Effective support for selective mutism in mainstream secondary education
Working as an LSA with a very anxious Year 8 pupil S in mainstream secondary during music lessons. He has ASD and selective mutism diagnosis and suspected PDA. He had not spoken a word in year 7 drama lessons. After noticing how good his receptive language skills and writing skills were I suggested to him that I would ask the teacher if I could help choose his group for year 8 drama and get her agreement that S could simply watch and not be under any pressure to 'act'-but he would be happy to write a script as his contribution. Having noticed a group of about 5 sensitive children who always made an effort to talk to S even if he did not reply (during lessons/breaktimes/lunch etc) the teacher readily agreed and chose these pupils for S's group (thus avoiding some very boisterous peers who S visibly recoiled from when in close proximity).
After one lesson of watching with no pressure to contribute S amazed us all by taking the part of a police interviewer and enthusiastically speaking his part for 10 minutes-including vigorous debate with his group regarding the plot of their drama project. S contributed vocally to all the drama lessons from now on -in the same group and benefiting from a small cue card written by me in 4 different colours to remind him which scene was next.
I think with ASD and selective mutism it is vital to think of ways in which the very specific local environment of classroom and pupils can be managed to lower an individual's anxiety levels-often allowing them to contribute to lessons where they had previously felt too overwhelmed to access the lesson .
This small group of pupils also became S's group for P.E.-resulting in much greater engagement in the lessons. Again a key factor was the P.E teacher taking onboard the LSA suggestion regarding pupils most likely to work well with S and not pressure him to talk or say 'What's your problem?'etc - unfortunately a common occurrence due to children's ignorance regarding Selective Mutism.
Age Range (select all that apply) : 11-14
Approximate number on roll : 600-1000
Region : London
School Website : Wimbledon College
Name of person submitting information : Gabriel Wall
Role of person submitting information : Teaching Assistant