Teachers Guide to Selective Mutism


Strategies for the Classroom

Here are some of the strategies that teachers report finding helpful:

Nonverbal communication: If the child is able to use gestures and hand signals (like pointing, nodding, giving a thumbs up or down), nonverbal communication is a great way to help kids participate in class. The goal is for her to eventually move beyond relying only on nonverbal communication, but in the meantime it is still an effective way for her to get her needs met and for you to show her that her participation is valued.

Pairing with a buddy: If a child has a particular friend that she is already verbal with, or who she is on very good terms with, arranging for them to sit next to each other may decrease her inhibition and increase the chance she’ll speak up.

Small group work: Some children feel less anxiety when they are doing activities inside of a smaller group, and may be more likely to speak up.

Building on strengths and areas of interest: Children feel more excited and confident (and less inhibited) when they get to explore things they are interested in, or use their talents so that they feel good about themselves.

Warm up time: Kids with SM benefit greatly from being able to come to the classroom with parents and “warm up” before anyone else is there. This allows the child to practice being verbal in that environment without the pressure of having the teacher or peers there. Ideally, after time with parents alone, a teacher may be able to “fade in” to the classroom, while still giving space to the student and her parents.

Outside support: Depending on how impaired a child is, having her therapist or another person trained in selective mutism treatment strategies spend some time inside the classroom to provide individualized support can be very helpful.

Children with SM may qualify for accommodations under Section 504 or be eligible for special school services under an IEP.