Not everyone has the confidence to speak everywhere...

Selective Mutism is an anxiety disorder in which affected children speak fluently in some situations but remain silent in others. The condition is known to begin early in life and can be transitory, such as on starting school or being admitted to hospital, but in rare cases it can persist right through a child's school life.

These children usually do not talk to their teachers and may also be silent with their peers, although they do communicate non-verbally. Other combinations of non-speaking can also occur, affecting specific members of the childs family. Often the child has no other identifiable problems and converses freely at home or with close friends. He/she usually makes age-appropriate progressat school in areas where speaking is not required.

The essential feature of Selective Mutism is the persistant failure to speak in specific social situations (e.g. at school, with peers and/or the teacher), despite being able to speak in other, morefamiliar situations.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


The first term Isla spent at her nursery went without event. She went to school happy most mornings, and always came home with a smile on her face, quite often with a painting or a junk model. Her teachers weren't pushing her to talk, but she still went through every day in silence. Once she was at home though I couldn't shut her up! She would sit at the table with her lunch and chatter away about the things that she'd been doing and the children she'd played with. She also enjoyed make believe play in the afternoon, where she would have conversations with Sarah Bear or Baby.

By the end of the term though she hadn't said a word at nursery. We'd ask her why she didn't talk at nursery, and her reply every time was 'I'll talk at nursery when I'm a big girl. I'll be big when I'm 4.' We'd go for days out through the summer holidays, and I noticed that when we were out, more often than not Isla wouldn't talk. She was unable to thank people for things, she couldn't tell waiters what she wanted for dinner, and more upsetting for me, she couldn't speak to my friends or their kids. And when she was acting rude like that I would punish her. She wouldn't get a bun at the bakers because she couldn't say thank you. She would be sat in the corner at soft play because she was being rude. One day I walked her outside in her socks becuase she threw a tantrum over not speaking, kicking and screaming because she wouldn't say please.Once she realised I was taking her to the car she apologised, then I let her go play.

As the 6 week holidays were coming to an end Isla started worrying about going back to nursery. She'd tell me she didn't like going, she didn't like her teachers. She tried lots of excuses for not going, but I told her that I don't always like going to work but I've got to do it. The first day back was the hardest. Isla didn't say a word the whole way to school, and I could feel her body tense when we walked through the school gate. She was greeted with a big smile from her teacher, and although her face didn't change from the fear it showed, she took the teachers hand and went to the waving window to see me off.

After 4 weeks back at nursery her teachers raised their concerns with me. She still hadn't spoken at nursery, though she had started to make silent friendships with a couple of the new starters. They recommended I take her to a Speech and Language drop-in session at the local children's centre. Unsure what to expect when we got there I was pleasantly surprised. I gave our details to a lady, who then sent a speech therapist over to have a chat with us. I told her about Isla's teachers concerns, and what had been happening with Isla's lack of speech, and she immediately told me it sounded like Selective Mutism (SM). She said she'd put in a refferal for Isla to see a speech therapist at a clinic so that she could be properly assessed.

The assessment day came, and Isla's SLT (Speech and Language Therapist) confirmed that she does suffer with SM. And now, we are trying to overcome it.


  1. I am pleased for you that you know what is going on and I hope that you can begin to overcome it together xx

  2. I have been following your story with interest - (I had heard of SM before), and hope that now you have the diagnosis, you can make progress with Isla. Thank you for sharing your "journey".

  3. Thank you for sharing this. Getting a diagnosis for our children for so many conditions can be really hard but it is a passport to better services. I hope that you do overcome it together.

  4. Thank you for your comments, and my apologies for the late reply! It was a releif to find out what it was, so now we're trying small things to help