Selective mutism is characterized by a consistent failure to speak in specific social situations in which there is an expectation for speaking. Children with selective mutism have the ability to both speak and understand language, but fail to use this ability as a result of what we would consider to be social anxiety in adults. Most children with selective mutism function normally in other areas of their lives.
Selective mutism is not a communications disorder and is not part of a developmental disorder. By definition, selective mutism does not include children with conduct disorders, oppositional/defiant behavior, and/or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The principal problem in children with selective mutism is anxiety. This anxiety (which causes avoidance) is closest to the definition of social anxiety disorder in adults. Indeed, most adults with social anxiety disorder relate strongly and can fully understand selective mutism, even though they themselves did not have this problem.
It also appears that cognitive-behavioral therapy, with the emphasis being on the behavioral component (depending on the age of the child) is the therapy of choice.
For more information on this important problem, follow the external links below.
More Information About Selective Mutism
This informative site offers comprehensive information on selective mutism, a forum for parents to discuss the problem, and links to other information on this long-neglected anxiety problem. Thanks to Bob Helta for communicating through the years with The Anxiety Network.
The Selective Mutism Foundation offers information, support, pen pals, and research information about selective mutism.
Other legitimate psychological sites will be added when we know about them.