Selective Mutism

Sam is 4 years old and attends his local preschool. Despite having a cheeky, assertive personality at home with his parents and some extended family members, he is unable to speak to the preschool staff and most of his peers. He sometimes nods his head if asked simple questions but is unable to join in play with his friends. He is also unable to use the bathroom at preschool and in public places. His parents are concerned that he will not develop close friendships and are saddened that others don’t get to experience his true personality. 

Sally is 10 years old and attends her local primary school. She has always been a shy child and despite speaking normally with her preschool teachers Sally has had difficulty speaking to school staff since Grade 1. Sally has a couple of close friends whom she can speak to at school, but will stop speaking if she thinks anyone else, such as her teacher, may be listening. She has difficulty participating in group work tasks and is unable to ask questions to facilitate her learning.

Does your child or student:

  • Only speak to a select subgroup of people (e.g., one friend at school but not teacher or other peers)?
  • Speak to peers but not adults?
  • Whisper to various people but not use normal voice?
  • Answer questions but not initiate speech?
  • Become clingy to parents in social situations and not play with others?
  • Use only nonverbal communication when in public?
  • Become silent even with familiar speaking partners in highly stressful situations?
  • Freeze when a teacher or other adult speaks to them?
  • Have a vibrant personality at home but shrink into their shell when at school or in other public places?
If any of the above describes the difficulties your child is facing then therapy can assist your child to develop the confidence to let their true self shine.

What is Selective Mutism?

Selective Mutism is condition where children experience anxiety about communicating with others. Commonly, children speak comfortably with their parents and siblings and with some other familiar people, but feel anxious about communicating with teachers and peers at school and in other public environments.

Selective Mutism is a more extreme form of social anxiety where children are worried that others will hear their voice and make negative judgements about them or respond in another negative way e.g., by getting overly excited or making a “big deal” out of their speaking.

What if my child is just shy – won’t they grow out of it?

Extreme shyness is similar to Selective Mutism and can be thought of as a less severe form of social anxiety. Although shy children are usually able to provide some response when communicating with familiar people, children with Selective Mutism are often unable to respond verbally at all, sometimes even in situations where they have been seriously injured and need assistance.

While some children may start speaking to new adults or peers spontaneously this is relatively uncommon and these children tend to continue to feel anxious in certain social situations such as when speaking in front of the class or in situations where they may need to be assertive.

The skills taught to children and parents to develop confident communication are beneficial for all children who experience anxiety, whether they have started to speak more freely already or need some additional assistance to get started.  

Early intervention can prevent your child’s avoidant behaviours (e.g., not speaking when anxious) from becoming firmly established and therefore more difficult to treat long term. It also provides opportunities for you and your child to learn skills to develop confident communication prior to starting school.


With help from a psychologist your child can learn to

communicate without fear


It’s never too late. We have assisted teenagers even in their late teens to improve their confidence in communicating with others and to improve their academic engagement, friendships and quality of life as a result. It is normal to feel discouraged or stuck if symptoms of Selective Mutism have persisted over many years. If this is you, call us today for a FREE 10 minute consultation about how we can work together to assist your teen to progress towards communication without fear.

Benefits of working with a psychologist

Therapy can assist your child in a number of ways including:

  • improving their understanding of anxiety
  • assisting them to develop confidence in communicating with others
  • teaching them skills for managing anxiety both now and in the future
  • improving overall self confidence and self esteem
  • helping them to manage co-occurring issues such as other fears or behavioural difficulties

Therapy can also assist parents and teachers to:

  • understand more about anxiety and selective mutism
  • learn strategies to assist their child/student to face their fears and improve their confidence
  • develop confidence in explaining selective mutism to friends, school staff and family members
  • explore their own anxiety about the impact of selective mutism on their child

What does therapy involve?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been shown to be the most effective treatment for Selective Mutism. Read more about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Selective Mutism involves:

  • Assisting children to face their fears about speaking in a gradual way by setting goals to practice increasingly difficult communication tasks
  • Assisting children to challenge their worrying thoughts about what will happen if they communicate with others (e.g., they will think my voice sounds funny or they will tell everyone that I spoke)
  • Teaching parents and teachers skills to support children to become confident communicators.
  • Working closely with teachers and schools to assist children to make progress in the school environment, where the mutism is most likely at it’s worst.

Over 3 dozen families and schools have supported the development of confident communicators with our guidance and assistance.  


Dr Amy Talbot trained and worked at the Selective Mutism Clinic in Sydney for a number of years and has helped dozens of families and schools (both local and throughout Australia) to support their children or students to overcome their anxiety and communicate with confidence.

Dr Amy Talbot is highly experienced in treating Selective Mutism and is an invited lecturer at postgraduate clinical training programs, teaching the psychologists of tomorrow how to best support children with Selective Mutism to face their fears and improve their engagement in all areas of their life.

Therapy for Selective Mutism can assist your child to develop the confidence they need to succeed in life.

We are passionate about ensuring that every family has access to the best treatment available to develop their child’s confidence with communicating. Our services are available to families both within Sydney and throughout Australia.

Many of our families have seen their child develop increased confidence about communicating without ever having to attend a face to face session!

If you live outside of Sydney and would like to access our services please contact us to discuss options for phone or skype consultation.

How do I make an appointment or access more information?

Call today for a FREE no-obligation 10 minute phone consultation to discuss how we can help your child to develop the confidence they need to let their true self shine.

Ready to get started? Please contact us on 02 8814 5703 or reception@talbotpsychology.com.au to book an appointment.    

You can also find more information about Selective Mutism at the Selective Mutism Center. There is also an Australian Facebook group for families of children with SM and other interested parties.

Selective Mutism

Sam is 4 years old and attends his local preschool. Despite having a cheeky, assertive personality at home with his parents and some extended family members, he is unable to speak to the preschool staff and most of his peers. He sometimes nods his head if asked simple questions but is unable to join in play with his friends. He is also unable to use the bathroom at preschool and in public places. His parents are concerned that he will not develop close friendships and are saddened that others don’t get to experience his true personality. 

Sally is 10 years old and attends her local primary school. She has always been a shy child and despite speaking normally with her preschool teachers Sally has had difficulty speaking to school staff since Grade 1. Sally has a couple of close friends whom she can speak to at school, but will stop speaking if she thinks anyone else, such as her teacher, may be listening. She has difficulty participating in group work tasks and is unable to ask questions to facilitate her learning.

Does your child or student:

  • Only speak to a select subgroup of people (e.g., one friend at school but not teacher or other peers)?
  • Speak to peers but not adults?
  • Whisper to various people but not use normal voice?
  • Answer questions but not initiate speech?
  • Become clingy to parents in social situations and not play with others?
  • Use only nonverbal communication when in public?
  • Become silent even with familiar speaking partners in highly stressful situations?
  • Freeze when a teacher or other adult speaks to them?
  • Have a vibrant personality at home but shrink into their shell when at school or in other public places?
If any of the above describes the difficulties your child is facing then therapy can assist your child to develop the confidence to let their true self shine.

What is Selective Mutism?

Selective Mutism is condition where children experience anxiety about communicating with others. Commonly, children speak comfortably with their parents and siblings and with some other familiar people, but feel anxious about communicating with teachers and peers at school and in other public environments.

Selective Mutism is a more extreme form of social anxiety where children are worried that others will hear their voice and make negative judgements about them or respond in another negative way e.g., by getting overly excited or making a “big deal” out of their speaking.

What if my child is just shy – won’t they grow out of it?

Extreme shyness is similar to Selective Mutism and can be thought of as a less severe form of social anxiety. Although shy children are usually able to provide some response when communicating with familiar people, children with Selective Mutism are often unable to respond verbally at all, sometimes even in situations where they have been seriously injured and need assistance.

While some children may start speaking to new adults or peers spontaneously this is relatively uncommon and these children tend to continue to feel anxious in certain social situations such as when speaking in front of the class or in situations where they may need to be assertive.

The skills taught to children and parents to develop confident communication are beneficial for all children who experience anxiety, whether they have started to speak more freely already or need some additional assistance to get started.  

Early intervention can prevent your child’s avoidant behaviours (e.g., not speaking when anxious) from becoming firmly established and therefore more difficult to treat long term. It also provides opportunities for you and your child to learn skills to develop confident communication prior to starting school.


With help from a psychologist your child can learn to

communicate without fear


It’s never too late. We have assisted teenagers even in their late teens to improve their confidence in communicating with others and to improve their academic engagement, friendships and quality of life as a result. It is normal to feel discouraged or stuck if symptoms of Selective Mutism have persisted over many years. If this is you, call us today for a FREE 10 minute consultation about how we can work together to assist your teen to progress towards communication without fear.

Benefits of working with a psychologist

Therapy can assist your child in a number of ways including:

  • improving their understanding of anxiety
  • assisting them to develop confidence in communicating with others
  • teaching them skills for managing anxiety both now and in the future
  • improving overall self confidence and self esteem
  • helping them to manage co-occurring issues such as other fears or behavioural difficulties

Therapy can also assist parents and teachers to:

  • understand more about anxiety and selective mutism
  • learn strategies to assist their child/student to face their fears and improve their confidence
  • develop confidence in explaining selective mutism to friends, school staff and family members
  • explore their own anxiety about the impact of selective mutism on their child

What does therapy involve?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been shown to be the most effective treatment for Selective Mutism. Read more about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Selective Mutism involves:

  • Assisting children to face their fears about speaking in a gradual way by setting goals to practice increasingly difficult communication tasks
  • Assisting children to challenge their worrying thoughts about what will happen if they communicate with others (e.g., they will think my voice sounds funny or they will tell everyone that I spoke)
  • Teaching parents and teachers skills to support children to become confident communicators.
  • Working closely with teachers and schools to assist children to make progress in the school environment, where the mutism is most likely at it’s worst.

Over 3 dozen families and schools have supported the development of confident communicators with our guidance and assistance.  


Dr Amy Talbot trained and worked at the Selective Mutism Clinic in Sydney for a number of years and has helped dozens of families and schools (both local and throughout Australia) to support their children or students to overcome their anxiety and communicate with confidence.

Dr Amy Talbot is highly experienced in treating Selective Mutism and is an invited lecturer at postgraduate clinical training programs, teaching the psychologists of tomorrow how to best support children with Selective Mutism to face their fears and improve their engagement in all areas of their life.

Therapy for Selective Mutism can assist your child to develop the confidence they need to succeed in life.

We are passionate about ensuring that every family has access to the best treatment available to develop their child’s confidence with communicating. Our services are available to families both within Sydney and throughout Australia.

Many of our families have seen their child develop increased confidence about communicating without ever having to attend a face to face session!

If you live outside of Sydney and would like to access our services please contact us to discuss options for phone or skype consultation.

How do I make an appointment or access more information?

Call today for a FREE no-obligation 10 minute phone consultation to discuss how we can help your child to develop the confidence they need to let their true self shine.

Ready to get started? Please contact us on 02 8814 5703 or reception@talbotpsychology.com.au to book an appointment.    

You can also find more information about Selective Mutism at the Selective Mutism Center. There is also an Australian Facebook group for families of children with SM and other interested parties.