Selective Mutism

Selective mutism (SM) is an anxiety disorder where an adult or child is unable to speak in certain social situations. This is a freeze response which is accompanied by feelings of anxiety or panic. Selective mutism affects about 1 in 140 young children and often has associated difficulties including wider social anxieties or additional speech and language difficulties which can lead to challenges in school and in the development of life skills (source).

The development of the Manchester Selective Mutism Multi Agency Care Pathway has been a collaborative approach between Educational Psychology, Speech and Language Therapy, Child and Parents Service and Child and Adolescence Mental Health Services to support SM in school age children. Guidance on support is structured over three levels and information on this can be found on the Manchester schools hub page.

How schools can support

The good school guide discuss the importance for all staff at school to be aware of a child with selective mutism to ensure a consistent and calm reaction to any social speech by a child with SM. Their pages also highlight some ways teachers ad TA's can support children with SM in school: 

  • Place an emphasis on activities that do not involve spoken language, such as gesture, writing, silent reading, and drawing.
  • Allow the child to communicate by other means such as via the computer. 
  • Place the child in small groups for classroom tasks. A child with selective mutism normally benefits from being in a mainstream class, and from working and playing with other children.
  • Practice a gradual merging-in approach, when the child is playing happily with a friend.


SMiRA is a UK charity which offers information and support to families and professionals supporting children and young people with selective mutism. SMiRA have produced an advice for parents webpage and well as multiple resources including advice sheets for parents, cares and teachers at early years/primary and secondary level which cover the do's and dont's of ensuring an anxiety-free environment for CYP with selective mutism. 

Additionally, the Selective Mutism Association’s have an Educators’ Toolkit which provides information, tips, and strategies for educators working with children diagnosed with selective mutism

Leicestershire city council have produced a resource pack for schools and parents 

Sheffield children's NHS foundation trust have also published information around supporting a child who has selective mutism including tips on what's to 'do' and 'say' and a training video for parents, carers and teaching staff on Selective Mutism – what is it and what helps?

Last updated: 09/05/2024