The term ‘reluctant talker’ is broadly used to describe children who may be selectively mute in situations outside home due to anxiety, shyness and lack of confidence. It may co-occur with developmental language disorders or delays in language development.
Why are some children reluctant talkers?
1. Exceptionally Shy
Being shy is a personality trait and children who are shy may be wary of new settings or people. They are often quiet initially and take time to feel comfortable. These children however welcome help from trusted adults and may join in by communicating using gestures and non-verbally.
2. Selective Mutism
Selective Mutism is a childhood anxiety disorder characterized by the child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social situations, such as school. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secured and relaxed.
3. Learning a new language
Children who are new to hearing and learning a new language might be going through a ‘silent period’. Young children, for example often find it difficult to separate from family members and adjust to a preschool or a day care setting where they hear a new language other than their home language.
4. Delayed language development
Some children might still be developing age appropriate speech and language skills. Such children might seem shy or lack the confidence in expressing themselves using verbal language unlike their peers.
When should you be concerned?
Every child is unique and they take certain time to develop their communication skills. However, if you notice any of the above signs in your child, you should be concerned and seek help. There is no particular age that can be guaranteed at which your child may overcome their problems and begin to communicate effectively. Hence, seeking help early will alleviate their roadblocks and help them communicate better.
How can you help a reluctant talker?
Some of the strategies when used effectively can help children talk more quickly than if you continued to use old methods that may have not worked with them.
A speech-language therapist can help you help your child develop a greater sense of confidence in communicating.
- Acknowledge the child’s condition and connect with your child.
- Create a communication friendly environment
- Learn effective communication style – the Dos and Donts
- Prepare and practise ahead of a social situation
- Change one thing at a time for your child to navigate to higher levels of communication load
- Try expression of language through creative ways
- Build confidence through daily routines