Skip to content

Selective mutism

Selective mutism (SM) is used as a term to describe children and young people (CYP) who are able to talk comfortably to some people, such as family members and close friends, but are silent or unable to talk freely when other people are present.

There is no guarantee that CYP who have SM will overcome it. But with the right support from home and school, they can work through it. Without this support and a united, consistent approach, CYP with SM will experience unnecessarily high levels of anxiety on a daily basis.


Practical advice for parents/carers, young people, professionals and assistants working in education, health, social work, leisure and care settings in areas served by Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT). This includes: Thanet, Canterbury, Sandwich, Faversham, Herne Bay, Whitstable, Dartford, Gravesham, Maidstone, Swanley, Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells

Persistent lack of communication, despite being able to talk freely in some situations, creates feelings of anxiety, frustration and inadequacy, both for the individuals and those supporting them. Training will give you an understanding of what causes CYP to withdraw from communication or become silent in certain situations (selective mutism) and help you provide appropriate support.

Please access online training sessions as recommended in the table below. Sessions can be accessed at your own pace and as many times as you like. We advise downloading and saving or printing off the accompanying handout packs in advance.

Early years Primary School Secondary and beyond
Session one:
Understanding selective mutism
Session two:
Effective, round-the-clock support
Session three:
Implementing a small-steps programme
Session four:
Generalisation and transitions
Session five:
Additional considerations for secondary+

Many of the handouts from the training sessions have been sourced, with permission, from the ‘The Selective Mutism Resource Manual’ (2016) by Maggie Johnson and Alison Wintgens. Available at Speechmark Publications:

Family support group meetings

What are selective mutism family support group meetings?

Our family group meetings are a wonderful opportunity to communicate with other parents/carers of CYP who have SM, to share ideas and discuss solutions. Parents/carers report that meetings are invaluable and have had a significant impact on their CYP’s progress.

Meetings are held via video-chat and facilitated by a specialist speech and language therapist. Following completion of the above relevant training sessions to learn about the nature of SM, parents/carers and family members of CYP with SM are invited to sign up for our family group meetings.

What happens at a selective mutism family support group meeting?

Meetings last for approximately two hours with a short mid-way break. We ask those who are comfortable to share a positive experience about their CYP, followed by a question or concern they would like the group to consider. Once all questions have been received, we discuss them in turn. We find that the advice for one CYP is usually relevant to most of the group!

Participation is completely voluntary. Attendees are welcome to join the group just to listen with their video and microphones off. They can also ask a family member or friend to accompany them on the call. Just let us know what you need!

Who can access family groups?

Our virtual family support group meetings can be accessed by any family members within the KCHFT catchment area who have completed the above training. This includes: Thanet, Canterbury, Sandwich, Faversham, Herne Bay, Whitstable, Dartford, Gravesham, Maidstone, Swanley, Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Well. Your CYP does not need to be referred or open to the service in order for you to access our family support group meetings.

How do you access family groups?

An email is sent out to family members on our distribution list ahead of the meeting and those that wish to attend request an invite. Attendees are welcome to discuss any anxieties about attending with the hosting therapist at this point. You will need an adequate broadband signal in order to attend via the Microsoft Teams invitation link.

If you’ve completed the above training and would like to be added to the family group distribution list, please fill in and send the attached booking form to your local therapy team on the details below. You can request to be removed from the distribution list whenever you like and your details will not be shared outside the speech and language therapy team.

East Kent

North Kent

West Kent


The Children’s Speech and Language Therapy Service offers comprehensive online training sessions that are open to everyone in the KCHFT boundary; this may be all you need to turn things around and a referral to the service may not be necessary.

You are welcome to seek a referral for further speech and language therapy support if:

  • You are concerned that your CYP has additional difficulties with speech, language or communication development – you’ve noticed they have some difficulty understanding what you say or expressing themselves, even within their comfortable inner circle.
  • You have accessed the above training, but cannot reach agreement about the nature of the CYP’s difficulties or appropriate strategies to help.
  • You have accessed the above training and have tried to implement a programme at school or nursery, but little or no progress is being made after two terms of input.

Intervention for CYP with SM within KCHFT focuses on advisory support to parents, educational staff and professionals through regular joint planning meetings. This is because parents and school staff are in the best position to help widen children and young people’s talking circles.

To refer please see our Children's Therapies referral form.

Useful websites and further support
0800 228 9765

Facebook groups

SMIRA – Selective Mutism Information and Research Association

A Facebook group with free downloads, info packs and chat groups

SM Space Café

A Facebook group for young people and adults who have selective mutism

Your stories