Classroom games for selective mutism

Written by bonnie swain schindly
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Classroom games for selective mutism
Children with selective mutism benefit from computer and board games. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Children diagnosed with selective mutism voluntarily stop talking aloud, often because of extreme shyness. These youngsters usually communicate by whispering and pointing. They comfortably speak in some environments but remain silent in other settings. For instance, the child talks to family members but is too frightened to converse with classmates at school or to tell a waitress he wants a cheeseburger. Youngsters benefit from classroom games for selective mutism that encourage a child to gradually speak up and join classmates at play.

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Intricate games encourage children to interact with their classmates even if they must gesture or whisper. These joint projects include puzzles or board games where players select cards or pieces and then pass them on to someone else. Or, a teacher might use craft games that require a child to ask someone to hand her the scissors or to pick a colour. A shy youngster who demonstrates minimal communication still participates and learns, according to the Designing For Children website.


An anxious child turns puppets into communications vehicles. This game works best when the youngster who experiences selective mutism stages a pretend puppet show with a talkative friend. The timid student gets to portray a quiet character while his chatty friend takes the lead during the made-up performance. This keeps the nervous youngster from feeling pressured to speak. As he loses himself in the game of make-believe, he might utter a few words through his puppet, the Designing For Children website suggests.


Computer games bring children out of their shells at their own pace, especially when they are teamed up with an adult such as a teacher or language pathologist, says the Speech-Language-Pathology-Audiology website. At first, the adult operates the computer mouse even though the selective mutism child may most likely refuse to make eye contact with the teacher. The youngster typically points to her choices on the screen but gradually starts to talk aloud as she develops confidence around that adult.


Selective mutism children join the fun when kids play a game where groups of students make loud sounds together. A teacher asks her students to imitate animal sounds in unison, such as barking like dogs or pretending to roar as lions. Or, the instructor divides her class into two groups and each team tries to outdo the other by yelling. Both of these games allow the shy student to blend in while feeling included and more relaxed.


Blindfolding teams of kids---including the teacher---during a game of hide and seek gives a timid student a chance to use her voice without enduring classmates' stares. Stress levels in selective mutism children significantly decrease when the teacher's face is concealed. This relaxed state most likely is because the instructor is perceived as having the highest expectations of the child in the classroom, according to the Designing For Children website. Blindfolds block eye contact, which is important to anxious children who struggle with communication.

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