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My 4-year-old won't speak to anyone but immediate family members.

My daughter is 4 years old and is has been in preschool since she was 3. She is very happy, outgoing, and talkative at home with myself, my husband, and her older sister. However, she won't speak to the teachers or other kids at school...or even aunts and uncles whom we visit occasionally. She has literally gone an entire year without speaking to her teachers and they are getting concerned that it is taking so long. Currently, she shakes her head or nods to respond. She will speak to me in front of them but not directly to them. I do recell that when she took a ballet class and a riding lesson this past fall, she did speak to her instructors..although very reluctantly...but for some reason that was easier for her.

She seems normal and well-adjusted in other ways. I wonder how long to wait this out before seeking professional help. She seems so happy otherwise that I don't know what to think. Has anyone ever experienced anything like this?

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Asked by goldenmare1967 at 8:28 PM on Jan. 6, 2013 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 1 (3 Credits)
Answers (13)
  • My daughter was the exact same way. She would talk to her kindergarten teacher last year when it was just the two of them and she had a boy in her class that she would whisper to and he would relay the message to the rest of the class. This year started off w/ her whispering to her teacher. I had her evaluated by a child psychiatrist who diagnosed her w/ Selective Mutism. Yes, it can be seen as extreme shyness, but it's more of an extreme social anxiety. She was put on anti-anxiety meds and has made some improvements... she read an entire book out loud to her teacher! She also made her first friend who she talks to on the phone and has no problem being the girl we know at home around. I take her to see the psychiatrist once a month and she goes to behavioral therapy twice a month. I recommend that you at least have your child evaluated by a professional who has experience w/ SM and where you go from there is up to you.

    Answer by mkmorin at 12:08 AM on Feb. 3, 2013

  • My goddaughter was like that. she was just really shy but opened up to only certain people. I was one of her certain people. She would come over my house and hide from my other family members but play with me and talk to me and he mother and her father and grandparents. but she grew out of it. Not sure how she was in a school setting but she is 19 now and outgoing and just regular. She is still quiet but nothing compared to when she was a kid. Sometimes kids are selective. But I woul bring it up to her doctor.

    Answer by lambdarose at 11:38 PM on Jan. 19, 2013

  • Thanks everyone. I am wary of labeling her shyness in such a way just yet...but I understand why selective mutism has been brought up as a possibility. I see it as extreme shyness but I'm no expert. I'm just very wary of labeling her so early on with something so specific. For all I know, this could be a power issue because she seems so confident otherwise. But we'll see. She will be getting help via an early intervention program soon. I want to thank everyone for the feedback and sharing your views. I will leave an update since perhaps it could be helpful to other parents.

    Comment by goldenmare1967 (original poster) at 12:16 PM on Jan. 12, 2013

  • It's funny the names they put to shyness... I've never heard of selective mutism... Well, if my sister and DH outgrew it, I suppose your daughter will too... I think I was born in the wrong century. UGH

    Answer by Ruthmom802 at 9:53 PM on Jan. 11, 2013

  • My son is 6 and still acts that way... Some kids are just a little more shy. She will out grow it. Dh said he did the same thing... I don't put a lot of stock in "professional" help these days... Some kids are shy...some talk too much... She'll be fine...

    Answer by Ruthmom802 at 9:50 PM on Jan. 11, 2013

  • Selective mutism. My daughter who is 5 is the same way. She has been seeing a therapist for the 2 years. It is best to start treatment earlier! my daughter has never talked to her teachers in preschool. but now she is nodding and has friends that accept her shyness.Get your daughter in as many social activies as possible, little gym, ballet, girl scouts! it really helps.
    pls feel free to email me.

    Answer by Mommyof42013 at 9:52 AM on Jan. 8, 2013

  • Both my children have been shy around adults. My oldest is in 2nd grade now and has become comfortable with speaking to adults he knows, but is still leery of those he does not know. My kindergartner is extremely shy and last year in preschool she would not speak to the teachers until almost the end of the school year and would hide behind DH or I around any adults. She speaks when necessary in school this year but she has taken to meowing when around adults. She has no issue talking to other kids just the adults. I had both mine evaluated and was told they were fine and would grow out of it and sure enough the older one has and the younger one is on her way (she meows now at least!).

    Answer by Anonymous at 7:58 AM on Jan. 7, 2013

  • My son was/is like that. He just doesn't like big groups of people. His first year of preschool there were 7 other kids in the class and he pretty much went all year without saying anything in school. His 2nd year of preschool he really didn't say anything the first half of the year, unless *maybe* he was one-on-one with one of the teachers. Second half of the year he talked a little bit - more with a little boy he made friends with at recess than during class though. He's in kindergarten now and his teacher's being hard on him as far as grading goes, because he hardly participates in class - but if she or another teacher takes him out of the room and away from everyone, he blows their minds with how much he knows.

    If she's learning and doing well in school otherwise, maybe bring it up with her doctor but I honestly wouldn't be too worried.

    Answer by idareyou at 9:14 PM on Jan. 6, 2013

  • Sounds like selective mutism. My dd had a friend at school with it. She became her "special friend" and if E needed something she would tell my dd and my dd would tell the teachers/classmates. I would check into it, I'm pretty sure E went to therapy as well. Now in 6th grade she's still a quieter girl but will talk to people she knows. It started as whispers in 3rd/4th grade but then she got louder.

    Answer by missanc at 8:59 PM on Jan. 6, 2013

  • This sounds a lot like my daughter, and she's almost 6 now. She's ALWAYS been super shy. There is a favorite uncle in the family that ALL the kids love to climb all over and roughhouse with. She has NEVER spoken to him, and will run to me and hide if he looks at her. We've been going to taekwondo for almost 6 months now, and only in the past month or two will she say ANYTHING to our main instructor. In the not too distant past we'd actually go somewhere just to get her to shut up. She's a non-stop motor mouth at home, but would say just a few words in the presence of strangers. As she gets older, and with LOTS of reassurances that it's ok to be shy, she's been out growing it.

    I really wouldn't worry about it too much right now. Give her lots of reassurance that it's ok to be shy and that you love her no matter what.

    Answer by Rosehawk at 8:38 PM on Jan. 6, 2013

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