective mutism is simply misbehaving by not speaking or participating; And furthermore, it can be difficult to judge how much the child has learned when not reading aloud, etc.

Selective mutism is usually a symptom of an anxiety disorder, and the full impact of this disorder is usually not apparent until the child begins school. It is most often in the classroom that the effects of selective mutism are most seriously experienced. Therefore, most of the time it is the teacher who must deal with this disorder, learn to deal with it and fight it.

Fortunately, there are things teachers can do to help deal with selective mutism in the classroom. Here are some tips:

The teacher is often the center of the child’s most intense symptoms. Be patient. Understand that there is a completely different child than the one you may come to know under the shell of selective mutism.

· Keep in mind that, as a teacher, you are an essential part of helping students combat their selective mutism. Be understanding. Keep in mind that the symptoms of selective mutism are unintentional and therefore you should not get frustrated or angry.

· If you suspect selective mutism, refer both the child and the parents to a doctor or psychologist. Together, you can help develop a behavior-based treatment plan. This is the most effective approach to treating selective mutism.

Work with a speech-language pathologist (SLP). In fact, you (the teacher), the parents, the child, the psychotherapist, and the SLP are important parts of the treatment team. Coordinate your actions and work together.

· Do not try to force the child to speak. Of course, it is okay to gently encourage the child to speak.

Reward and praise the child for speaking and participating in the classroom. Rewarding the child will make them feel part of the classroom, but at the same time more independent. It can help to slowly break through the shell of anxiety.

A child with selective mutism adapts better to routine and structure.

Maintain a predictable structure and be sure to clearly explain classroom activities. Doing these things will help narrow down the unknown and give your child a sense of structure.

· Try to avoid sudden schedule changes. If you are planning a time change or a new activity, give the children a preview of the expected change.

Although a child with selective mutism may not be directly involved in an activity, they may do so after a while. It is easier for him or her to join in once he has observed the other children and knows what to do. Help the child participate in the activity and then slowly fade away as he or she feels more confident.

Assessing the development and abilities of a child with selective mutism can be very difficult for the teacher. After all, it is difficult to judge how well a child can read if he does not read aloud.

· Keep in mind that just because you have not seen signs of the child’s ability does not mean that you do not understand.

Talk to an SLP to learn about the different methods of assessing a child’s reading skills.

Some children will point to letters or take other non-verbal assessments.

See if the child will allow his parents to videotape his reading performance at home.

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