October is Selective Mutism Awareness Month, and so I wanted to talk today about Situational or Selective Mutism (or SM as it is often known) and add my voice to those tweeting and blogging about SM this month to try and help raise awareness.
As some of you may already know, Tessie, in my book What I Couldn’t Tell You suffers with SM, and I did a good deal of research on SM before I wrote the book and wrote in Tessie’s voice so that I could make her voice as authentic as possible.
So how did I come to hear about Selective Mutism?
I’d never heard of SM until I happened to listen to a young woman, Sheri Pitman, speaking about her past experiences of SM on the radio. Sheri was chatty and bubbly as she talked about how she had overcome her SM, but it became clear in the course of the interview that whilst she was suffering with SM Sheri hadn’t spoken outside of her own home for 9 years. I admit that I was completely shocked in hearing this, and having never heard of Selective Mutism before, I wanted to find out more.
Have you heard of SM?
SM isn’t a particularly well-known condition, although statistics shows that 1 in 140 children will suffer with it. If you think about the number of students in your school then the chances are there will be some students in your own school community who may well be suffering with it, and this is why it’s so important to raise awareness.
Research for writing about SM
After I heard Sheri on the radio I immediately wanted to find out more about SM, and so I went away and did some research. The research I did showed me quite quickly that all the assumptions I’d made about Sheri and why she hadn’t spoken for 9 years outside of her house were wrong. I learned that SM is caused by severe social anxiety in unfamiliar, most usually public, situations and settings. I learned that it is not a choice. The anxiety causes the person with SM to be unable to speak. This explains why someone with SM will be able to speak comfortably and at ease with their close family when they are at home, but find themselves unable to when they are outside of their home.
Why did I write What I Couldn’t Tell You from Tessie’s point of view?
Having done my research I was struck by the idea that a first person narrative could give someone with SM, someone like Sheri, a voice in the outside world that she didn’t otherwise have. I loved the idea that a fictional narrative could do this – the power of a story – and this is really where my story, and the character of Tessie, began…
If you’d like to find out more about SM and be in with a chance to win one of three signed copies of What I Couldn’t Tell You then please do click on the link HERE which will take you to the giveaway on my website…