Selective mutism is an anxiety response in that it is a fear of speaking stemming from acute anxiety about the consequences of using speech. It is sometimes descried as a phobia.
Selective mutism is fairly rare; lots of CYP are naturally fairly quiet and this should not be mistaken for selective mutism.
DO NOT punish a CYP for not speaking - this will fuel the anxiety - instead reward any attempts at communication even if speech isn't used. Building a trusting relationship is key to encouraging the CYP to use speech to communicate.
DO NOT PRESSURISE THE CYP TO SPEAK - this is an anxiety based difficulty
Try non-verbal activities which require expelling air and using the mouth, e.g. blowing out candles, blowing bubbles, blowing ping-pong balls with a straw, breathing on a mirror, mouth ‘popping’, tongue ‘clicking’ etc
Encourage self-expression through creative, imaginative and artistic activities
Make sound effects when reading stories and allow CYP to join in
Use puppets / soft toys
Design activities to focus on the senses to encourage self awareness
Try the use of dictaphones / voice recorders
Have fun with sounds - through musical instruments / balloons / tubes etc
Work closely with parents / carers
Using gestures / facial expressions instead of words
Replicate the gestures to let the CYP know that you are interested in understanding them and build relationships
Allow a gesture for answering registers
Try pairing with a 'buddy'
Build on areas of interest and don't make a big thing out of any sounds that may be made
Reward and praise any achievements made; not just with speaking
Seems to 'shut down' or 'freeze'
Sit at the front of a class to ease the anxiety
Be patient - model a gesture if the CYP is really struggling
Play games where there is quiet noise such as row your boat, snakes and ladders etc
Don't put the CYP on the spot with a required spoken response
Do reassure the CYP that they will be alright and that all of us have anxiety speaking in some situations