I thought I’d pop in before the launch of my latest book to let you know a little about the condition that Imogen suffered from. In The Girl Without A Voice, I tell the story of a young girl who was diagnosed with Selective Mutism. Myself and a couple of other teachers had to work extremely hard to enable us to be able to unlock the secrets that prevented Imogen from speaking in public.
The condition, thought to be brought on by a trauma or extreme stress, is often mistaken for the child ‘refusing’ to speak. This isn’t so. The child will usually speak freely to family and in the home, but in social situations such as school, they simply loose the ability and their speech is literally frozen. Over time, the child will learn which situations provoke the mutism and will do all they can to avoid them. This can result in suddenly refusing to go to school or absconding and acting out of character.
Most children will eventually work through the mutism, and with gentle support and guidance or therapy, can come out the other end with no lasting damage. Some though, can remain timid or nervous for many years. Despite the reasons for Imogen’s SM, there is no evidence to suggest that children suffering from the disorder come from abusive or neglectful circumstances. A child from a loving, supportive family is just as likely to develop the condition as any other. The stress trigger could be something as simple as overhearing an argument, or a belief that a parent might leave the home and not return. In fact, some children have been known to develop the condition simply because their parents are timid or socially awkward.
The main thing is, that it is a recognised condition and can certainly be treated. If anyone has any worries or would like further help or advice about the subject, I would suggest checking out the NHS website who list some great practitioners on the subject. Also, the Selective Mutism Information and Research Association share some brilliant insight into the condition. The Girl Without A Voice is released in June and I do hope you all enjoy it. Speak soon, Casey xx