Selective Mutism

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Selective Mutism, a disorder in which children do not speak in certain social situations but do speak at home with family, is a very challenging disorder. Treatment is slow and the focus on “not talking” often has a paradoxical effect. Children receive a lot of attention for not speaking, thereby increasing the probably that they will continue to refuse to speak. Our clinic is involved in a number of studies to better understand this disorder and develop an efficacious treatment. We have been experimenting with applications on the iPad to assist in encouraging the children to begin to speak.

However, existing apps have several limitations and do not provide a seamless environment for the clinician – for example, they do not allow the clinician to collect data during the treatment sessions. Working in conjunction with Dr. Clint Bowers and the UCF RETRO Lab, we have created a prototype of an iPad app that can be used to treat Selective Mutism. The prototype iPad app will be used to aid therapy delivery through the creation of patient profiles. When fully developed, the clinician will have access to a number of apps and games developed specifically to augment traditional exposure therapy. A coin system is used to reward compliant responses throughout the session.

The prototype of the app won “Best in Show Academic – Student” at the 3rd Annual Serious Games and Virtual Environments Showcase, which was a part of the International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare 2013, sponsored by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare.

We are currently conducting pilot studies to determine the usability of Liftoff prior to studying its ability to enhance treatment outcome.