Understanding if your child has selective mutism

You know your child has selective mutism if your child can speak when they are comfortable, like at home, but doesn't speak in certain settings, such as school.

You also know your child has selective mutism if this has been happening for:

  • at least three months when your child is speaking their first language
  • six months when your child is speaking a language that is not their first language

Resources for parents

Anxiety and social isolation during the coronavirus outbreak

Amidst school closures and home quarantines, it has become more difficult to support children struggling with selective mutism and/or social anxiety with their brave talking goals. With the help of technology, youth can continue to work on speaking goals through video exposures/bravery practices.

  • Schedule video sessions with preferred peers, family members, and others in your child's social network (e.g., classmates, teachers, coaches). Consider regularly scheduling video sessions to allow for repetition and bravery momentum over time.
  • Send and receive audio and/or video messages with others in your child's social network. Making these recordings can happen anytime, without needing to schedule with another person, and can provide meaningful social connection. If you have a list of family members, you can roll dice to see who gets the message.
  • Continue to reward your child for engagement in video exposures/bravery practices (e.g., bravery star charts, reward menus).

Nonverbal games for video sessions

  • Consider using these nonverbal games for warm-up activities, along with Child-Directed Interaction (CDI) skills (reflections, labeled praises, behavior descriptions).
  • Charades will prepopulate words for the child to act out
  • Simon Says (can add sounds gradually – "blow like the wind, sound like a cat")
  • Arts & crafts (e.g., simultaneously making paper airplanes, coloring, making origami)
  • Yoga poses, Fitness challenges

Verbal games for video sessions

Finally, we recommend supervising your child's online activity. When you are unable to do so, you can restrict your child's access to stay within the app you intended. Tablets, phones and computers all offer built-in parental control options.

Additional resources

Treatment guides

  • Selective Mutism: An Assessment and Intervention Guide for Therapists, Educators and Parents
    Aimee Kotrba, PESI Publishing, 2015.
  • Helping your child with selective mutism
    Angela McHolm, Charles Cunningham, Melanie Vanier, New Harbinger Publications, 2005.
  • The Selective Mutism Resource Manual 2nd edition
    Maggie Johnson, Alison Wintgens, Routledge, 2017.
  • The Selective Mutism summer vacation and back-to-school guide
    Elisa Shipon-Blum, 2013.
  • The ideal classroom setting for the selectively mute child: A guide for parents, teachers and treating professionals
    Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum, Childhood Anxiety Network, Inc., 2001. FRC
  • Easing school jitters for the selectively mute child
    Elisa Shipon-Blum, Childhood Anxiety Network Inc., 2003.
  • The Selective Mutism Treatment Guide: Manuals for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists: Still Waters Run Deep
    Ruth Perednik, Oaklands, 2012.
  • Treatment for Children with Selective Mutism: An Integrative Behavioral Approach
    R.Lindsey Bergman, Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Helping Children with Selective Mutism and Their Parents: A Guide for School-Based Professionals
    Christopher Kearney, Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • The silence within: A teacher-parent guide to helping selectively mute and shy children
    Gail Goetz Kervatt, 1999.
  • Supplement to "The silence within"
    Gail Goetze Kervatt, Selective Mutism Anxiety Research and Treatment Center, 2004.
  • Tackling Selective Mutism: A guide for professionals and parents
    (Eds) Benita Rae Smith & Alice Sluckin, 2015.


Self-help treatment guides

Fact sheets


Phone apps

Voice Changer(s) – apps that play back what you say in a funny voice. Apps to teach you Cognitive Behaviour Therapy - search terms include: CBT, relax, breathe, anxiety – many free apps for your device. For example:

  • MindShift from Anxiety Canada
  • My life (Android, Apple and web-based meditation program)


Books for younger children

  • My Friend Daniel Doesn't Talk
    Sharon Longo, Speechmark Publishing Ltd, 2006.
  • Maya's Voice
    Wen-Wen Cheng, 2013.
  • Charli's Choices
    Marian B. Moldan, Archway Publishing, 2014. Willow's Whispers / Lana Button, Kids Can Press 2014.
  • Leo's words disappeared
    Elaheh Bos, Plant Love Grow, 2014.
  • Leo's words disappeared and came back! - Activity Book
    Elaheh Bos, Plant Love Grow, 2014. Lola's words disappeared/ Elaheh Bos, Plant Love Grow, 2013.
  • Lola's words disappeared and came back! - Activity Book
    Elaheh Bos, Plant Love Grow, 2013.  (with reward chart downloads at Plant Love Grow, click on free tools)
  • Understanding Katie: "a day in the life of..." - Book One
    Elisa Shipon-Blum, Childhood Anxiety Network, Inc., 2001.
  • Supplement treatment guide to "Understanding Katie" / Elisa Shipon-Blum,
    Selective Mutism Anxiety Research and Treatment Center 2004.
  • Cat's got your tongue?: A story for children afraid to speak
    Charles E. Schaefer, Magination  Press, 1992.

Books for older children

  • Can I Tell You about Selective Mutism?
    Maggie Johnson, Alison Wintgens, Jessica Kinglsey  Publishers, 2012.
  • Sophie's Story. A guide to selective mutism
    Vera Joffe, 2007.
  • Unspoken Words. A child's view of selective mutism
    Elisa Shipon-Blum, 2013.
  • The secret voice of Gina Zhang
    Dori Jones Yang, Middleton, Wisconsin, Pleasant Company Publications, c2000.

Books on childhood anxiety disorders for parents and teachers

  • Keys to parenting your anxious child (3rd ed)
    Katharina Manassis, Barron's, 2015.
  • Helping your anxious child: A step-by-step guide for parents (2nd ed.)
    Ronald Rapee et al., New Harbinger Pub., 2008.
  • Helping Students Overcome Social Anxiety: Skills for Academic and Social Success (SASS)
    Carrie Masia Warner, Daniela Colognori, Chelsea Lynch, Guilford, 2018. (This book contains practical teacher handouts for older children)
  • Think good, feel good: A cognitive behavioural therapy workbook for children and young people 2nd edition
    Paul Stallard, Toronto, ON: Wiley, 2019.  (Many reproducible worksheets)
  • Quiet at School: an Educators Guide to Shy Children
    Robert J Coplan & Kathleen Moritz, Teachers College Press, 2016. Teacher strategies to support shy children.
  • Scared & worried: A guide for kids
    James Crist, Free Spirit Pub., 2004.
  • Seven steps to help your child worry less: A family guide for relieving worries and fears
    Sam Goldstein, Kristy S. Hagar, Robert Brooks, Specialty Press, 2002.
  • Your anxious child: How parents and teachers can relieve anxiety in children
    John S. Dacey, Lisa B. Fiore, Jossey-Bass, 2000.
  • The worried child: Recognizing anxiety in children and helping them heal
    Paul Foxman, Alameda, Calif, Hunter House Publishers, 2004.
  • Overcoming shyness and social phobia: A step-by-step guide
    Ronald M. Rapee, Lanham, Toronto, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998.
  • The hidden face of shyness: Understanding and overcoming social anxiety
    Franklin Schneier, Lawrence Welkowitz, New York, Avon Books, 1996.
  • Exploring feelings: Cognitive behavior therapy to manage anxiety
    Tony Attwood, Arlington, Tex, Future Horizons, 2004.
  • 10 Simple Solutions to Worry: How to Calm Your Mind, Relax Your Body, and Reclaim Your Life
    Kevin L. Gyoerkoe, Pamela S. Wiegartz, 2006.
  • 10 Simple Solutions to Shyness: How to Overcome Shyness, Social Anxiety, and Fear of Public Speaking
    Martin Antony, 2004.
  • The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook: Proven, Step-by-Step Techniques for Overcoming Your Fear, 3rd edition
    Martin Antony and Richard Swinson, New Harbinger, 2017.
  • You and Your Anxious Child: Free Your Child from Fears and Worries and Create a Joyful Family Life
    Anne Marie Albano, Leslie Pepper, 2013 ** audiobook available

Picture books on childhood anxiety disorders for children

  • A Spot of Blue
    Elaheh Bos, Plant Love Grow, 2013.
  • Milo, the brave! I am ready for school!
    Elaheh Bos, Plant Love Grow, 2013. Too Shy for Show –and- Tell/ Beth Bracken, Picture Window Books, 2012.
  • Wilma Jean the Worry Machine
    Julia Cook, National Center for Youth Issues, 2012.

Books on separation anxiety

  • When Fuzzy was afraid of losing his mother
    Inger Maier, Magination Press, 2005.
  • I am NOT going to school today!
    Robie Harris, Margaret K, McElderry Books, 2003.
  • Into the great forest: A story for children away from home for the first time
    Irene Wineman Marcus, Paul Marcus, Magination Press, 2000.
  • Mommy, don't go
    Elizabeth Crary, Parenting Press, 1996.

Books on social anxiety and other fears

  • The Scaredy Squirrel book series
    Melanie Watt from Kids Can Press is highly recommended
  • What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety
    Dawn Huebner, Bonnie Matthews, Magination Press, 2005
  • Alvin Ho Novel Series
    Lenore Look, Schwartz & Wade Books. For example - Book 1: Alvin Ho- Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things/ Lenore Look, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2008.
  • When Lizzy was afraid of trying new things
    Inger Maier, Magination Press, 2005.
  • When Fuzzy was afraid of big and loud things
    Inger Maier, Magination Press, 2006.
  • The Rabbit who wants to fall asleep
    Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin, Crown Books, 2014.

Books on stress management / relaxation for children and teens

  • The relaxation station: Relaxation techniques for kids
    Children's Hospital of Michigan. 2006.
  • A Boy and a bear: The children's relaxation book
    Lori Lite, Specialty Press, 1996.
  • Cool cats, calm kids: Relaxation and stress management for young people
    Mary L. Williams, Impact Publishers, 1996.
  • Fighting invisible tigers: A stress management guide for teens
    Earl Hipp, Rev. Ed. Free Spirit, 1995.
  • Relax
    Catherine O'Neill, Child's Play, 1993.
  • Stress relief for kids: Taming your dragons
    Martha Belknap, Whole Person Assoc., 2006.

Books on stress management / relaxation for parents

  • Feeling great: Teaching children to excel at living
    Terry Orlick, 3rd ed., Creative Bound, 1998.
  • Quiet times: Relaxation activities for young children
    Louise Binder Scott, Ideal, Denison, 1999.
  • Relaxation: A comprehensive manual for adults, children, and children with special needs.
    Joseph R. Cautela, June Groden, Research Press, 1978.
  • Ready, set, relax: a research-based program of relaxation, learning and self-esteem for children. 
    Jeffrey S. Allen, Roger J. Klein, Inner Coaching, 1996.