Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Ken Bleile, Honors Thesis Advisor, Communication Sciences & Disorders Department


Selective mutism; Immigrant children--Psychology;


Selective mutism is a highly debilitating anxiety disorder that is characterized by a child’s lack of verbal speech in certain situations, despite having the ability to speak (Elizur & Perednik, 2003). Children with selective mutism may present with a variety of symptoms, including high levels of anxiety and isolation, which significantly impacts their social and
language development, educational and occupational achievement, and mental health (Elizur & Perednik, 2003). Children who are diagnosed with selective mutism in early childhood often have communication or cognitive difficulties and may display higher rates of psychiatric disorders later in life compared to children without selective mutism (Muris & Ollendick, 2015). If a child with selective mutism does not receive treatment, the negative symptoms of selective
mutism worsen. It is important to educate speech-language pathologists about the risk factors and
symptoms associated with selective mutism, so they can provide children with early intervention to minimize the consequences of selective mutism.

Although selective mutism is considered to be a rare anxiety disorder, the number of children with selective mutism is believed to be much higher than what is currently reported. The overall prevalence of selective mutism is debated, but there is clear evidence that immigrant children are at least three times more likely to be identified with selective mutism than native
children (Toppelberg et al., 2005). There is little research to support why immigrant children have a higher prevalence of selective mutism than native children, but previous studies have shown that immigrant children are less likely to be served in schools and are less likely to be diagnosed with language disorders (Hamilton et al., 2020). It is crucial to examine the role that complex communication disorders play in immigrant childrens’ development, especially as the number of immigrant children in the United States continues to increase (Hamilton et al., 2020).The goal of this thesis is to analyze the existing literature about selective mutism in immigrantand native children, second language acquisition, immigration trauma, and the etiology of selective mutism, to provide a comprehensive view of the appropriate assessment and treatment strategies for immigrants with selective mutism.

Year of Submission



Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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