Many teachers know a child in their school or class that will not talk in class, refuses to answer questions, and participate in class. Most times, this set of children gets home and downloads all that happened in school, showing they understand what was taught and done in school. While another set will refuse to say anything about what happened in school and make Parents worry too.

However, there are a small fraction of children that keep mute in class or in selected social settings, even when they are up to 7years old. It becomes worrisome for a teacher who can not properly assess the child, especially in day-to-day learning and oral exams and teachers get more perplexed because they know these children do not have speech impediment since they talk with selected friends and family.

So what’s happening?🤷

According to Experts

Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure, and relaxed.

The cause, or causes, are unknown. Most experts believe that children with the condition inherit a tendency to be anxious and inhibited. Most children with selective mutism have some form of extreme social fear (phobia). Parents often think that the child is choosing not to speak.


✓Allow for warm-up time and observe who the child is free with among his classmates. Get them to be talking friends. Engage the child in peer learning with that particular child.

✓Monitor the child’s body language. Observe when the child is in a relaxed mood and Talk “around” the child at first with a focus on parents or siblings.

✓Get down on the child’s level by asking the child to bring in or select a favorite toy or prop and direct questions to the child with a focus on the prop or toy.

✓ Create opportunities to talk about non-academic issues. Look out for what interests them and use that as a basis for discussion and Building a friendship with the child.

✓Allow for hesitation. Re-ask questions if needed. Accept nonverbal communication (e.g., pointing, nodding, gesturing) without an expectation for speech. Accept the child’s level of communication as the first step to securing comfort.

✓ Vary the child’s learning environment. Such a child gets more relaxed in an outdoor space. Please don’t confine them to the classroom. Even within the classroom, change their position for different Activities. Get them interested in spots or places in the school where they can be comfortable expressing themselves.

✓ Provide content in different formats – videos, songs, stories, games, and in any other creative ways.

✓ Speaking with a Speech Therapist or an Educational Phycologist can also be of tremendous help. A proper assessment can be made and recommendations can be provided.

✓ Above all, show love and kindness to this child. Don’t put pressure on the child as this may result in further withdrawal.

Understand that strategies can be used to help the child progress in becoming more expressive. In all, developing the child’s comfort, engagement, and nonverbal communication is a vital step in the process of helping a child overcome selective mutation.

Oluwaseun Oduola
Early Years Training Academy