***Post written by Laura Lane, Secretary for WSPA***
Selective Mutism is a disability that is considered low incidence as it affects less than one percent of the population. It is considered a specific phobia. There is a genetic predisposition with anxiety being found within the family but not always with a parent.
I have worked as a school psychologist for 20 plus years and have only been involved in an evaluation for a selectively mute student two times. The first time was many years ago and as a team, the evaluators spent time trying to get some/any information from the child other than what the parent would tell us. A frustrating experience for all involved including the classroom teacher who did not know what to do with a student who would not respond verbally.
This school year, I have encountered my second selectively mute child. Since this child moved to our district the necessary evaluation has become a concern as no one within the district has any prior experience with the child and limited experience with selective mutism. Through collaboration with the speech therapist, the team has watched an online presentation by Dr. Kotrba and has since reviewed the above mentioned book.
In her book Dr. Kotrba does a great job of describing both evaluation and interventions for selectively mute students. Two of the biggest takeaways for me included-
- Selective Mutism is an anxiety disorder. This allows for the qualification for special education services under the category of either Emotional Disability or Other Health Impaired if the student also meets the need for specially designed instruction. Another option would be to look at a 504 plan if specially designed instruction is not necessary.
- An evaluation for selective mutism needs to allow for time to become familiar to the child. This may take up a significant amount of the 60 day evaluation timeline for an initial referral.
Dr. Kotrba also goes through the process of intervention for students. Again this process can take quite a bit of time and will involve many school staff including the classroom teacher, speech therapist and school psychologist/school counselor/school social worker.
As our team has embarked upon the process of evaluation and intervention for our child, we have had the ability to take the time needed due to this being a re-evaluation. It has been exciting to hear that the student is now making more effort at school to verbalize even if that communication has been limited to whispers and short responses. Following the steps to become a familiar adult to the child will hopefully lead the team to an evaluation that will support the child in both educational and social expectations.
I highly recommend this book for those who may encounter this low incidence disability.