Thursday, 19 July 2012

Silent Voices: Listening to Young People with Selective Mutism

Guest post by Victoria Roe, (B. Phil. Ed., MA) Vice-Chair of SMIRA (Selective Mutism Information and Research Association)

Victoria Roe
How can I listen to the experiences of young people with Selective Mutism, when they are unable to speak to strangers? That was the problem I faced in doing research for an MA at the University of Leicester in 2010.
Children with Selective Mutism (SM) speak confidently in some situations, but remain silent in others, usually outside the home. SM often starts in early chiIdhood, but, if left untreated, may persist into adulthood. I have worked with such children as a Primary teacher since 1979 and devised a programme to help them.

Although there had been quite a lot of research into SM, none of it provided accounts from those affected about what it was like to have SM and how they communicated when they could not speak.

Since interviews were not feasible, I devised a questionnaire, which allowed the young people to provide answers by selecting options and writing statements in their own words. Thirty youngsters aged 10-18 from the SMIRA membership took part, which was a good-sized sample for SM research.

The results confirmed the findings of other research, but also added new evidence about where and with whom the youngsters were able to speak and what helped or hindered their communication. Their personality profiles were positive, sensitive and caring, more than quiet and anxious.

Uniquely, the findings revealed the pain, isolation, frustration, courage and determination of the youngsters, the limiting effects of SM upon their lives and their communication strategies, including the use of electronic devices.

Their message was that they do want to talk and are not being rude when remaining silent. Acceptance and understanding helped them overcome SM.

A summary of the findings was published in ‘Young Minds’ (Summer 2012) - to read article click here.

The full research paper is available on the British Education Index at:

1 comment:

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