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PHILADELPHIA, PA - June 20, 2003 /Send2Press Newswire/ -- In the northern suburbs of Philadelphia, families from across the US will learn how to "rid the silence" at the Second Annual SMG-CAN Family Retreat and Conference, hosted by the Selective Mutism Group-Childhood Anxiety Network (SMG-CAN). The event will take place July 11-12, 2003, at the Holiday Inn Select Buck's County, and conclude with a fun and educational family day at Willow Grove Picnics on Sunday July 13, 2003.

Suffering from a debilitating anxiety disorder, children with Selective Mutism (SM) cannot speak in social settings although they can speak normally in comfortable environments - usually at home. For over 90% of these children, mutism is due to severe social anxiety. More common than autism and other well-known disorders, SM is less known and less researched, though SMG-CAN is working to change this.

SM children typically demonstrate mutism in social settings as toddlers, but are assumed to be "just shy". The problem is recognized children enter school, but since SM is not well known or understood, many are still misdiagnosed with autism, learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, or oppositional defiant disorder (silence is misinterpreted as refusal to speak). Some children go years without speaking in the classroom and may be unable to communicate even nonverbally, which is stressful for the child and perplexing to parents and teachers. Without proper treatment, social anxiety may worsen; often leading to social isolation, school dropout, self-medication with drugs/alcohol, inability to seek employment, depression and even suicide. In addition to these tragic outcomes, the cost of misdiagnosed and undertreated anxiety disorders in the US is over $42 billion each year, according to a recent study sponsored by the Anxiety Disorder Association of America.

SMG-CAN, a division of the non-profit Childhood Anxiety Network, Inc., is the premier source of help for families and schools dealing with SM. SMG-CAN educates through its website,, and via online chats, discussion forums, "Being Heard" newsletter, "SM Connections" educational and support program, and advice from childhood anxiety experts.

SM can be overcome with proper treatment, but lack of awareness means families often face years of struggle before finding help. Living with SM can be quite incapacitating, and in the past it was very difficult for families to find resources. "When my daughter showed symptoms of SM, I became aware of the scarcity and inaccuracy of information available," says SMG-CAN co-founder, CEO, and Medical Director, Dr. Elisa Shipon Blum. "I came across a website created by a parent of a child with SM, and knew we needed to take this further, linking families and professionals together to share information. With a great volunteer team, we've grown into an international organization receiving over 350,000 hits per month on our website and hundreds of telephone and e-mail inquiries weekly. It is now easier for parents, treating professionals and school personnel to access accurate, up-to-date information through our website and outreach efforts like our annual retreat."

"This retreat provides a lifeline for people dealing with Selective Mutism; it's the only event of its kind allowing those affected and touched by Selective Mutism to share needed information and support," says Dr. Christine Stanley, Executive Director of SMG-CAN. "When parents and schools fully understand SM, we see real improvement. After last year's retreat with over 220 attendees from across the country, we received reports of children making remarkable progress; families began to see that there was hope and children felt that they were accepted and understood."

Childhood anxiety experts presenting at this year's conference include Dr. Deborah Beidel, co-Director of the Maryland Center for Anxiety Disorders, and Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum, CEO and Executive Medical Director of SMG-CAN, and President/Director of the Selective Mutism Anxiety Research and Treatment Center (SMART Center) in Philadelphia. The SMART Center conducts research on SM, offers therapy for children, consultations and seminars for schools and medical professionals.

Anyone knowing a child diagnosed with SM, or a child who speaks only in select settings, is urged to attend. For more information, please view the conference details at:

Source of news: Selective Mutism Group-Childhood Anxiety Network (SMG-CAN)

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