As the makeup of students in classrooms change and general education teachers are educating a range of students with diverse needs, new learning barriers are becoming prominent in American classrooms. One of these learning disabilities that is emerging is a language disorder called selective mutism. Selective mutism is defined as a language disorder in which individuals who exhibit normal language skills with no delays in daily home situations are unwilling or unable to speak when confronted with novel situations or people. This disorder, when presented in classrooms, can affect both the social and the academic progress of the student. When considering students who exhibit symptoms of selective mutism, there is a controversy in the diagnosis, the origins of the disorder, and to what extent it should be considered a learning disability.
Selective mutism is not common to be seen in classrooms as only 3-.7% of children display symptoms. These children are often afraid of speaking to strangers, avoid new social situations, and show distress when they are put into a new environment. Some researchers note that these symptoms are similar to those seen in children with social anxiety disorders (Yeganeh, et al., 2003). The similarities between the selective mutism and social anxiety have led researchers to believe that selective mutism is an anxiety disorder. To treat it, there must be information known about the child’s family, history, and other factors in the past that might have contributes to this disorder. (Borger et.al., 2007). However, selective mutism is not a common disorder, making it very difficult to both diagnose and to treat effectively.
Theories of Selective Mutism
When research of se...
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...prone to speaking (Busse & Downey, 2011). This is a practice that is emerging in the typical classroom with the integration of technology. A parent can send in a video of the child speaking at home or completing a presentation then the teacher can show it in class. While it may seem positive for the student to see themselves being verbal in class and getting comfortable with this idea, it can also make the student more anxious and embarrassed. Teachers and parents must be cautious before implementing this strategy as it may cause the student to retreat further into their non-verbal comfort zone. Researchers caution that several children who are selectively mute are unwilling to be videotaped. In some cases, listening to audiotapes of themselves actually increases the child’s anxiety about speaking, making this intervention unsuitable for a segment of the population.
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