Exploring the educational views and needs of children with selective mutism

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology

  • Authors:
  • Joseph White


Background: There is a significant paucity of research exploring the views of children and young people with selective mutism (SM), particularly in relation to school and education. Methods/ participants: The first paper describes a systematic literature review of the role which schools hold in supporting children and young people with SM. The second paper describes a mixed-methods research project in which a questionnaire exploring the educational views and needs of selectively mute children was designed (with input from children with SM), deployed, and analysed. Analysis/ findings: Findings from the systematic literature review suggest that schools hold a tripartite role in relation to supporting children with SM, which incorporates understanding and identifying the condition, planning and collaborating with parents and professionals, and providing targeted individual support. This was reflected in the empirical study, where typically, the experience of selectively mute children in school was negatively impacted by a lack of understanding and awareness on behalf of staff. In turn, this resulted in school professionals inadvertently reinforcing pupils’ SM and increasing their anxiety in relation to communication. The empirical study also explored and adopted creative approaches for collecting data from selectively mute participants, with findings informed by both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Conclusion/ implications: The most significant barrier in meeting the needs of selectively mute children in school is staff awareness. Limited understanding of the condition results in delayed identification and impaired support, which in turn contributes to reduced outcomes. Disseminated activities were planned to enhance school professionals’ understanding of SM and facilitate change at a whole-school level.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date31 Dec 2022