Book Reviews

Gail Goetze Kervatt is a reading specialist in a public elementary school. In her self-published, spiral bound book, she recounts, through narrative and copies of her session notes, the compelling story of how she and other school personnel devised and implemented a treatment plan for Nick, a selectively mute child, during his early elementary school years.

Through extensive research on the topic and collaboration with a psychologist, members of Nick's educational team, led by Ms. Kervatt, embarked on a systematic therapy plan of incremental desensitization which involved Nick, his teachers, classmates, and mother in the process. This book reads much more like a journal than it does a clinical account, and I was instantly caught up in Nick's journey to break out of his silence. I was awed by Ms. Kervatt's immeasurable patience and creativity, as well as her sensitivity to the subtle nuances of Nick's communicative fears and efforts. A hallmark of the treatment was Nick's own personal goal-setting; the very slow but sure progression of these goals over the seven month treatment period provides a window into Nick's fears and efforts to overcome the barriers placed on him by this frustrating and debilitating condition.

Beyond being a very interesting story, THE SILENCE WITHIN will serve as a useful guidebook for others who struggle to help selectively mute children. While the author acknowledges that each child is different and makes no claims that this program will work for everyone, I'm sure SLPs, teachers, and parents will find ideas they can try, plus encouragement to keep trying.

Pat Mervine, SLP (

Your book has helped open the teachers' eyes. Thank you for your patience and helpful ideas. -- Betsy, Parent

February 4, 2016

Every teacher should be required to read and have this book available to them as a continued reference. Parents get your copies, this is more than a reference, this is as close as you can get to the methods an SM therapist can offer provided you can find one.
If more teachers can be as observant and willing as Gail Kervatt to go the extra mile to help a child with Selective Mutism then this problem would not persist past a certain age.

This book has some very innovative and practical techniques to get the SM Child to meet milestones in a fun and structured manner. Because her methods are not forced and are quite natural, the child is able to incorporate them willingly into their daily regimen.

Having instant access to their progress by way of charts, SM Children can focus on more challenging goals as easier ones get completed. A sense of accomplishment begins to build self-confidence, thereby reducing uncertainties, anxiety, and stress. The milestone categories as suggested in "The Silence Within", seem to allow the SM Child to begin to predict the cause-and-effect their behaviors can have in social settings, thereby naturally allowing them the effort to elicit a positive response from speaking.

A million thanks to Gail Kervatt for helping my daughter get her voice back.

By M Stern

Feb 27, 2010

This publication has the answers for parents and teachers of young children who exhibit what is thought to be only extreme shyness. The teacher/author identifies this common but rarely identified social anxiety disorder, and outlines specific techniques than can be used in the home and classroom setting. My six-year old grandson has been selectively mute since age two. When interacting with adults, other than his immediate family, he becomes stiff, squeezes his eyes shut and becomes mute. I used this term to describe this behavior before I became of aware of this disorder. Ms. Kervatt's recounting of her experience with a young student is the story of my grandson too. I have shared this information with his parents, who are relieved to know that help is available for him. The information in this book should be provided to teachers, counselors and school psychologists nationwide. Recognition and resolution of this disorder is essential in order to help these children whose 'silence within' is preventing these otherwise normal, capable and healthy children from fully realizing their potential, now and as they grow into their adult lives.

Carrie Smithsen-Maxwell

December 2, 2003

The Silence Within is an excellent source for teachers, parents and other professionals interested in reading about a wonderful case history of a child with Selective Mutism. In working with Nicholas, Gail Kervatt was incredibly insightful in the tactics/techniques she chose and based these on her astute instincts and general interest in helping Nicholas overcome his silence. Throughout the months she worked with Nicholas, Gail was able to develop an excellent school treatment program that was 'anxiety lowering' in purpose but enabled for progression of communication. This was a perfect plan for Nicholas and can be applied to many other children suffering in silence.

Thank you Gail for an excellent book that touches on so many important aspects of working with and accommodating the child with Selective Mutism!

Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum SMG~Can

April, 2011

I just finished reading both The Silence Within and the Supplement to the Silence Within. I would like first to express my deepest gratitude for your dedication and patience teaching a student who has SM and to generously sharing your information so others could benefit from your experience.  I have a son who was diagnosed with SM last year during kindergarten.  Your descriptions of the student mirror our experience with my son. He was always a bit reserved in social settings.  He used to tell people he was "shy" and then we noticed changes in his verbal exchanges at the start of kindergarten. He has demonstrated progress going from completely mute to whispering to a select few students to now a year later, whispering to all students in his class.

With Much Gratitude,
Kelly Ryder

Best book ever!, November 20, 2003
Reviewer: Debbie from Midwest, USA

This book is really a "must have" for anyone who is looking for information on Selective Mutism. I purchased this book and read it from cover to cover the day I received it. I also shared it with the Principal & teachers at my child's school. They had never heard of Selective Mutism. After reading it, they understood. We applied the program Gail used in this book to help my child to overcome Selective Mutism. It is an easy read with laymans terms; not medical terms.

Best book I have purchased & read in a long time!!

It really does work, November 18, 2003
Reviewer: Beth from Calhoun, GA

This book is an excellent resource for teachers, school administrators and parents. It guides parents and teachers through the long process of gradually lowering a selectively mute child's anxiety so that the child IS ABLE to talk at school. This type of therapy is so important for a child suffering from Selective Mutism. My child and his teacher are currently using this book as a guide for a similar program. After only 3 weeks, he began whispering to the teacher. The program detailed in this book really does work. Parents of SM children, buy this book and give it to your child's teacher. Show it to school administrators and anyone who comes in contact with SM children. I highly recommend this book for all who know a child suffering from selective mutism, shyness, or any other form of anxiety.

Teacher, November 19, 2003
Reviewer: Erinn C. Jarger from NJ, United States

As a third grade teacher, currently working with a student with selective mutism, I use Mrs. Kervatt's book on an almost-daily basis. It is easy to read, follow, and implement. I highly recommend it!

Sorry I only meant to reply to say thank you, but it's nice to be able to share some thoughts etc. with someone who understands and obviously cares. Once again, thanks very much and well done.........

Regards, Wendy

Your book has been an enormous help, partly because of the very specific way in which you documented how you worked with this child, but mostly because it allowed the teachers to see another child described with SM and because you arent' the "expert" on SM, you were the one willing to try to work with this child! As a parent, it is hard to keep hearing, "but I don't have the expertise to work with this. Thank you - for working with this child and also for documenting it! I would highly recommend this book for anyone who needs to give their school more information about SM........


Gail Kervatt: The Silence Within 

The reviewed study is considerable more than a journal article: Gail Kervatt, teacher and reading specialist at a public school in New Jersey, one day was confronted with Nick, a boy with selective mutism. This was a real challenge to her and she decided to write down her experience in working with the six year old boy.

The author accurately describes the weekly changing goals in the fostering work with Nick. At first one clearly realizes the behavioral orientation of this work, but then it becomes also clear, that Kervatt more and more switches to formulate the goals together with the child and even to evaluate them together with him. In this sense, the work becomes a form of cognitive behavior modification. Most impressing to my opinion is, that the fostering process is not a clinical study, but takes place under the school's every day conditions. Stimulus fading procedures are shown in a very illustrative manner. Finally, some of the classical educational methods prove their always valid significance (e. g. when Nick rehearses a puppet play or when he begins to learn short songs and verses). More over, it is the empathic relationship between Kervatt and the child which seems to be a main factor of efficacy.

The Silence Within is a single case study. If they look for a good example, proving that a selectively mute child can be fostered under the conditions of a regular school setting by a fully involved teacher, they find an interesting resource of ideas in Kervatt's report.

Dr. Reiner Bahr, Ph.D., SLP

I do also see all the major improvements we are making and that is hopeful to me. Our daughter started mouthing words to the remedial teacher this week! YES!. . .


I have a selectively mute daughter who is in her second grade. I bought your books and read through without stopping. I should thank you for this very practical book and it lights my life.  By reading your book, I see you putting your heart into helping Nick. Lucky him! I wish all school teachers would have the patience and willingness to understand and help SM kids.