Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Ideal Classroom Setting for the Selectively Mute Child

Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum's book, The Ideal Classroom Setting for the Selectively Mute Child, provides guidance on setting up instruction for a selectively mute child. She discusses the social communication comfort scale that I have referred to before in my blog. She addresses the need for providing a comfortable and flexible environment. This type of setting reduces the underlying anxiety that Shipon-Blum believes underlies selective mutism. She discusses using verbal intermediaries like a puppet or another person to act as the communicator. The child either whispers to another child or adult who then expresses the child's wishes or uses a puppet and let's the puppet speak for her.

She talks about preparing a child for changes to reduce stress related to change. Often toileting, eating, fire drills and recess can be challenges for the selectively mute child. Being sensitive to these issues and planning around them is important. Desensitizing the child with off hours visits and rewarding attempts is important to developing verbalization.

One of the things that I have not seen elsewhere is the mention that selectively mute children often delay initiation or response. With the child I am working with, this is particularly true. I need my patience to wait her out and let her begin. Nearly always she will attempt a problem or nonverbally request help, if I give her enough time to get over her difficulty with initiation and response.

This book is short and eminently readable. Dr. Shipon-Blum captures the basic essence of the disorder in a way that is ideal for a busy classroom teacher. A professional working with a child with selective mutism would be well served by this text.

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