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School-Based Strategies for Building Rapport with Selectively Mute Children

All material Copyright © 2009 Selective Mutism Group ~ Childhood Anxiety Network
Reprinted with the express permission of SMG as originally published on their website.
By: By Lynn Lunceford, Psy.D, Clinical Psychologist
Important ground rule when working with a child who has SM: ask NO direct questions of the child early in the process.

  • Visit the child in his or her home if possible.
  • Meet the child after school, on the playground, one-on-one. Move into the classroom at a future meeting, when the child seems ready.
  • Good games to utilize within the classroom that take the pressure off speaking:
    • Pictionary Junior: Play in teams, team captain picks a teammate for each
    • “Getting to Know You Charades”: Have pre-printed topics on separate pieces of paper (hobby, favorite food, sport you like, favorite animal, a pet
      you have or have had, favorite movie, etc.). Also have blank squares so that additional topics can be created. A child can draw a topic and shows it
      to the group, then acting out their answer. Players guess (either verbally or by writing down their answer).
  • Bring in a mini tape recorder, to be used as a verbal intermediary. This is one of the last steps used in this stage and can help the child transition from the
    nonverbal to verbal stage.
  • Whenever possible, show the child a silly side of yourself. The point is to join the child in his or her world, not ask that they enter yours.

Featured Organization: Selective Mutism Group ~ Childhood Anxiety Network (SMG)
We thank Selective Mutism Group ~ Childhood Anxiety Network for allowing PediaStaff to reprint their article. Selective Mutism Group ~ Childhood Anxiety Network is the nation’s premier resource for information on SM. SMG, a part of the Childhood Anxiety Network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information, resources and support to those impacted by a child with the anxiety disorder known as Selective Mutism (SM). Visit their website at

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