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Beng:  My daughter does not talk in school (since preschool). My daughter exited her IEP (Developmental Delay) as soon as she entered kindergarten. According to the team, she’s performing on grade level although she’s not talking or just whispers. Few months in kindergarten, I was referred by the guidance counselor to contact UNLV school re: selective mutism. To make the story short, she’s diagnosed with selective mutism and social phobia. She has presently has 504 plans with a “”FEW”” accommodations only and I am not sure if accommodations are being done as I am not in school all day (no way for me to know). I read a lot about IEP for children with selective mutism. I wonder if it’s a good idea to contact the school psychologist, speech pathologist again to re-evaluate her and give her IEP. The reason she EXITED according to them is she is perfoming on grade level but basically my daughter’s teacher cannot assess her (all her skills are DOES NOT MEET.). Question is, can they give my child IEP again? I am worried that they will retain my child since they cannot assess her.

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I’m new to SM. However, I do think your daughter would benefit from speech therapy, as articulation is probably difficult for her. Also, I think she would benefit from having measurable social goals and benefit from being taught skills not in a group setting, at least not until her level of anxiety decreased. She would need an IEP in order to get speech and language, so I’m pretty sure she would benefit more from having an IEP than a 504. Depending on her age, you might consider an anti anxiety medication since SM is due to having high anxiety levels. Unfortunately, when SM children become teenagers, teachers perceive them not speaking as defiant behavior. By her having an IEP she will be better protected in regards to manifestation. Hope this helps


In some states, SM is an exclusionary factor for Speech services and the children do not qualify.


My daughter is in the high school (11th grade) and have SM. I’ve fought for her to get the IEP and was not successful even with an outside evaluation as well as taking the psychologist with me as she’s performing at grade level. She will not advocate for herself and the school staff (because of lack of knowledge) does not understand that it’s not by choice. She’s just not able to. They do not want to talk to me and want to keep pushing her to advocated for herself. Because of that, she missed out on lots of stuff and also suffered. For example, she never talked to her advisor about the classes for next year and now she’s in the waiting list to take a classs that she wanted to take. The advisor never sought her out knowing that my daughter will not initiate a conversation.


My son has Selective Mutism as well as many other diagnoses. (Other diagnoses came after 1st grade.) He was found to be no longer be eligible for special education during 1st grade so I know what you are going through. In my son’s case we had all sorts of issues since he was transferred to a mainstream class. At the time, he was talking in school but when put into a mainstream class the size of the class was overwhelming for him and he went mute in the school setting. He also began to refuse going to school. That was 6 years ago. I have since learned a lot about Selective Mutism and could give you some strategies to consider as you move forward.


Also an accommodation for you daughter on her 504 plan should be “alternative methods of assessment” allowing you to assess her at home. I would suggest that to your team. If you don’t feel like the school is following the 504 you have the right to call a meeting to discuss it. Work with the teachers and school to figure out a plan that serves your daughter. Not against them. I’ve had doctors pit the school against the parents because the doctor says the school is not doing enough. It’s willful misunderstanding to place such high expectations on public schools that are often strapped for resources and underfunded. A team approach is best, with an SM expert, and parent support. In my work that has been the most successful for the student.


As school psychologist whose worked with SM and found the work very rewarding would not recommend an IEP. A student with an IEP needs different instruction than what they would receive in the classroom. Most students with SM are bright and capable. They most likely will not qualify for an IEP because they will not show a need for one. They need accommodations around their disability (504 plan). A team approach between a SM expert, the school and parents is recommended. An IEP will not solve SM. Mental health services and working with the school will. That is why a team approach is best. Public schools are to provide a free and appropriate education (case law) not free and optimal. But, you can request an evaluation, that is your right. I also do not think retention is okay for SM.


I strongly disagree. I was a school social worker for 15 years and fully support social work services for SM. Anxiety is extremely debilitating for these students and although they do need accommodations in the classroom to make progress, they also need tools and strategies that cannot explicitly be taught by a ged ed teacher. I am also an outpatient behavioral therapist and while our work can be rewarding outside of school, we are not at school to ensure strategies are also taught and implemented there. That is where a school social worker comes in as well as a supportive, informed team that understands SM. An IEP does not mean different instruction. It is made up of supports and services to ensure success overall (academically as well as social and emotional).


I have to agree with the Psychologist colleague. SPED services are granted on the basis of the existence of disability that has been identified though a comprehensive and robost psycholgical evaluation. and is negatively impacting learning. IEP’s are not a silver bullet. Also, school based Clinical Social Workers can provide therapy to students without an IEP. A 504 can help provide much needed accomodations to address the needs of a SM student. As a Social Worker you can administer an FBA and, pending of results, prepare a BIP. Let’s not forget that SM is not listed in IDEA as a qualifying disorder for SPED, not even under OHI. The DSM – V categorizes SM within the Anxiety Disorders family. Thus a therapetic approach is needed with much more urgency than any educational goals on an IEP.

I agree with your first sentence: that to be eligible for special ed services, the child must have a disability that negatively affects learning.

We parted company when you made this assertion: “Let’s not forget that SM is not listed in IDEA as a qualifying disability for SPED, not even under OHI.”

Whether selective mutism is or is not listed as a “qualifying disability” in IDEA is irrelevant. The law does not say a child must have one of the 13 disabilities listed. Imagine how long the list of “qualifying disabilities” would be if Congress listed all of them. The law was reauthorized in 2004. How many disabilities have been discovered or described since 2004?

Look at the legal definition of “child with a disability” – two questions must be answered to determine if the child is eligible:

Does the child have a disability?

Does the child “by reason thereof need special education and related services? 20 USC 1401(3) (see pages 49-50 in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Ed.)


This is just not great advice, sorry. An IEP is more than just different instruction, but more, this disability most definitely requires special instruction. At the very least a student would need instruction that does not require spoken participation. Unless the entire class never requires any students to speak, this factor alone would necessitate special instruction for this child. “Bright and Capable” has nothing to do with special instruction. This advice sounds like a typical way to reduce and deny services dogma. Parents should always seek an IEP for such a complex set of needs and NEVER, EVER, listen to any notion that good grades, ability, etc., is a reason to deny an IEP.


What disability category best describes a student with SM? Speech and language impairment?


According to the Selective Mutism Association (SMA) it could fall under one of these categories: Other Health Impairment (OHI), Emotional Disturbance or Speech or Language Impairment. SMA believes it should be categorized as OHI.




My daughter is going to Kindergarten this September and she has select mutism. I would keep the IEP for her. My daughter does NOT even talk to my own father who she sees at least 2 times a week. NOT one word. Just make sure that your kid is not being tested with verbally. If they do have to have an oral test, maybe you can do it yourself on a camera phone and send it to the teacher electronically. I just thought about that the other day.

I am a teacher and have seen this in the past. Don’t force your daughter to talk. This only makes it worse. Best of luck!

Jill G

Beng –

You CAN ask that your daughter be reevaluated for special education eligibility. Unfortunately, it sounds like the school doesn’t really know how to meet your child’s needs.

Your best bet may be to have your child independently evaluated by someone who is familiar with her condition and how to service kids like her in a school environment, and then providing those results to the school. I suggest that you network with selective mutism organizations in your area to find such an evaluator.

If you cannot arrange for such an evaluation (it may be costly), you may have a right to an independent evaluation at public expense.

Here are some organizations that I suggest you connect with:

#1 your local parent center (http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/) for help understanding your special education rights, including independent evaluations

#2 your local parent to parent program (http://www.p2pusa.org/p2pusa/SitePages/p2p-support.aspx) for help finding selective mutism support

#3 your local P2P health info center (http://www.fv-ncfpp.org/f) for help understanding how to access medical and therapeutic options for your daughter


It appears you are in Las Vegas. I suggest you contact the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. The number is 702~386~1070. They are located on E. Charleston.