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Selective Mutism

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 13 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) which organisations received funding from his Department to research selective mutism in each of the last five financial years; and how much each organisation received in each year; (76375)

(2) which organisations received funding from his Department to support (a) teachers and (b) parents in their work with children exhibiting selective mutism in each of the last five financial years; and how much each organisation received in each year;

(3) what guidance is provided by his Department on selective mutism to (a) local education authorities, (b) schools and (c) teacher training institutions;

(4) what assessment his Department has made of the incidence of selective mutism among children under the age of 16 years; and if he will make a statement;

(5) what assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of the provision of information to teachers and parents about assisting children who exhibit selective mutism; and if he will make a statement.

The Department has not commissioned any recent research or produced guidance specifically on selective mutism, although it is one of a number of communication difficulties addressed in our Early Support publication "Speech and language difficulties", published in 2005.

Where a child is exhibiting selective mutism in a school or early years setting we would normally expect early referral to a speech and language therapist and/or psychologist. Selective mutism often appears associated with anxiety, and thus may be linked to a number of factors. Patience and understanding, coupled with measured interventions designed to build the child's confidence, appear to have beneficial effects, as does reducing pressure on the child.

The Department has not made any assessment of the incidence of selective mutism, or any assessment of the adequacy of information available. In 2002-03 and 2003-04 we gave grants of £30,000 and £2,000 respectively to help the Selective Mutism Information and Research Association (SMIRA) produce an instructional video entitled "Silent Children—Approaches To Selective Mutism" and an associated booklet.