Transient ≠ Persistent: Determining the Best Approach to Selective Mutism Intervention

By Poling Bork and Debra Harwood.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Children with selective mutism (SM) speak freely with their immediate family members but persistently fail to speak in social situations. This condition is believed to be anxiety related and is similar to simple phobias experienced by young children. Correspondingly, the most common SM intervention is based on treatments of other childhood anxiety disorders that place an emphasis on behavioural modification modalities (Pionek Stone, Kratochwill, Sladezcek, & Serlin, 2002). These common interventions include shaping, systematic desensitization, and other exposure based therapy. However, attributable to the fact that the severity of SM varies, treatment may not be needed for those children with transient mutism (Powell & Dalley, 1995). This paper will consider: 1) means of identifying and discriminating transient mutism from persistent mutism; 2) the potential inter-relationship between transient and persistent mutism; and 3) how the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach to early education leads to a reimagining of the image of the child and the role of the teacher to potentially foster the likelihood of spontaneous remission of the transient selective mutism.

Keywords: Selective Mutism, Transient Mutism, Persistent Mutism, Reggio Emilia, Image of Child, Role of Teacher

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp.237-246. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 632.697KB).

Poling Bork

PhD Student, Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Poling Bork, B. Sc., M.Ed., (Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario) is a PhD student in the Faculty of Education at Brock University. Having devoted the past 7 years researching Selective Mutism (SM) to help her son overcome this “unfamiliar” anxiety disorder, Poling is dedicating her research in psychoeducational assessments and interventions for children with SM and other related anxiety disorders. Beside presenting paper at conference or conducting workshop, she has developed a handbook for parents and teachers to help intervene children with SM. With her undergraduate degree in Computer Science, Poling is currently investigating how to incorporate technology in the SM intervention program.

Dr. Debra Harwood

Assistant Professor, Department of Graduate & Undergraduate Studies, Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Debra Harwood, Ph.D., M.Ed., B.A., ECE., (Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario) is a member of the Faculty of Education of Brock University where she teaches courses and conducts research in the field of Early Childhood Education. She has been involved in the area of Early Childhood Education for more than 20 years. Her research pursuits examine holistic education and family practices to support optimal learning and caring environments for the early years.


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