What to Do When Your Already Verbal Toddler Stops Talking – Dealing with Selective Mutism

Real and received speech delays are not uncommon in babies and toddlers. In fact as many of 10% of all children suffer from a voice, speech or swallowing disorder that they may later overcome. Addressing the needs of a child with speech delays while challenging it is still less traumatic than facing a child who is already well on their way to full speech and suddenly stops talking.

Surprisingly, this scenario is far more common that you will ever imagine. We frequently get questions from parents who are startled when their little ones suddenly stop speaking both at home and in social settings.

Once the pediatrician and audiologist have excluded auditory issues and potential scenarios like autism spectrum have been excluded it may be wise to explore the possibility of selective mutism. Selective mutism is a complex and difficult to diagnose condition where the toddler or child only speaks in certain settings. The condition is often tied to anxiety and social phobia and appears to have a genetic element. Selective mutism may take place only at school or social settings and in some instances it is associated to fear triggered by a person within the household. To be clear, selective mutism is not the same as traumatic mutism.

If your toddler has been diagnosed with selective mutism there are many options you can explore to help your toddler embrace speech once again. Early intervention is key.

In addition to appropriate diagnostic your toddler may benefit from the following:

  • Reduced environmental stress
  • Increased engagement in zones of comfort
  • Play therapy
  • Alternative communication such as pointing boards or baby sign language
  • Frequent socialization
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Medication

If you have just received a diagnosis of selective mutism we encourage you to become familiar with our baby sign language materials specifically designed for toddlers. Through music, clear real-life images and simple directions our resources can quickly provide a toddler facing SM an emotionally accessible tool to communicate what matters most to him.


4 Responses to “What to Do When Your Already Verbal Toddler Stops Talking – Dealing with Selective Mutism”

  1. aeiou

    I have a personal story. I prefer to remain anonymous for the sake of privacy. When I was a child I was developing normally. However, when I was about 2 years old, all of a sudden I stopped talking. Moreover, I showed symptoms as mania for collecting objects, hiding under the curtain, avoiding eye contact, screaming in the night etc… I recall a strong fear of being abandoned. I was diagnosed with full-blown autism and advised to start psychotherapy and musicotherapy. I followed this advice and 6 months later I regained my speech abilities (I re-started singing a song) and I gradually lost the symptoms of autism. The psychiatrists defined this recovery “miraculous” and maintained that my “illness” had been “autism-type regression. I’ve always had serious problems at the kindergarten, but from primary school on I’ve never had troubles in learning and I did not need a support teacher. Now I graduated in Economics and started my first paid internship. There are still some “trraces” of my past condition: in fact, I still have serious problem in interpersonal interactions, sometimes I fail to understand the context I am acting in, I have a strong tendency for anxiety and I struggle in building long-term friendships. However, I do have friends, I can speak normally, I do not avoid hugging, I can be self-deprecating and so on. To conclude, I can have a quasi-ordinary life, which seemed almost impossible at the moment of the diagnosis. There is always hope!

  2. Mario

    My niece is 3yrs, she was having full conversations and even started reading. And about a week ago she stop talking all of sudden. Only says is mama & papa, now.


    ADMIN – Hi Mario,

    Consult with the pediatrician right away. Early intervention is essential.

  3. Vidhya

    My son was saying small words like amma, mama & also he repeats whatever we say… Then he suddenly stopped talking and social interations at the age of 2… He was not listening and not delating the words with the mind… He’ll be alright?… Will he recover soon?… Please give some advise…

    ADMIN – Hi Vidhya,

    Kindly consult with your pediatrician. Without deeper familiarity with your situation we can’t give you clarification or guidance.

  4. Rebecca

    My grandson was saying small words that mommy,yes ,no ,you ,ball and all of a sudden he just stopped now he won’t speak it off can someone give me some advice.

    ADMIN – Hi Rebecca,

    I would encourage you to reach out to a language professional.

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