Care team for children who are afraid to speak (UMCU)

How does your work help to shape the world of tomorrow?

Our team at the Selective Mutism Care Programme focuses on children who suffer from severe anxiety disorder. These children – often young children – have good verbal skills and talk at home. However, in other situations, such as school, they are afraid to do so. They say nothing, mostly for long periods of time, stretching to months or even years. As it impedes communication with teachers and classmates, these children are unable to participate sufficiently and their development is impeded. It is important that every child develops healthily, feeling free to talk, play, work together with others and learn. By providing good care to children and their parents while the child is still young, we help contribute to their world of tomorrow.

Our team consists of Maretha de Jonge (healthcare psychologist), Hilde van Braam van Vloten-Hairwassers (clinical psychologist), Fleur Wever (nurse practitioner) and Marieke Ermers (paediatric and adolescent psychiatrist, not in photo). Our team also includes paediatric and adolescent psychologists and consultants from the Psychiatry department and the Fritz Redl School.

What does your work contribute to society? How does it impact me?

Healthcare is very valuable. We therefore take great care in advancing it. Our team members have developed a blended healthcare programme, i.e. a combination of online information and treatment by a professional. The parents, school and other important parties in the child’s environment play an intensive role in the treatment process. We are continually learning and developing, trying to answer all of the questions people have about selective mutism. We conduct targeted research into efficient methods of providing quality healthcare and information. We provide the right care to children and families so that they can get by under their own steam.

We all play a role in both the diagnosis and treatment of children and adolescents as well as giving guidance to parents, schools and other parties involved. As we are a multidisciplinary team, we all view the problem from the perspective of our specialist fields, although we work together closely to realise a shared vision and approach.

What is your dream? What do you want to achieve in the next 5–10 years?

Some children we are able to cure quickly, while others can suffer complaints for years. What works perfectly for one child can have no effect on another. Our dream is to give the right care to all of these different children. In five years’ time, we hope to have developed the care programme to provide suitable care to all, especially young people with long-term problems. In ten years, we’d like to better understand why some children develop faster than others. We strive for innovative, effective and personalised care and a society in which every child can flourish according to their individual abilities and opportunities. That’s our dream.