Objective: To evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a novel behavioral intervention for reducing symptoms of selective mutism and increasing functional speech.
Method: A total of 21 children ages 4 to 8 with primary selective mutism were randomized to 24 weeks of Integrated Behavior Therapy for Selective Mutism (IBTSM) or a 12-week Waitlist control. Clinical outcomes were assessed using blind independent evaluators, parent-, and teacher-report, and an objective behavioral measure. Treatment recipients completed a three-month follow-up to assess durability of treatment gains.
Results: Data indicated increased functional speaking behavior post-treatment as rated by parents and teachers, with a high rate of treatment responders as rated by blind independent evaluators (75%). Conversely, children in the Waitlist comparison group did not experience significant improvements in speaking behaviors. Children who received IBTSM also demonstrated significant improvements in number of words spoken at school compared to baseline, however, significant group differences did not emerge. Treatment recipients also experienced significant reductions in social anxiety per parent, but not teacher, report. Clinical gains were maintained over 3 month follow-up.
Conclusion: IBTSM appears to be a promising new intervention that is efficacious in increasing functional speaking behaviors, feasible, and acceptable to parents and teachers.
Keywords: Behavior therapy; Childhood; Randomized controlled trial; Selective mutism; Social anxiety.
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