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Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2006 Jan-Feb;45(1):43-8.

Selective mutism: are primary care physicians missing the silence?

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Department of Pediatrics, Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, Falls Church, VA, USA.


To survey parents of children with selective mutism (SM) in regard to (1) the role of the primary care physician in the diagnosis of SM; (2) the social and school consequences of SM; and (3) their opinion of the effectiveness of different treatment modalities, a 39-item written survey was mailed to 27 parents with at least one child diagnosed with SM on the basis of diagnostic and statistical manual IV-text revision (DSM IV-TR) criteria. Twenty-seven parents (100%), with a total of 33 children with SM, completed the survey. There were 24 girls and 9 boys. The mean age when parents had strong concerns about symptoms of SM was 3.8 years, but diagnosis did not occur until nearly a year later. Twenty-three (69.7%) of the children with SM were never diagnosed accurately or referred by their primary care physicians. SM caused important school/social problems for 17 (51.5%) of the children. Speech therapy was provided for 36.4% of children and was thought to have been helpful for 30% of them. Behavior modification was the treatment for 45.5% of children and perceived to be helpful for 66.7% of them. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor pharmacotherapy was prescribed for 17 (51.5%) of the children and believed to be effective for 11 (65%) of them. Primary care physicians in this study rarely diagnosed accurately or referred children with SM in a timely fashion, even though symptoms of the condition were generally very apparent and parents had expressed concern. Behavioral modification, pharmacotherapy with SSRIs, and early intervention are viable treatment options. Early diagnosis is key to preventing long-term effects of this condition.

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