Scared speechless—adopted children with selective mutism

Judith Land | Adoption Detective

Scientific evidence to support the effects of selective mutism on adopted children is far too overwhelming and predictive to ignore. Library shelves are filled with books and periodicals written about psychiatric disorders associated with adopted children suffering from separation anxieties. Adoption syndrome, the primal wound, genealogical bewilderment, oppositional defiant disorder, anti-social behavior, separation syndrome, the inherent need for a more comprehensive self-identity and selective mutism are but a few of the behaviors associated with separation anxieties. Unfortunately, birth parents worldwide often remain unaware of these behaviors and the potential consequences separation may cause their child if given up for adoption.

Selective mutism is a complex psychiatric disorder associated with separation anxieties that is most often identified when children enter school and there is an expectation to perform, interact with others, and speak in public. Adoptees with selective mutism have difficulty verbalizing personal thoughts that are excessively revealing, distressing, or of a painful subconscious nature. Selective mutism is difficult for adoptive parents to diagnose because children with this condition may be gregarious and demonstrate effective speaking skills with close family members in the relaxed and familiar surroundings of the home, but speak very little in public due to anxious feelings and suffocating inner turmoil. Children with dysfunctional social engagement difficulties are handicapped by a developmental disadvantage for learning. Social interaction in school is important for developing academic skills. The inability to speak when called on by teachers, and interact productively in social and academic groups, can be highly disabling.

Individuals with selective mutism have maladaptive coping mechanisms to combat their anxieties. Speaking with strangers in public settings creates a heightened sympathetic response that causes muscle tension and vocal cord paralysis. The higher the expectations of others, and the more individuals directly involved in the outcome, the more likely the condition is to exist. Children with selective mutism are fearful and defensive in unfamiliar situations; inhibited and uncomfortable when being introduced and slow to warm up. They may be unreasonably resistant to change and have difficulty with transitions.

Selective mutism is a condition that can become a difficult habit to break. Children who are temperamentally inhibited, timid, shy and restrained in new and unfamiliar situations may need help to develop proper social skills before they can create strong relationships with friends and significant others. If not corrected in childhood, the fear of speaking in public is likely to interfere with educational and occupational achievement, limit career choices, and stifle future job opportunities later in life. From a positive standpoint, adoptive parents and children should know that with proper diagnosis and treatment the prognosis for overcoming selective mutism are good.

Judith Land

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niños adoptados con mutismo selectivo | enfants adoptés avec mutisme sélectif

About Judith Land

Judith Land lives in Colorado and Arizona with husband and coauthor Martin Land. Judith is a former nurse, retail shop owner, college instructor and avid outdoor person. Her book "Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child" is a true story detailing the journey of Judith Romano, foster child and adoptee, as she discovers fragments of her background, and then sets out to solve the mystery as an adult. "Mothers and fathers everywhere in the world need to understand that children are forever and always." --Judith Land
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11 Responses to Scared speechless—adopted children with selective mutism

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  3. help me please my
    daughter is selective mutismus ı live in turkey but ı dont speak english ı’m very very desperate

    • Judith Land says:

      Many individuals have difficulty speaking in public. There are many teachers, priests, social workers, and even athletic coaches who can help others overcome this condition. Be optimistic that improvements can be made and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. I know that you are a caring mother and I will be thinking about you and hoping for a positive future for your child.

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  5. 5288chandler says:

    Reblogged this on fromtheheartx2.

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