What Are the Lived Experiences of Parents’ Understanding and Supporting Their Child with Selective Mutism? An Exploratory Study

Prof Doc Thesis

Douglas, C. 2021. What Are the Lived Experiences of Parents’ Understanding and Supporting Their Child with Selective Mutism? An Exploratory Study. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.89w5z
AuthorsDouglas, C.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Selective Mutism (SM) is a relatively rare phenomenon, typically arising in early childhood. However, the impact can be severe and widespread and without effective intervention, it can persist into adulthood. Despite this, the phenomenon is largely misunderstood, and access to support for children and their families and guidance for school staff and supporting professionals is scarce, delaying assessment and intervention. Research is also limited and largely consists of quantitative studies and clinical case studies, evaluating the impact of interventions, rather than exploring the views of those who have lived the phenomenon.
This research aimed to provide parents with a unique opportunity to share their lived experience of understanding and supporting their child with SM. In particular, their experience of the onset and impact of SM, experience of support, particularly within their child’s educational setting, and how they have coped and maintained their own wellbeing. The study adopted a qualitative design with semi-structured interviews. Six parents with a child between 3- and 7-years-old with a diagnosis of SM were interviewed. The researcher adopted a critical realist epistemological stance and used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to interpret the data.
Six superordinate themes were identified across the participants: ‘Complex Onset’, ‘Pervasive Impact’, ‘Available and Helpful Sources of Support’, ‘Challenges in Accessing Support’, ‘Parent Taking on the Role of an Advocate’, and ‘Parental Coping Strategies’. Parents attributed SM to a combination of biological and environmental factors and reported a detrimental impact on various aspects of their child’s life and on their own wellbeing. Access to support was inconsistent and dependent on the understanding of school staff and professionals and available resources. The parents appeared resilient, adopting various coping mechanisms. Through active dissemination, these findings have the potential to improve the understanding of SM and the practice of school staff and professionals, including Educational Psychologists.

KeywordsSelective Mutism; parents’ lived experiences; educational setting; school staff; Educational Psychologists
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.89w5z
File Access Level
Publication dates
Online01 Oct 2021
Publication process dates
Submitted19 Jul 2021
Deposited01 Oct 2021
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