In areas with inadequate care for children with selective mutism, families are feeling isolated, according to a mother. Joanna Turner’s four-year-old daughter was diagnosed with this anxiety-based mental health disorder but received no treatment plan upon discharge. Turner emphasizes the need for standardized care across the country.
For Turner, it was alarming that her daughter Lucy only communicated with her and her husband, not even speaking to her grandparents or nursery staff. They visited the GP and were referred to a speech therapist, but were eventually discharged without a treatment plan. The assessment and cognitive check showed no issues, leaving Turner feeling shocked by the lack of a plan.
Due to the absence of options, Turner had to pay for private therapy, which has cost over £2,500. In an attempt to create equality in care nationwide, Turner initiated a petition that already has nearly 40,000 signatures. She believes that differing local health boards offer distinct levels of care because there is no standardized care pathway.
Turner stresses the isolation and confusion that families face without treatment. She urges for change and the establishment of an equal and standardized care pathway, irrespective of location. With victory, she hopes to witness invested care pathways and support for individuals affected by selective mutism and their families who struggle with isolation and hindrances in their personal growth.
The Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon, and Wiltshire Integrated Care Board, responsible for offering care in the area, claims to provide support through routine assessments and various approaches. Selective mutism is diagnosed according to stringent guidelines, including the criterion of not speaking to specific individuals for at least one month.
Turner wishes for professionals to collaborate with families and schools, implementing crucial techniques and supporting the child in unison. Additionally, she believes it is important for individuals with selective mutism to receive community accessibility and counseling in the form of therapies and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Emma Manley, another parent with a child affected by selective mutism, can attest to the necessity of Turner’s petition and emphasizes the lack of recognition and information about the condition.
Lindsay Whittington, co-ordinator at the Selective Mutism Information and Research Association, describes how individuals with selective mutism are able to speak fluently in certain situations but remain silent in others, often appearing frozen or displaying a blank expression when expected to talk. Early intervention has a positive prognosis, improving long-term mental health outcomes.
Despite the absence of a documented care pathway, the care board in the area claims to have multiple approaches in place to support individuals with selective mutism. These include joint assessments between health visitors and early years settings, as well as checks within schools to address health concerns that may prompt further assessment.
In an effort to ensure consistent information, the board is currently developing a position statement on selective mutism. The aim is to assist professionals, parents, and caregivers in accessing guidance and support for the condition.