This week, I was very lucky to be able to attend Selective Mutism training at City University, delivered by Anita McKiernan. The training covered the definition, assessment and treatment of this complex condition, using the Selective Mutism Resource Manual, a fantastic resource for working with this group of children. It was a fascinating day, which left me feeling motivated and excited to get cracking.
Selective Mutism is an anxiety disorder; a severe phobia of speaking in certain situations. Often, nursery or school are included in the places on which children fear speaking. When children with this condition feel there is an expectation for them to speak, the fight or flight response is triggered and their cortisol and adrenaline levels shoot up. This can persist throughout the school day, leaving the child feeling terrified and exhausted. This is often followed by distress and meltdowns once they get home. It is clear to see how this condition can have serious impacts on a child, and can lead to wider mental health difficulties if unresolved. This is not the same as shyness; these children can be very confident and extroverted in other situations.
Treatment for these children requires careful planning and well co-ordinated collaboration between child, family and education staff. Much of my work with late talkers focuses on reducing pressure and anxiety, and making communication calm and fun; these are also core values in Selective Mutism treatment. I am thoroughly looking forward to working to empower these wonderful children and their families.