Is Selective Mutism a Speech Disorder?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV, DSM IV-TR, and DSM V) under Selective Mutism Diagnostic Features and Differential Diagnosis, clearly indicate that Selective Mutism should be distinguished from speech impairments, and that Selective Mutism should be diagnosed if the child’s failure to speak is not considered language impairment. It is further clarified that communication disorders are not restricted to certain settings in contrast to Selective Mutism.
It is difficult to evaluate a child’s verbal skills when they do not speak to teachers, professionals, or other adults. Only about 10% of Selectively Mute children appear to have a language, learning, or speech articulation problem needing special speech therapy. These children will need an assessment of verbal and academic skills before special education or speech language therapy is recommended.
Unfortunately, many Selectively Mute children are placed inappropriately into speech and language therapy due to their non-verbalization.