Selective mutism  is a disorder that usually occurs during childhood. It is when the child does not choose to speak in at least one social setting. However, the child can speak in other situations. Selective mutism typically occurs before a child is 5 years old and is usually first noticed when the child starts school.
What are some signs or symptoms of selective mutism?
Symptoms are as follows:
  • consistent failure to speak in specific social situations (in which there is an expectation for speaking, such as at school) despite speaking in other situations.
  • not speaking interferes with school or work, or with social communication.
  • lasts at least 1 month (not limited to the first month of school).
  • failure to speak is not due to a lack of knowledge of, or comfort, with the spoken language required in the social situation
  • not due to a communication disorder (e.g., stuttering). It does not occur exclusively during the course of a pervasive developmental disorder (PPD), schizophrenia, or other psychotic disorder.
Selective mutism is described in the 2000 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR: pp.125-127).
Children with selective mutism may also show:
  • anxiety disorder (e.g., social phobia)
  • excessive shyness
  • fear of social embarrassment
  • social isolation and withdrawal