How Did This Rare Disorder Become Known?
The Selective Mutism Foundation (1991) was the major source in bringing this disorder to the forefront. As most health care professionals had never heard of Elective Mutism (renamed to Selective Mutism 1994) nor treated the disorder, treatment was based on medical journals dating back to the 1960’s. The available literature at the time was based on negative theories describing Elective Mutism’s essential feature as the child “refusing” to speak along with characteristics of willful, controlling, and manipulative behaviors, caused by maternal over protection, abuse, trauma, or family dysfunction.
The foundation’s input was the major source in eliminating theories and replacing them with sound facts. We appeared on the first television program ever aired on Selective Mutism on the Maury Povich show in 1991. We were instrumental in changing the name of the disorder to Selective Mutism along with the more positive description of social anxiety. We developed the first brochure “Understanding Selective Mutism: A Silent Cry for Help!”. We printed the first newsletters on Selective Mutism in 1994 and participated in the first research study at the National Institutes of Health. All of this brought increased awareness and therapists began treating the disorder as anxiety and social phobia related.