Selective Mutism Service

When a child speaks freely with close family members but is quiet and withdrawn in new or strange situations, even refusing to communicate with hand gestures, selective mutism may be the cause. At the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, we use cognitive behavioral therapy, one of the most promising treatments for selective mutism.

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on systematically addressing the child's avoidance of speaking through behavior management techniques, role playing, and the use of video. Additional work is done with parents and teachers to increase the likelihood of a child speaking in public. In many cases, medication is effective.

Dr. Ron-Li Liaw and Patient Walking Through the Child Study Center

Dr. Ron-Li Liaw and her patient walk through the Child Study Center.

For children for whom the traditional one-hour weekly therapy session is not enough to change behaviors that are severe or entrenched, we offer intensive programs in which we can provide sessions several times a week and, when needed, several hours a day. We also have a summer program, Camp Courage, for children with selective mutism.

Evaluation and Treatment

The Selective Mutism Program at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center offers specialized assessment and treatment of selective mutism and other anxiety disorders. Our clinicians can also consult with your child’s school and therapist.

Camp Courage—August 20-23, 2018

Some children freely participate in conversations with family and friends, but fall silent when they are in stressful or unfamiliar situations. This is more than just shyness—it’s called selective mutism, a form of social anxiety that can affect a child’s ability to build relationships, enjoy activities, and excel in school.

Camp Courage, a program of NYU Langone’s Child Study Center, is a four-day intensive summer program aimed at helping children ages 4 to 12 learn to communicate verbally in various social situations. The program helps children become more relaxed, participate in group activities, and communicate in situations that are similar to those they encounter in their daily lives.

To accomplish this, we create simulated classroom settings, lead arts and crafts sessions, encourage playdate practice, and engage in sports and movement activities. Through repeated practice and graduated exposure, children begin to conquer their fears.

Camp Courage is for children who have had some behavioral therapy, which creates a foundation that increases your child’s ability to benefit from group experiences.

Experts in selective mutism and communication disorders work one-on-one with children to facilitate relaxation and reward verbal communication. All clinicians are trained and supervised by Richard Gallagher, PhD, and Lauren Knickerbocker, PhD.

For more information or to register, please call 646-754-5000 or email

Concentrated Monthly Weekend Boosters

Based on our Camp Courage summer program, we host small group experiences one weekend day each month. On these days, your child participates in group activities with the help of a therapist who facilitates the interactions and teaches relaxation techniques. Your child works on brave communication goals during activities that are similar to situations that he or she may face at home, at school, and in the community, such as circle time, arts and crafts, playdates, and placing orders at the local ice cream or donut shop.

During the sessions, your child’s communication is rewarded with “Courage Cash” and a visit to the prize store at the end of the day. Children have multiple opportunities to try out new behaviors while having fun and feeling successful.

Concentrated Treatment Programs for Visitors

Sometimes families are not able to find experienced therapists in the area where they live. We offer individualized programs over multiple days for families who are able to visit New York City. The length of the customized program and its goals are based upon a telephone evaluation and data collected from parents and teachers who know the child well.

Consultations to School Districts and Other Therapists

We offer training workshops for therapists and school mental health professionals. We discuss our intervention methods and other strategies that have been reported in clinical research literature. These workshops and consultations are tailored to meet the needs of therapists, individual professionals in school districts, or entire teams of school district professionals.

Contact Us

For more information about any of our Camp Courage or selective mutism programs, please contact our care management team at 646-754-5000 or email us at