A Perspective of Selective Mutism

My experience as the brother of Someone with Selective Mutism

As the brother of my selectively mute sister, I spend a lot of time with her. In doing so, I have noticed that there are truly two sides of her. There is an extremely loud and extremely quiet side (and a little bit in the middle on occasion). It is very strange to watch. At home, around people she has known her entire life, she is the loudest one in the room, by far. She expresses pretty much anything that she is thinking, and clearly feels comfortable doing it. Yet when we walk out the door, something changes and suddenly even when she should speak, it’s much more difficult for her, even if she has known the person for a while. This is really interesting to watch, and it shows just how extreme selective mutism can be, even in an average case of it.

Advice to families and friends of those with selective mutism

As for the family and friends of people with selective mutism, there are a few ways that you can help. One thing is to set an example to whoever has selective mutism – for example, just start talking to somebody in front of them, showing them that it really is not so bad or scary. Do not try to force them to talk, or walk them right up to somebody – let them learn by example. In fact, if you try to force them, they will likely just freeze and say nothing, making the situation worse if anything. I would say that it is not good to look at the situation like a condition or disorder, but rather as a skill which is not developed – and it is partly your job to help develop that skill. Again, example is a great starting place for this.

So, to summarize:


  • Set an example in front of them
  • Look at it in a positive way, as a learning opportunity
  • Try to figure out what is causing the selective mutism (fear of the person, fear of the outcome of talking to anybody, not knowing what to say, etc.) and try to help eliminate the cause(s).
  • Learn more about selective mutism, it can help both you and the person with it – to get you started, we have some links!


  • Try to force speech
  • Leave it be and hope they start talking on their own
  • Look at the situation like a condition or disorder or something similar

Some Helpful Links

Hi! Milana and Gabriel here. We wanted to share these useful links for learning more about selective mutism, hand-chosen and vetted by both of us. If you’re dealing with selective mutism, these resources have our full approval.

Selective Mutism – PMC 

This link takes you to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which provides an extensive amount of official facts from the government. Although it is a bit outdated, being published in March of 2010, we feel it still remains relevant. It is very long, however, and may not be as readable for younger readers.

What Is Selective Mutism – Selective Mutism Anxiety & Related Disorders Treatment Center | 

This link takes you to the Selective Mutism Center (SMart Center), which provides facts about selective mutism, including comparing it to other similar conditions, and some other points which they suggest you, the reader, to research too.

Selective mutism: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

This link takes you to the MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, which provides some easy-to-read facts about selective mutism, without you having to spend all your time going through hundreds of paragraphs of information. 

Selective Mutism | Cedars-Sinai 

Cedars-Sinai offers treatment and recommendations for kids living with selective mutism. This article goes into depth; however, much is in bullet points so it is quite readable for either kids or adults.

Selective Mutism   

ASHA, or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, has a section on Selective Mutism that we find really helpful, including recommendations for testing and treatment.

We plan to keep adding resources here as we find them, so check back often!

Facts About Selective Mutism – Gabriel

People with selective mutism are people who do not feel comfortable talking to the majority of people that they do not know extremely well. It is generally caused by a fear of public embarrassment or any other type of shyness. They think that they are being judged everywhere they go, everything they do, although they are not – and this causes this caution in talking to other people. This can happen not only with strangers, but also people seen regularly! People with selective mutism usually want to speak – they know that it is important and would only benefit them – but feel mentally restrained. This type of fear manifests mostly from ages 11-13, while the beginnings of selective mutism can happen as early as 3-6 years old although has more of an impact in the younger ages (generally around 6-), however, its impact can greatly depend on the person. In older children, it can have lesser affects as they can think a bit more deeply about what people are going to think – and realize that they are mostly just not going to judge anything. Even though many know this, they still have an internal fear, which is in the end selective mutism. 

Sometimes, children with selective mutism will speak in a few select scenarios (a more mild case), but in other cases they will very rarely speak (a very severe case), overall depending on the amount of anxiety – caused by selective mutism – that they have in social circumstances. Selective mutism is able to be passed down from generation to generation – if no parents or grandparents have ever had selective mutism, you are not as likely to have it, but if you have a family history of it, you have a much higher chance to get it. Of course, you can get selective mutism without a family history – it is just less likely. Selective mutism, however, is quite rare – only known to affect less than one percent of children in the US. It affects females slightly more than males, although this very much could be concluded simply because of research limitations and is not necessarily correct.