Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Clinic Notes: Selective Mutes

Children who are selective mutes have acquired speech, but never use speech. They point and gesture to get what they want; sometimes tantruming if their needs are not met promptly until caregivers begin to anticipate their needs. When I moved to Tennessee the first case I had in my clinic was a 6 year old girl with a dual diagnosis of autism and mental retardation who had not spoken in years.
In order to change this behavior I instructed everyone to not anticipate the child's needs or respond to pointing and grunting. Now everyone must wait until the child made a sound that approximated a word to get what she wanted. Once this was accomplished, everyone had to wait longer until the approximation more closely resembled a word. After several weeks speech was re-established in this child. Several months later I received a call from the caregivers saying the child was talking too much now and could they bring her back to my clinic.

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