Q. My kindergarten-age child has a classmate who does not talk at school—to anyone. The teacher said the child has been diagnosed with “Selective Mutism,” but that’s all she knew. I never heard of anything like that. Does this mean the child “selects” who to talk to and who not to talk to? And does that “start in the brain,” too?

A. The condition now known as Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder. It’s not that the child chooses not to speak; they are literally unable to speak in specific environments, unable to communicate effectively in social settings. In school, for instance. Estimates are that one in every 140 children (more girls than boys) may develop this condition. If left untreated, this condition may persist into adulthood. The child with Selective Mutism needs verbal reassurance, love, support, and patience. (Some require more extensive therapy and treatment.) There are several references on the internet if you want more information. One is the Selective Mutism Center. Dot. Org. What Is Selective Mutism?

And yes, my brain’s opinion is that everything begins in the brain and that includes anxiety, which is part of the core emotion of fear.

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