Q:

My daughter is 4 1/2. She will be entering kindergarten in the fall. She was recently diagnosed with selective mutism (a disorder in which a person who is normally capable of speech is unable to speak in given situations or to specific people). I do not know much about this disorder. Will it affect her at school? -- Searching

A:

You need to learn about how selective mutism is affecting your daughter. Keep a journal and note what was happening right before she stopped talking in a situation or an environment. You are trying to pinpoint what causes her to stop talking. Usually, selective mutism is a signal of anxiety or stress caused by a person or situation.

Since you have a few weeks before your daughter will start school, you need to make an appointment with the building principal and your daughter's teacher to explain this disorder and make a plan with school personnel for helping her to adjust to a totally new environment. You might suggest the selection of someone who will greet her with a warm, friendly smile every day. Hopefully, when your daughter gets comfortable in her surroundings she will acknowledge this person with a smile or even say, "hi." Keep in mind that the school psychologist and counselor can provide both you and the school staff working with your daughter help in dealing with and overcoming many of the challenges currently facing the child.

It would be a good idea to take your daughter for a visit at her new school several times before it starts, so she can see some of the people who will be part of her school day. She also needs to get familiar with the areas that she will be using -- classroom, playground, gym and so on. Also, it would be great if she could become acquainted with several classmates through playdates. This would help her feel more comfortable in the classroom.

The most important thing now is for everyone at the school to know why your daughter is not talking and for you to help her get familiar with the surroundings and some of the people to make kindergarten less stressful.