Mother Wants To Change Four-Year-Old Daughter’s Name

Mother Wants To Change Four-Year-Old Daughter’s Name

I recently read an article about a mother who wants to change her four-year-old daughter’s name because she recently found it that it’s not as unique as she first thought.

The mother, who wished to remain anonymous, named her daughter Esmée, a name that at the time she hadn’t heard much in the last 20 years or so, but once her daughter started school,  she quickly learned that there were other girls who had that same name at her daughters school,  including two in her class.

The mother apparently is so upset to find out that her daughter’s name is a rarely popular name that she now is considering changing her name.

I have known parents who had a hard time settling on a name for their baby, including one who called her baby by the nickname “Yum Yum” up until the child was about one years old before she finally settled on a name.

While that may sound unusual, it’s not that uncommon. About 11% of parents end up regretting the name they initially pick for their child and end up changing it, but usually within the first year when it really doesn’t have an affect.

However, around one years of age, children began recognizing the sound of their names and around ages two or three, they begin developing a sense of identity which includes who they are in connection with their names.

Changing a child’s name after one years of age can create identity issues, insecurity and confusion within the child as to who they are. Imagine toddler tantrum on steroids in some cases.

My question is, what if whatever name she chooses for her daughter next, becomes popular in the next couple of years? Is she going to change her child’s name once again?

To better understand the underlying problem, we have to better understand the mother who went through some tough times in her childhood due to having a very common name.

The mother wrote, “Every time I hear my real name I shudder,”.

For the mother, this may have in fact been pretty traumatic and something she has never overcome. What she doesn’t understand however is that individuality will come from her daughter’s unique personality, not her name.

Many parents try to relive or redo their lives through their children, but this can be very unfair to the child. Changing this child’s name, in my opinion, would be a very selfish and vain act.

I’m not saying that if the mother did change the child’s name that it would be a traumatic, horrible, life changing mistake. It may have no real affect or long term affect on the child at all. What I am saying however is that there is more to a person than their name. The child may decide to be called something totally different when they get older anyway.

For example, I knew a teenager who’s mother named her Lorraine because the name meant a lot to her.  She was very shocked and even upset when she found out that the kids in school called her daughter “Rain” and many had no idea her birth name was Lorraine. The the mother, Lorraine had a special connection, but to her daughter, it had no such connection, but “Rain” did. It was her way of being unique and special.

More importantly, parents have to be careful to not hand down their issues to their children. They should allow their children to be unique in their own right because they already are, no matter if their name is Susan or Rain.

Family Secrets: Childhood Sexual Abuse

30f6cf470f2d828e104d054e6a86f77bSpeaking with a young woman today, I heard a story I have heard far too many times.

This woman had been sexually abused as a child by a relative, but didn’t say anything out of fear and embarrassment. This relative went on to molest other children in the family until someone finally spoke out.

I’ve spoken to many individuals in the past who were molested by a family member and didn’t say anything not only out of fear and shame, but also because they thought that as long as the molester was perpetrating on them, he would leave their younger brothers, sisters or cousins alone.

In essence, they figured they would suffer through the abuse so that others wouldn’t have to.

The sad part is, in all of these cases, the molester went on to molest other children in the family anyway. In one case, there were three sisters all getting molested by the same uncle and neither knew about the other. All three reported that they didn’t say anything because they thought they were protecting the other sister from the abuse, not knowing that the other sisters were doing the exact same thing.

It was only when this uncle, after years of abusing these sisters, abused another member of the family that he got caught and is now serving time in prison.  By then at least four family members had been abused over the period of several years.

The Threat From Within

We teach our children to be cautious of strangers. We believe that the greatest threat to our child comes from outside of our homes and inner-circles.

1 in 4 women, and 1 in 6 men report being sexually abused as a child. Over 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows, loves and trusts. Family members, family friends, teachers, religious leaders and coaches are some of the biggest offenders.

There are many families who have this type of  secret, and some will even tell their children, “Stay away from uncle Bob” because they know they have a perpetrator in their family who for one reason or another is still around.

I even worked with one family who hid their family member’s pedophilic activity, partially out of embarrassment and partially out of  a family’s natural response to try to protect each other. This family member went on to molest at least three children before being sent to prison.

Why Do Children Keep Abuse A Secret

As adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse will tell you, there are many reasons why children will endure sexual abuse for years, some for a lifetime, without telling soul.

For one, children aim to please. They want to make someone they love and trust happy and are often willing to do whatever the person tells them to do.

Abusers also often coach their victims not to tell anyone. Sometimes this is done with threats of violence towards them or other members in their family. Other times it is done with the threat that the child themselves will get in trouble if they tell.

Shame, embarrassment and confusion along with countless other feelings and thoughts can keep a child from telling anyone about the abuse.

Most survivors of childhood abuse I’ve spoken to waited until they were were in their late teens or adulthood before they felt ready to share what they experienced as a child. Many reported that they were afraid that no one would believe them.

How To Help Your Child Break The Silence

We have to teach children the difference between a secret and a surprise. That may sound too simple, but as a start, it is very powerful.

  • Teach them that a surprise is supposed to be about something fun, such as a birthday gift or special party for a friend.
  • Teach them that secrets are something kids shouldn’t keep to themselves, especially secrets that involve touches of private body parts or anything that makes the child feel uncomfortable.
  • Encourage your child not to keep secrets from you.
  • Tell them that touches to private body parts should never be a secret.
  • Let them know that if someone tells them to keep a secret, especially someone older than them (including older/bigger kids), they should tell you or another trusted adult immediately.
  • If a friend tells them a secret, let your child know they should share it with you (the other child could be asking for help).
  • Let them know that it’s never their fault if someone touches a private body part and they will never get in trouble if they tell.

Abuse of all kind (i.e.,  physical, sexual, emotional and neglect) flourishes under the veil of silence. It’s beyond time that we break that silence.

 

 

Studying A Pedophile: Part I

Studying A Pedophile: Part I

When it comes to avoiding certain types of people, even in jail, child abusers, child molesters and pedophiles usually make the top of the list.

At my job I deal with these individuals everyday. There is no way around it and on top of that I have to try to remain unbiased and nonjudgmental which isn’t always easy. I have a three year old son so sitting across from someone accused of killing a toddler and showing unconditional positive regard has at times been one of my greatest challenges.

As a mental health professional, I had to learn how to separate my personal feelings from my professional job and one way I’ve learned to do that is by intellectualizing the situation. That allows me to look at the situation in a rational, interesting, matter of fact way and remove all personal emotion.

That’s what I did today when I sat across from yet another pedophile. It was towards the end of the day and I really did not feel like doing the assessment, but it had to be done so I asked myself, what made this man sexually attracted to children?

Interviewing A Pedophile

This individual was one of the more forthcoming and open pedophiles I have ever talked to. He wasn’t denying his issues or charges, nor did he seem to minimize his actions like most. For the most part, he seemed to take responsibility for what he had done.

Most pedophiles I talk to either deny everything despite the insurmountable evidence proving their guilt. Or, they blame the victim for seducing them, like one married man I spoke with who blamed a 10 year old for causing him to leave his family and run off to another state with her where they were caught in a hotel room.

Talking to this particular man reminded me of the first time I met someone with schizophrenia who was insightful enough to tell me about her hallucinations and how she was able to distinguish what was real and what was not. It was an eye opening experience, better than any book on abnormal psychology I had ever read and it helped me work more efficiently with other clients suffering from psychosis.

What Is A Pedophile?

When most people think of a pedophile they envision a creepy old man or some other odd person. However, from shows like To Catch  Predator, we know that most pedophiles are regular neighbors, friends, religious members, family members or even teachers like the individual I spoke with today.herbert-the-pervert-family-guy

In the  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), pedophilia is defined as intense, recurrent sexually arousing fantasies, impulsive desires, or behaviors involving sexual acts with a child and that occur over a period of at least six months.

In most situations, the pedophile is at least sixteen years of age and at least five years older than the child.

It doesn’t have to be acted on to be considered pedophilia and generally it causes the person a lot of distress or interpersonal difficulties.

This man says he took a fondness to the young girl he ended up abusing because she came from a troubled background and he wanted to help her.

He says that he became emotionally attached to her and then sexually attracted. While that may be true, I believe he had a sexual attraction to her to begin with.

He went on to have sexual contact with her several times over the course of a school year before he was caught. He would keep the girl after class, after school and even give her rides home.

Her parents (an abusive, yet inattentive father and schizophrenic, disabled mother) weren’t the ones who caught on, but an observant teacher who had her suspicions and once she approached the young girl with her concerns, the girl was able to give numerous details of their sexual activities together including times and locations as well as details of his naked physical appearance.

He was arrested, yet plead guilty to lesser charges and served only a couple of years in prison before being let out on probation as a sexual predator.

Categories of Pedophiles

 While most people think of pedophiles as adults attracted to prepubescent children, there are also adults who are attracted to children who are right on the cusp of puberty and adults who prefer children who have already gone through puberty.

Hebephilia describes adults attracted to pubescent 11 to 14 year old children and while not considered pathological, ephebophilia describes adults attracted primarily to individuals aged 15 to 19.

Some pedophiles are called exclusive pedophiles because they are only attracted to children while non-exclusive pedophiles are attracted to both adults and children.

It’s hard to get an accurate number of how many pedophiles are exclusive pedophiles because most of the research comes from pedophiles who have been arrested and they tend to over-exaggerate their attraction to adults in order to appear more “normal”.

Most male pedophiles are homosexual or bisexual when it comes to their attraction to children.

The guy I saw today is married and has adult children.  He has an attraction and compulsion for young girls under the age of 13.

How Do They Gain Access To Children?

Pedophiles will go through great lengths to gain access to children. They will volunteer at churches to lead youth groups or offer to coach youth sports.

Ninety percent of sexually abused children are abused by someone they know. That  includes a large percentage of family members, caregivers, family friends, neighbors, clergy, coaches and teachers.

This man was an Exceptional Education teacher who worked with emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children. I can’t help but to think, at least on some unconscious level, that he choose both his profession and specialty in order to gain excess to vulnerable children.

The other 10% of abused children are usually preyed upon through sex trafficking and the internet. This is how he got his second offense.

After being arrested once for inappropriate sexual contact with a child, he violated his probation by being caught soliciting a child for sexual contact online.

While he claims he knew better and wanted to put his life back together after his first arrest, he admitted that his compulsion to have sex with little girls caused him to act upon them.

This compulsion or urge is what drives pedophiles. Many of them, like this man, will attempt to live normal lives and fight their sexual attraction to children. Some may be successful at this and never break a law or offend. They will keep these urges and fantasies a secret and suffer in silence for as long as they can.

Most of them will isolate themselves out of fear of the stigma and consequences of being sexually attracted to children and will not seek professional help out of shame and fear.

But can pedophiles be helped? We’ll talk about this in part II.

 

Childhood Bullying Can Have Lasting Psychological Affects

bullying-girls-630x420

It’s back to school time again and while parents are gearing up and are excited about the new school year, I thought it would be a good idea to remind everyone about childhood bullying.

Often bullying is seen as a normal part of growing up, almost as a harmless rite of passage, but we have all seen what bullying can do to some children.Think about the stories that have been in the news such as the boy who committed suicide. In 12 of 15 school shootings in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

These of course are extreme examples, but countless studies continue to show that childhood bullying can cause long-term psychological damage in some individuals.

In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, a network publication of the American Medical Association, victims of bullying had an increased risk for anxiety disorders and suicide later in life.

The study showed that for some individuals, even when they grow up and are no longer being bullied, the psychological damage is still there and can affect the rest of their lives. That’s why it’s so important to address and stop childhood bullying early in order to prevent future problems.

Kids Who Are Bullied Often Have:

  • changes in sleep and eating patterns
  • loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • health complaints
  • decreased academic performance
  • higher risk of dropping out of school
  • a higher rate of family hardship
  • were 2.7 times more likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder
  • 3.1 times more likely to suffer from panic disorder
  • 4.6 times more likely to suffer from agoraphobia
  • had increased risk for depression

Bullying doesn’t just affect the victims either.

Kids Who Bullied Were:

  • 4.1 times more like to end up diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (which can lead to increased risk of incarceration and delinquent behavior)
  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
  • Get into fights
  • vandalize property
  • drop out of school
  • Engage in early sexual activity
  • Have criminal convictions as adults
  • Abuse romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

What About Sibling Aggression?

While parents are usually alarmed to find out that their child is being bullied at school, they often dismiss the bullying that is going on right under their roof. Stopping bullying at home is just as important as stopping bullying at school.

While sibling aggression is often seen as harmless or even good in order to “toughen up” a child, a study done by the American Academy of Pediatric suggests that kids bullied by their siblings end up showing some of the same psychological damage as children bullied by their peers.

It is important that bullying to recognized and stopped early at school, at home and even online in social media when possible.

So as parents are getting excited about the school year, lets not forget to be on the lookout for or ignore childhood bullying. We have lost too many children  to the affects of bullying and are creating too many adults who are psychological damaged from what may have been seen as harmless behavior.

 

The Narcissistic Parent

3049_how-to-get-hired-at-your-next-job-interview_1“I do not love; I do not love anybody except myself. That is a rather shocking thing to admit. I have none of the selfless love of my mother. I have none of the plodding, practical love. . . . . I am, to be blunt and concise, in love only with myself, my puny being with its small inadequate breasts and meager, thin talents. I am capable of affection for those who reflect my own world.” – Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath, the poet and author of the quote above was a narcissistic parent who committed perhaps the most selfish and narcissistic act of all. She killed herself by sticking her head in a gas oven while her two children were asleep in the same apartment. She did however seal off  their rooms with towels so that they would live. Why? Most likely so someone could carry on her memory and mourn for her after death.

How do you think this affected her children? Well her daughter, Freida Hughes is an English poet and painter, but she’s been married three times and is currently divorced. Her son, Nicholas Hughes, suffered from depression and hung himself in 2009.

What Is A Narcissist?

To the outside world, a narcissistic parent may appear to be the perfect example of a gentleman or a loving, supportive mother who is passionate about her kids. However, to the child of a narcissistic parent, they are living a constant nightmare of never being good enough and being constantly reminded of it.

A narcissist is someone who has an inflated sense of self-worth. This is different from what’s considered “healthy narcissism” in which you believe in yourself and your abilities in a realistic fashion. You have good self-esteem, but can empathize with other people and aren’t devastated by mistakes or criticism. Your self worth isn’t dependent on other people admiring you.

On the other hand there is “malignant narcissism”, in which the person has a very fragile sense of self that is dependent on how other people see them. These people have an unrealistic, inflated sense which they use to hide insecurities and shame. They need to be praised, admired and approved by others and are deeply hurt by criticism and honest feedback. Their relationships with others tend to be superficial as they focus mostly on how other people reflect on them with little or no care about the other persons feelings. They believe they are better than everyone else, special even, but can get very sensitive and angry when faced with critique.

For a narcissist, everything is always about them. They are extremely selfish individuals who never give recognition, gratitude or appreciation to those around them. It’s “me, me, me” all day, all the time. If they ask you, “How is your day?” and you reply, “Horrible, I just totaled my new Mustang”, they may reply, “I had a Mustang once. A 1968 convertible. Man I loved that car. Brought it brand new off the showroom floor…”. They really don’t care about you and are only looking for opportunities to talk about and inflate themselves.

Imagine growing up having this type of person as a parent? Someone who is practically incapable of loving anyone other than themselves, when as a parent, you have to give so much love to a child.

Why then would a narcissist have children?

A narcissist does not have a child for the reasons most people do. They do not have children because they want to love and nourish another person, they do so in order to create mirrors of themselves and to create an automatic relationship where they have power and control over someone.

Having control over other people is the narcissists ultimate goal. From an early age the child of a narcissist learns to realize that they exits to please their parent and to be a reflection of them.

Like any child, the children of narcissist will try to please their parent, going through great lengths of anguish and frustration to please someone who will never be pleased for long. One day, if they are lucky, they will realize that it’s the parent who is not quite right, not them.

Until then, these children learn that they are a reflection on their parent and will try to mold themselves, mentally and behaviorally into being that perfect representation their parent wants.

This creates much anxiety as the child is continuously trying to be what they are not in order to please the parent and when they fail, which they will time and time again, they are exposed to punishment that can range from physical to psychological.

These children are often mentally on edge and tormented by the unpredictable and sometimes confusing nature of the narcissistic parent. They may think over and over again that they are a failure, that something is wrong with them . The child may experience a great deal of shame and low self esteem because they don’t feel constantly loved. They are taught that they are only as good as the parent says they are and that they’ll only be loved if they are completely compliant.

Take for example a child who throws a tantrum in the store. Most parents may remove the child, redirect them, or try some other tactic to calm the child down. A narcissistic parent is likely to chastise the child by saying something like, “You’re a spoiled little brat. You always find a way to ruin my life.” Such harsh words for a narcissist are nothing, even directed at their own child.

On the other side of this poor parent-child attachment is neglect. The narcissist parent may be so self-absorbed that the child is neglected and nearly forgotten. Their needs, desires and aspiration always thrown aside for the sake of the parents’ wants and desires.

For example, a daughter going to her high school prom may have all of her desires for the dress she wants and the way she wants her hair styled cast away in favor of what her mom wants her to wear and wants her hair styled. If she doesn’t go along with this and protests, then her mother may call her an ungrateful child and refuse to help her with her big night.

Later in life, these children grow up and often develop narcissism themselves or end up in drama filled relationships with toxic partners because they grew up believing that they were bad and don’t deserve good things to happen to them. They often question if they are deserving of love.

In a healthy relationship with a healthy partner, these individuals wouldn’t know how to respond to unconditional love and would be filled with so much anxiety and discomfort. Understandably they would seek out other individuals who are emotionally unavailable, cold and critical just like the narcissistic parent they grew up with. It’s familiar and sadly, even comfortable to them.

Hopefully, through good relationships, friendships and sometimes therapy, these children are able to recover from the wombs of growing up with a narcissistic parent and not succumb to them.

 

 

 

 

You Are A Gift

iStock_000018620938_Medium-500x333Earlier today I was speaking with a fifteen year old girl in our juvenile detention center. She is experiencing depression and is 6 weeks postpartum so I was concerned about her. As we talked, I started to understand some of the sources of her depression.

During our session, she revealed that her mother also gave birth to her when she was fifteen and that her biological father has been in prison since she was three years old. Her mother is currently married to a verbally and physically abuse man that she feels her mother places before her in order of importance, attention and affection.

As this young lady and I talked, she described how she grew up feeling like a burden to her young, single mother and how after her mother had other children and multiple boyfriends, she was always made to feel like she was “in the way”.

It became very apparent that this young woman, consciously or unconsciously, had a baby at fifteen years old, partly so that she could have someone in her life that didn’t make her feel like a burden, but gave her the unconditional love she has been yearning for. However, due to her own psychological damage, she now sees her 6 week old baby as a burden and if she doesn’t learn to change the way she views herself, she will pass on that damage to her child.

What I discussed with her this morning and will try to instill in her is this:

We are the greatest gifts we can ever give ourselves. We are also gifts to other people and the Universe. Our children, if we have any, are also gifts.

Too many people grew up being made to feel, even as children, that they were a burden. Maybe they were born to parents who themselves were brought up in painful situations where they did not truly know how to love and appreciate others.

Maybe their parents conceived them as a resolution  to fixing a broken relationship or “save” a troubled marriage. Maybe their parent expects them to be their caretaker, or they were simple born during a difficult time of their parents lives and they were never able to be truly enjoyed, loved, appreciated and viewed as precious gifts as children.

Many of us have grown up never feeling truly accepted and carrying these feelings on unconscious and conscious levels that we were and are a burden.

This is how people can fall into a deep depression or become suicidal, thinking that the World would be better off without them.

This type of thinking is what keeps people from truly connecting with other people on any level or truly enjoying life.

Because of this they end up beating themselves up all the time with negative self-talk, not appreciating themselves, walking around apologizing for themselves, feeling like other people know better and are better than them.

For those of us who have received this terrible message growing up, it’s time to change it.

You are not a mistake. You are not here by accident. You are here because we are supposed to be here.

Our lives have purpose and intention.

We don’t have to apologize for being here or for being ourselves. We don’t have to beat ourselves up over our past mistakes or experiences that have helped create who we are now. We don’t have to be ashamed, apologetic or doubt the beauty that is our unique selves.

We are not a burden and if our parents are the ones who tried to put that on us, it’s time to recognize that it is their issue and not ours. We don’t have to carry that with us. We can let it go.

We are precious gifts and today we will start treating ourselves as gifts to others, the Universe and especially ourselves.

Too Scared To Talk: Children with Selective Mutism

142005745The other day I was speaking to a mother who was describing her son’s symptoms to me. She reported that he had difficultly and sometimes just couldn’t speak at all in various social situations, especially at school and around strangers. He had been tested for Autism and that was ruled out. She was very frustrated with her son, but also felt bad for him because she could tell that he was also in distress. She just couldn’t understand why her son would suddenly become mute in social situations when he was such a funny, outgoing and talkative kid at home.

After listening some more, I realized that her son did not have an autistic spectrum disorder as she still believed, but that he had what is called Selective Mutism.

Selective Mutism is the inability to speak and communicate in social settings, but the ability to speak in settings where the child feels comfortable, relaxed and secure.  Many parents think their child has absolute control over this, hence their frustration, but Selective Mutism is an anxiety related disorder .

90% of children with Selective Mutism also have social anxiety or social phobia. While many parents initially think their child is faking or playing games, Selective Mutism is very painful and debilitating to the child.

Children with Selective Mutism have a real, paralyzing fear about speaking and therefore this totally impairs their ability to develop social relationships or to participate in social situations.

Not every child expresses Selective Mutism in the same way. While some children are totally mute in social situations, others can only manage to whisper while some will remain perfectlu still, seemingly unable to speak or move, while less severe children can manage to speak totally normal to a select few individuals in social situations.  This type of anxiety goes well beyond the normal range of shyness seen in other children.

A very select few children with Selective Mutism don’t appear to be shy at all. They actually do a very good job trying to mime their way through social situations.  In these children, Selective Mutism may be a symptom of something else, such as the child initially being mute and never grasping communication and are basically stuck in the nonverbal stage of communication.

Why Does A Child Develop Selective Mutism?

Most children who have Selective Mutism have a genetic predisposition to anxiety. This means that it is inherited. Almost from infancy on, these children may show severe separation anxiety, moodiness, frequent tantrums, inflexibility, show extreme shyness and have sleep problems.

Some children with Selective Mutism may have Sensory Processing Disorder (DSI), which basically means they may be sensitive to sounds and lights, and that they may perceive environmental and social cues differently than most people. They become easily frustrated, angry, confused, withdrawn or act out because the signals they are receiving from their brain are alerting them to danger and fear causing them to have anxiety.

Up to 30% of children with Selective Mutism also have a speech, language, processing or learning disorder which can increase their anxiety and inability to communicate effectively in social situations.

There is no evidence that abuse or trauma causes Selective Mutism, which is different from Traumatic Mutism.

In Selective Mutism the child can usually speak normally at least in situations where they are comfortable. In Traumatic Mustism, a child witnesses or experiences a tragedy so devastating that they can’t comprehend it, they stop speaking altogether in every situation suddenly.

Selective Mutism can progress to the point where the child stops speaking and becomes totally mute, but that is usually gradual and when negative reinforcements cause the child to slowly start limiting the places and people he/she feels comfortable talking to.

Diagnosing Selective Mustism

Most children are diagnosed with Selective Mutism between the ages of 3 and 8. Most of these children have already exhibited severe symptoms of anxiety. If a child stops speaking for more than a month than the parents need to take the child to a doctor.

Here is the diagnostic criteria for diagnosing Selective Mutism. Note that this criteria shouldn’t be the only criteria used to diagnose or rule out Selective Mutism since each child and case is different:

DSM-IV-TR (2000):
1. Consistent failure to speak in specific social situations (in which there is an expectation for speaking, e.g., at school) despite speaking in other situations.
2. The disturbance interferes with educational or occupational achievement or with social communication.
3. The duration of the disturbance is at least 1 month (not limited to the first month of school).
4. The failure to speak is not due to a lack of knowledge of, or comfort with, the spoken language required in the social situation.
5. The disturbance is not better accounted for by a Communication Disorder (e.g., stuttering) and does not occur exclusively during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder.
Associated features of Selective Mutism may include excessive shyness, fear of social embarrassment, social isolation and withdrawal, clinging, compulsive traits, negativism, temper tantrums, or controlling or oppositional behavior, particularly at home. There may be severe impairment in social and school functioning. Teasing or goading by peers is common. Although children with this disorder generally have normal language skills, there may occasionally be an associated Communication Disorder (e.g., Phonological Disorder, Expressive Language Disorder, or Mixed Receptive- Expressive Language Disorder) or a general medical condition that causes abnormalities of articulation. Mental Retardation, hospitalization or extreme psychosocial stressors may be associated with the disorder. In addition, in clinical settings children with Selective Mutism are almost always given an additional diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder, especially Social Phobia is common.

Many parents, teachers and even professionals do not understand Selective Mutism because research is so limited. Many think the child is being defiant, controlling, that they are just shy and will grow out of it, or that they have some other disability such as autism.

Children with Selective Mutism tend to want friends, they are just too anxious to develop friendships easily while children with autism tend to not care to have any friends at all.

When considering seeking treatment for a child with Selective Mutism, parents should be careful not to find a professional who believes that Selective Mutism is behavioral and about the child being defiant or controlling. These type of professionals tend to try to use punishment and forcing the child to speak as treatment, which consequently increases the anxiety of the child and worsens the condition.

Good professionals who understand Selective Mutism will focus on making the child feel comfortable, decreasing anxiety and helping the child learn coping skills to deal with anxious feelings. This is often done with a combination of therapy and medication and as a collaborative approach with the professional, parents and the school.

Dealing with a child with Selective Mutism can be frustrating, but understanding what Selective Mutism is and is not helps decrease the frustration.

For more information and help, go to http://www.childmind.org