Selective Mutism: A Three Tiered Approach to Prevention and Intervention

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Selective mutism is a rare anxiety disorder that prevents a child from speaking at school or other community settings, and can be detrimental to a child’s social development. School psychologists can play an important role in the prevention and treatment of selective mutism. As an advocate for students, school psychologists can work with teachers, parent caregivers, speech pathologists, and other support staff toward helping children who may develop or have selective mutism. The purpose of this article is to present school-based prevention and intervention approaches within a three-tiered approach that may reduce the incidence and severity of selective mutism. We present theories and research on the etiology and prevalence of the disorder, followed by a review of intervention methods and research at each tier. Based on the theoretical and research literature base, we conclude that early intervention may result in the prevention and amelioration of many occurrences of selective mutism.


This article was originally published in Contemporary School Psychology, volume 15, in 2011. DOI: 10.1007/BF03340963

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California Association of School Psychologists