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WRONG DIAGNOSIS = WRONG TREATMENT = DAMAGING RESULTS!

WE ARE OFTEN IMITATED SO WE ANTICIPATE THAT THIS INFORMATION WILL SPREAD AND ASSIST IN PREVENTING THE WRONG DIAGNOSIS/TREATMENT AND STOP DAMAGING LIVES!!

THERE ARE STILL NUMEROUS PROFESSIONALS AND FAMILIES WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD OF SELECTIVE MUTISM. DUE TO THIS FACT, THERE ARE STILL NUMEROUS PROFESSIONALS AND FAMILIES WHO’S RELATIVES, STUDENTS, CLIENTS, OR FRIENDS ARE MISDIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM. UNFORTUNATELY, THE AVERAGE PROFESSIONAL WHO IS NOT PARTICULARLY INTUNED OR DEVOTED TO AUTISM HAS LIMITED KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE DISORDER, AND THE LIMITED KNOWLEDGE IS PASSED ON TO FAMILIES AND ACCEPTED AS AUTISM OR AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER DIAGNOSIS. HERE IS A SAMPLE OF SOME OF THE CRITERIA FLOATING AROUND AND RECOMMENDED TO BE USED WHEN DIAGNOSING AUTISM:

SIGNS OF SOCIAL DIFFICULTIES:

SEEMS DISINTERESTED IN OTHER PEOPLE
SEEMS UNAWARE OF WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND THEM
DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY WITH OTHERS OR MAKE FRIENDS
PREFERS NOT TO BE TOUCHED
DOESN’T ENGAGE IN GROUP GAMES
HAS TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING/TALKING ABOUT FEELINGS
DOESN’T SEEM TO HEAR WHEN OTHER TALK TO HER/HIM

SIGNS OF NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION DIFFICULTIES:

AVOIDS EYE CONTACT

MAKES FEW GESTURES
UNRESPONSIVE TO PEOPLE’S QUESTIONS, TONE OF VOICE, GESTURES, FACIAL EXPRESSIONS
MAY COME ACROSS AS COLD

SIGNS OF SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DIFFICULTIES:

SPEAKS IN AN ABNORMAL TONE OF VOICE; PITCH
HAS DIFFICULTY COMMUNICATING NEEDS, DESIRES
MISSES UNDERTONES OF HUMOR AND SARCASM
DOESN’T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND SIMPLE DIRECTIONS OR QUESTIONS

THERE ARE OTHER SYMPTOMS SPECIFIC TO AUTISM, SUCH AS REPEATING WORDS OVER AND OVER, REACTING UNUSUALLY TO SOUNDS, SMELLS, AND TEXTURES. SENSITIVITY TO LOUD NOISES, FOCUS ON MOVING OBJECTS, AND ROCKING.THESE SYMPTOMS ARE NOT ASSOCIATED WITH SELECTIVE MUTISM.

WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE LAST 4 SENTENCES, THE ABOVE CRITERIA USED TO DIAGNOSE AUTISM ARE THE SAME SYMPTOMS WE SEE IN SELECTIVE MUTISM. HOWEVER, IN MANY CASES THE SYMPTOMS ARE MISUNDERSTOOD.

ALTHOUGH THERE IS STILL MUCH TO DISCOVER ABOUT BOTH DISORDERS, THERE ARE 2 CRUCIAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THEM – INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE SELECTIVE MUTISM SPEAK AND INTERACT NORMALLY IN SETTINGS WHERE THEY FEEL COMFORTABLE. AGAIN, MANY OF THE SUGGESTED SYMPTOMS OF SOCIAL

DIFFICULTIES, NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION DIFFICULTIES, AND SPEECH/LANGUAGE DIFFICULTIES ABOVE FOR DIAGNOSING AUTISM ARE THE SAME SYMPTOMS THAT WE SEE IN SELECTIVE MUTISM. HOWEVER, WITH SELECTIVE MUTISM THE SYMPTOMS SHOULD NOT BE MISINTERPRETED! WITH SM, THE BEHAVIORS STEM FROM SOCIAL ANXIETY AS THESE CHILDREN ARE FROZEN WITH EMBARRASSMENT OF SPEAKING/INTERACTING. THEY ARE VERY AWARE AND INTUNED TO WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND THEM, UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING THAT IS SAID, AND WANT VERY MUCH TO PARTICIPATE WITH THEIR PEERS.

WHEN SCREENING FOR AUTISM WE URGE YOU TO CONSIDER SM AND ASK ONE SIMPLE QUESTION: DOES THE PERSON SPEAK NORMALLY AT HOME OR TO ANYONE AT ALL? IF THE ANSWER IS YES THEN SM MUST BE CONSIDERED AND A TREATMENT MODALITY MUST BE IMPLEMENTED TO ENCOURAGE SPEAKING TO AVOID EMBEDDING THE MUTISM.

SUE NEWMAN-MERCADO, SELECTIVE MUTISM FOUNDATION, INC. 2018