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