I am always interested in learning more about the variety of students I can help. Today I am interviewing Annie DiVello, an SLP who specializes in Selective Mutism. At the time Annie was in grad school, it was believed that selective mutism was more of a mental health disorder and which SLP’s were not involved, but even now there is still a real lack of information or resources both in school and in private practice.
What is Selective Mutism?
Selective Mutism (SM) is essentially a phobia of speaking, along with comorbidities. This fear of speaking can be attached to a singular person, people, places, during certain activities. Selective Mutism often occurs along with anxiety disorders or other speech disorders.
Supporting Learners with Selective Mutism:
Annie discusses the importance of a ‘Round Table’ of support for students with Selective Mutism. These learners cannot be worked with in isolation and should be supported by a variety of professionals that are experts in the complex variety of needs of students with selective mutism.
When it comes to assessment, Annie directs the question about performance vs. skills and ability. A student’s performance is not always indicative of their skills, especially in the case of Selective Mutism. Annie provides some tips for SLPs to collect this information, including parent interviews and respectful videoing. Selective Mutism can be effectively diagnosed with a multidisciplinary team at the age of 30 months.
Getting started with therapy for students with Selective Mutism:
As a school based clinician, you may not come across students with Selective Mutism, but working with experts like Annie DiVello is such a key piece in developing a framework for your therapy with students with more complex needs. This episode is packed with great tips for SLPs working with learners of all ages. Annie is an ASHA approved CEU trainer, you can find out more about her and her work on her website, AnnieDiVello.com.
Annie graduated from West Virginia University with a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology. She has worked with individuals all across the country including New England, West Virginia, Atlanta, and South Central Los Angeles. Annie uses an integrated approach and enjoys working closely with family members, school teams, and other service providers to create a collaborative model of support for the individuals she serves. Though she has worked with many populations, Annie’s particular area of clinical interest is selective mutism. She is a volunteer Selective Mutism Association (SMA) State Coordinator for NH, MA, VT and ME.
Annie provides a variety of selective mutism services including web-based training and in-services to school teams and early intervention teams across New England and also works directly with families who have a child(ren) with SM. Annie loves working with all ages and has experience working with children ages nine months – 18 years of age and with adults 20 -104 years of age. She is passionate about her field and about helping people to communicate. She feels that the ability to communicate is a beautiful gift and the foundation of human connection.
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