Children With Selective Mutism in School Benefit from the 504 Plan

An article written for the Tampa Tribune by Donna Koehn

Most researchers agree that a good preschool can help a young child develop social skills to ease shyness. However, the preschool teacher is the key to achieving that goal. When choosing a preschool, use the following guidelines for assessing the teacher.

The teacher should greet children individually, using their names as they come into the classroom. She should comment on anything new about their looks. This gives children positive attention and makes them feel important.

The teacher should make lots of eye contact. The teacher should get down to the children’s level when talking to them and should squat or sit in a small chair to seem more their size.

The teacher should be relaxed and smile often. The sensitive teacher will invite, rather than order, the children to participate.

The children should be allowed to watch or warm up to a new situation.

The teacher should generate a sense of warmth and respect and should be in control of the class.

The teacher who is sensitive to the feelings of the children, especially shy children, will not single out a child for criticism. She also will know when it is and isn’t appropriate to single out a self-conscious child for any reason-even positive attention – in front of his or her peers.

The teacher should not reinforce shy behavior by giving a child too much attention when he or she is alone.

The teacher should be sensitive to a child’s need for special attention and draw him or her out slowly, gradually easing the child into the group and then giving the child reinforcement for participating or responding to the other children.

Source: “The Shy Child: A Parent’s Guide to Overcoming and Preventing Shyness From Infancy to Adulthood,” by Philip G. Zimbardo and Shirley L. Radi.