What is Selective Mutism?

This week's blog has been authored by the brilliant Erica Field. Erica is an EMA Teaching & Learning Adviser (KS2-4), active in Rochdale Borough Council, and she's sharing some important information for parents and teachers about selective mutism.

“Selective mutism is a severe anxiety disorder where a person is unable to speak in certain social situations, such as with classmates at school or to relatives they do not see very often.”

The big thing for schools to be aware of is that this is not a child refusing to talk, it is a child who cannot talk in these circumstances. But talking is not the same as communicating! Some children with selective mutism can use a limited vocabulary (such as ‘no’), gesture, and writing to communicate in schools.
Selective mutism isn’t the same thing as a new arrival EAL child going through a silent period. It also isn’t autism, oppositional defiance disorder, or confirmation that a child has been traumatised.
Schools need to remove the pressure that a child with selective mutism might feel to speak. A child needs to feel supported in their school environment. There are lots of ways to participate in learning and play without speaking. Schools need to be positive, relaxed, and continue to interact with the child.
Selective Mutism can be overcome. The earlier it is spotted, the easier it is to help the child. Home and school need to work together.
Watch a video of our book "Rafa's First Day" about a boy who goes silent on his first day in school. This has been narrated in Polish by St Mary's C of E Primary School!