What is mutism?
Mutism is the inability or unwillingness to speak. A person who is mute cannot or does not care to talk. Someone who was mute was said to be dumb, not in the sense of being stupid, but in the sense of being devoid of the power of speech. The term "mutism" is specifically applied to people who, due to profound congenital (or early) deafness, are unable to use
articulate language and so are affected by deaf-mutism. The word "mutism' comes from the Latin "mutus" meaning unable to speak.
Mutism is a rare childhood condition characterized by a consistent failure to speak in situations where talking is expected. The child has the ability to converse normally, and does so, for example, in the home, but consistently fails to speak in specific situations such as at school or with strangers. It is estimated that one in every 1,000 school-age children are affected.
Experts believe that this problem is associated with anxiety and fear in social situations such as in school or in the company of adults. It is therefore often considered a type of social phobia. This is not a communication disorder because the affected children can converse normally in some situations. It is not a developmental disorder because their ability to talk, when they choose to do so, is appropriate for their age level. This problem has been linked to anxiety, and one of the major ways in which both children and adults attempt to cope with anxiety is by avoiding whatever provokes the anxiety.
Affected children are typically shy, and are especially so in the presence of strangers and unfamiliar surroundings or situations. However, the behaviors of children with this condition go beyond shyness.