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Selective Mutism


With an estimated prevalence rate of about 0.1 - 0.3% selective mutism would have to be classified as a rather unfrequent disorder. However, according to more recent international studies the occurence of the phenomenon is increasing. Furthermore a high number of unreported cases is to be expected. In medical and pedagogical settings the condition is not yet consistently known. Often a behaviour deemed merely shy or related to speech anxiety conceals a selective mutism disorder. Sure enough the symptoms may range on a continuum. Particularly the selectivity of the symptomatology hinders, at least in younger children, the clinical diagnosis. Yet, it is precisely the early identification and treatment of the condition that offers the most effective preventive protection. Once the silence is transfered to school age or even puberty, communicative patterns and (social) anxiety symptoms intensify to a large extent. Thus, the threat that selective mutism poses to the personal, social, academic and professional development of the patients concerned is on no account to be dismissed.The complexity of the condition requires interdisciplinary professional approaches. As  approximately half of the children with selective mutism present a history of linguistic developmental deviances or multilingualism and cultural diversity, over the last years speech-language pathology has established itself as a professional domain in prevention and treatment of selective mutism. At this, the department „Language and Communication“ (with the former full professor Nitza Katz-Bernstein) has been at the cutting edge of research and work in Germany and has by now, under the direction of Katja Subellok, further extended its competencies to a leading position. With the Mutism-Network (under the direction of Kerstin Bahrfeck-Wichitill) in the ambulatory for speech-language pathology, the department has purposefully undertaken to be conducive to raising awareness for selective mutism and thus improving prevention strategies as well as to establish and further develop high-quality support programmes for the patients concerned. Currently, screening instruments for children in nursery and elementary school are being developed and evaluated. In her doctoral thesis, Anja Starke closely examines the connection between multilingualism and selective mutism. Diverse bachelor thesises document and analyse counselling and therapy processes in the ambulatory for speech-language pathology and herewith contribute to the constant quality improvement and enhancement of the work (e.g. DortMuT - Dortmunder Mutismus Therapie). 



  • Subellok, K. & Kresse, A. (2010). Therapiepause oder Abschluss der Sprachtherapie bei selektivem Mutismus: Wann ist der richtige Zeitpunkt? Fachlicher Austausch von Mutismus-Experten. Zur Publikation eingereicht.
  • Katz-Bernstein, N., Subellok, K., Bahrfeck-Wichitill, K. & Kresse, A. (2010). DortMuT – Dortmunder Mutismus-Therapie. Zur Publikation eingereicht.
  • Bahrfeck-Wichitill, K., Kresse, A. & Subellok, K. (2011). Gemeinsam schweigsam: Selektiver Mutismus bei Zwillingen. Teil II: Therapiedidaktische Überlegungen und Konkretisierungen. Sprachheilarbeit, 56(1), 110-120.
  • Subellok, K., Kresse, A. & Bahrfeck-Wichitill, K. (2010). Gemeinsam schweigsam: Selektiver Mutismus bei Zwillingen. Teil I: Zwillingsspezifische Besonderheiten der Entstehung und Aufrechterhaltung des Schweigens. Sprachheilarbeit, 55, 110-120.
  • Subellok, K. & Katz-Bernstein, N. (2010). Beeinträchtigungen der Sprachpartizipation: Psychoreaktive Redestörungen. In W. Jantzen (Hrsg.), Behinderung, Bildung, Partizipation (Enzyklopädisches Handbuch der Behindertenpädagogik, Bd 8: Sprache und Kommunikation).
  • Subellok, K. & Katz-Bernstein, N. (2010). Einfach scheu oder selektiv mutistisch? Früherkennung von Risikofaktoren. In Ch. Leyendecker (Hrsg.), Gefährdete Kindheit. Risiken früh erkennen, Ressourcen früh fördern (S. 159-168). Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.
  • Katz-Bernstein, N. & Subellok, K. (2009). Selektiver Mutismus: Ein Thema für die Sprachtherapie? Vierteljahresschrift für Heilpädagogik und ihre Nachbargebiete (VHN), 78, 308-320.
  • Katz-Bernstein, N., Subellok, K., Bahrfeck-Wichitill, K. & Wagner, C. (2009). Leonardo Schweigen zwischen Kulturen. Einzelfallorientierte Förderung eine selektiv mutistischen Schülers. Mit Sprache, 41, 5-23.
  • Subellok, K. & Bahrfeck-Wichitill, K. (2007). Schweigen - Spritzen - Sprechen: Ein selektiv mutistisches Kind kommt in Bewegung. Ein Fallbericht. Die Sprachheilarbeit, 52, 96-106.

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