Dr. Carmen Lynas brings innovative treatment for selective mutism to Chicago.
Imagine Newsletter March 2011
Selective mutism is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a "consistent failure to speak in specific social situations (in which there is an expectation for speaking, e.g., at school) despite speaking in other situations." It is reported to affect one in every 1,000 children; however, recent research suggests SM may be more common than once believed, affecting 1 out of every 140 children.
Clinical psychologist Steven Kurtz, Ph.D., Child Mind Institute's Director of the Selective Mutism Program in New York, developed an intensive treatment called Brave Buddies. After meeting Dr. Kurtz and learning about his exciting approach to treatment, Dr. Lynas knew the impact it could have with families in the Chicago community. "Treatment for SM is difficult to find, even in Chicago," says Dr. Lynas. "There are so many barriers for families and kids with SM already; adding difficulty to find treatment on top of that can lead to feelings of hopelessness and isolation." Kurt's Brave Buddies not only provides children with gentle and gradual exposure to the classroom, but it also provides parents with the sense of camaraderie and empowerment. "We're working together to help our children, and when they finally talk to their peers - wow - what can be more empowering than that?"
In addition to replicating Dr. Kurtz's program, Dr. Lynas plans to add a secondary goal to the Chicago version. "Teachers, school social workers, and anyone who works with children need to know about SM; the prevalence rate is growing and it's very likely they'll have an SM child in their class or on their caseload at some point. I'm hoping to recruit those who work with children and provide them with the opportunity to train for this intervention. The more awareness we can bring to SM, the better care our kids will receive."
Click here to see ABC Nightline video of Brave Buddies 2011.
Lynas' project is called Adventure Camp and will be much like Kurtz's program. Each child is paired up with a trained counselor. Prior to camp, the child meets with the counselor several times to allow for the pair to get to know each other. For the 1-week camp, children are assembled in a simulated classroom to participate, with the support of their assigned counselor, in the activities of the day. Each day is structured like a typical school day, with calendar time, circle time, free play, and snacks. In addition, there will be field trips to the park, library, ice cream shop; even pet therapy animals may be visiting.
Each activity and field trip is designed to provide the children with the opportunity to practice "brave talking" and social interaction. Being in a group of other SM kids has it's benefits, too. Children serve as models for each other; when they witness their peers making attempts to use their brave, they will likely try as well. "Taking the treatment outside of the therapy room and providing it in a school environment and out in the community is exactly what these kids need," says Dr. Lynas. "The treatment effects are more likely to carry over. It just makes sense."
If you are a provider or educator and would like to refer a child, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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adventure camp vs traditional therapy
|Adventure Camp||Traditional Therapy|
|$85/hr x 35hrs (5 units are parent guidance)||$150 - $190/hr x 35 hrs|
|$2,975||$5,250 - $6,650|
|1 week (saved 7.25 months of time)||30 weeks (7 1/2 months)|
|See gains quicker||Takes longer to see gains|
Adventure Camp Study Update 2016
We are excited to share that 91% of the 2016 Campers showed improvement in the School Domain from the Baseline measure to the 3-Month Post Camp measure, and 95% of 2016 campers showed improvement in the Public/Social Domain from the Baseline measure to the 3-Month Post Camp measure. Further analyses are to be completed to determine statistical significance and clinical significance of these findings, but here we present to you our preliminary findings to date. Click here to download the power point slides and watch both presentations below.
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