Selective Mutism & Social Anxiety In the School Conference, Part 1

Selective Mutism & Social Anxiety In the School Conference, Part 1




Run time for this webinar is 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 26 seconds.

Individuals with Selective Mutism (SM) manifest social communication deficits based on the setting and expectations from others within a setting. Parents, therapists, and school staff are often perplexed as to how to help the mute child. Dr. Shipon-Blum, an expert in treating children and adolescents with SM and developer of Social Communication Anxiety Treatment® (S-CAT®), conceptualizes SM as a social communication anxiety disorder where “not speaking” merely skims the surface of the difficulties these individuals face. Dr. Shipon-Blum has found that  individuals with SM can make significant progress and transition to verbal communication when provided with comprehensive treatment that focuses on the whole person and improving his/her social communication and engagement skills. The school environment is most often the setting where children present as mute. Progress in the therapy room and at home will not automatically generalize to the school setting without the implementation of specific treatment goals and adult facilitation from educational staff. SM treatment in the school requires a team approach involving the clinician, parents, and educational staff. Through collaboration and consistent implementation of specific treatment strategies and goals, students with SM can transition to verbal communication in the school setting.  

This conference reviews the importance of the initial evaluation and assessment process that are critical in developing an effective treatment plan for an individual with Selective Mutism. Next, the impact of SM on a child’s academic performance and ability to make progress and the need for accommodations and services through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan was discussed. A review of common comorbid disorders (e.g. speech and language disorder, sensory processing disorder, developmental delays, etc.) seen in children with SM and sample accommodations and interventions to address these challenges in the school setting was also discussed. Finally, the presentation identifies and describes effective treatment strategies and interventions in treating SM in the school setting. 

This workshop focuses on two areas: the benefits of comprehensive assessments for children with Selective Mutism and Social Anxiety and addressing comorbid conditions in the school setting through the development of accommodations and interventions such as 504/IEP Plans. The goal is to understand Selective Mutism and learn strategies to help the child/teen with Selective Mutism, social anxiety, and extreme shyness cope, socialize, and communicate in school.  

For the first hour, SMart Center clinicians Tera Gibbs, M.A. and Julia Gomes, M.S., M.A. present “The Benefits of Comprehensive Assessments for Children with Selective Mutism and Social Anxiety.” We know that individuals with SM and social anxiety can easily be misunderstood due to communication difficulties. Comprehensive assessments provide a unique perspective into a student’s strengths and challenges and identify, as precisely as possible, the facilitators (maintaining factors) and barriers children experience as they navigate the world around them. Assessment data provides a foundation upon which teams can develop tailored, individualized, and effective interventions in order to best support the individual. Tera and Julia outline the assessment process, highlight special considerations for assessing students with communication difficulties, and discuss how assessment and differential diagnosis contribute to developing the most effective interventions for the students with whom we work. A thorough explanation of the overlap between SM and related disorders will be provided while specifically highlighting how comprehensive assessment can differentiate the nuances of what appear to be similar surface-level symptoms. Finally, the presentation reviews how to successfully develop and implement 504 Plans and IEP’s using assessment data. 

Next, SMart Center clinicians Tera Gibbs, M.A. and Jenna Blum, B.A. present “Addressing Comorbid Conditions in the School Setting Through 504/IEP Plans.” Tera and Jenna give an overview of the conditions and disorders that commonly occur with Selective Mutism and how to recognize and identify them, including extreme shyness and timid temperament, social anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, behavioral challenges, sensory processing problems, developmental and intellectual delays and disabilities, learning disabilities, and bilingualism. The importance of a comprehensive evaluation to help ensure that comorbid conditions are not missed, misdiagnosed, or over-identified are discussed. Tera and Jenna also provide an overview of accommodations for each of these comorbid conditions and how they can be incorporated in a 504/IEP in the school environment.  Viewers of this webinar will learn: 

  • The assessment process and special considerations for children/teens with communication and social anxiety-related difficulties. 
  • The importance of tailoring the assessment process to the individual child in order to bolster validity of results.  
  • The relationship between Selective Mutism, its related disorders, the various co-occurring symptoms, and how assessment leads appropriate identification, differentiated diagnosis, and the development of effective interventions.  
  • How assessment and interventions become formalized, effective school accommodations and modifications through 504 Plans and IEPs.  
  • Common conditions or disorders that may occur with a diagnosis of Selective Mutism.  
  • Accommodations, interventions, and modifications to include in a 504 or IEP plan to address comorbid conditions.