SMIRA became a UK Registered Charity in 1992, having been set up initially to support families with selectively mute children. This work has since been extended to provide information to health and education professionals involved in the upbringing of such children and young people.
Belonging to SMIRA is not meant to be an alternative to treatment, which may be carried out by a number of different agencies, but it is intended to give those with SM, their parents and professionals an opportunity to feel less isolated and share ideas with others who have experienced similar problems in either home, school or treatment situations.
SMIRA is well-respected both nationally and internationally, with links to other groups and professionals throughout the world. SMIRA operates a very active Facebook group, with members spanning over 50 countries. Within the UK there is an Annual Conference and training opportunities for both professionals and parents.
Meet the Founder
ALICE SLUCKIN O.B.E.
Founder of SMIRA
Alice has been described as the ‘Grande Dame’ of Selective Mutism, and for good reason.
As a Senior Psychiatric Social Worker in Leicester in the 1960’s, Alice came across a small number of children who would not speak in school and was desperate to help them. Her own investigations turned up very little information on elective mutism, as it was then called, and drawing upon her own knowledge of psychology, Alice started using various behavioural techniques to help ease these children into talking. Her first research paper ‘A Behavioural Approach in the Treatment of Selective Mutism’ was published in 1969 and others followed in 1977 and 1991.This behavioural approach has provided the foundation for a great deal of the work by other professionals in the field of SM.
Alice’s interest in Selective Mutism continued after her retirement and in 1992 she brought together a number of Leicestershire parents and interested professionals for a meeting and exchange of information and ideas. This meeting was the springboard for SMIRA, which became a parent support group and a Registered Charity in 1993 and is now the national group we see today.
As Professor Tony Cline has said:
We owe Alice a debt, not only for the innovations she introduced in the 1970’s, but also for her long-standing commitment and determination and perseverance in working in an area where not many professional social workers or psychologists take a great interest, and maintaining that interest and developing this organisation for support, thanklessly well into her retirement and beyond when most of us are willing to work.”
Biddy Baxter MBE DLitt.
Benita Rae Smith MRCSLT, MA
Tony Cline BA, DipPsych., Ph.D
Professor Emeritus (Exeter) Martin Herbert
Meet the Co-ordinator
Lindsay is responsible for the day to day running of SMIRA and is Lead Administrator of the Facebook Group.
She is a founding member of SMIRA and parent of a recovered selectively mute daughter. Lindsay is currently employed by SMIRA on a part time basis.
Shirley was formerly an Agricultural Research Scientist and is now a Secondary School Teacher. She served as a SEND Governor of a primary school for a number of years. Shirley has a daughter in her early twenties who has selective mutism and acute anxiety issues.
Secretary and Deputy Chair
A retired teacher and SENCO, Victoria gained a Master of Arts in Educational Studies from the University of Leicester in 2011, doing research into Selective Mutism in adolescents. A paper on her research can be accessed at:
Victoria is one of those who represent SMIRA at meetings of The Communication Trust and Consortium.
Bob is a Friend of SMIRA, responsible for the day-to-day finances of the organisation and a valued member of the Committee.
Phil is a father of three children the eldest of which was diagnosed with selective mutism in 2007 after 5 years silence in the school setting. Following the advice available his child has since overcome the disorder, and Phil has since dedicated a lot of his spare time to the SMIRA cause online and internationally from his home in Germany. Phil is concerned particularly with the impact on selective mutism of factors such as migration and multi-lingualism. Phil gave the keynote speech at the SMIRA Conference 2015 and continues to advocate on behalf of SMIRA at every opportunity.
Special Needs Teacher
Sarah is a Special Needs teacher at a Secondary School and supports students with a range of needs, including SM, in and out of school. She has held training sessions on SM for other teachers and would like to expand this side of her interest.
Specialist Foster Carer
Anneka is a specialist Foster Carer looking after children with additional needs, including one who is permanently placed. In addition to this she works as a support worker for adults with learning difficulties. Anneka is a parent to two children, one of whom is in recovery from Selective Mutism. In 2013, after leading a successful intervention for her daughter she joined SMIRA’s Facebook admin team aiming to support other parents, share all she had learned from her experience and to help to raise awareness of the condition. She later joined the management committee in 2015.
Anastasia is an Educational Psychologist, currently working with Leicester City Council Educational Psychology Dept.
Primary School Teacher and Parent
Claire has a daughter who was diagnosed with Selective Mutism at the age of 4. She has been a primary school teacher for 16 years and in that time has taught across both Key Stages. Over the course of her career, she has come across a number of children who she believes had SM. As she learned more about SM through SMIRA, and how to support children towards overcoming their SM, she has been able to help them better. She has attended a number of training days and conferences to aid her understanding of SM, and through her role as SMIRA Facebook Admin, aims to give help, hope and support to parents, carers, professionals and SM sufferers.
Educational Psychologist and parent, Claire is an ASD specialist.
Speech & Language Therapist
Susannah is a member of the RCSLT’s Clinical Excellence Network for Selective Mutism.
Catherine has taught all ages in Primary Schools for 23 years and is currently teaching in a Resourced Provision Unit attached to her local Infant School, with children aged 3-7 years old. Her main experience of SM is through her son who went undiagnosed when he began school in 2001 until he was about 7 years old. Because of the lack of awareness about SM, that she encountered back then, she wants to be able to use her experiences to help and support others. She and her family have also recently worked with several branches of the media to raise awareness of SM.
Gabi Bateman is Mum to 4 Children, 3 of whom are on the Autistic Spectrum. Gabi’s eldest daughter is now 16 and recovering from Selective Mutism. It was about 9 years ago that Gabi saw a programme called “The House of Tiny Tearaways” and saw a small child with Selective Mutism. Gabi had always had concerns about her eldest daughter from an early age but did not back then have any awareness of Selective Mutism, but eventually found SMIRA. The hardest bit has been raising awareness in school, amongst teachers and getting her daughter the support she needed, Gabi says. There was even an Educational Psychologist who told Gabi and Tony that Selective Mutism was just an “American Thing”. Gabi and Tony’s daughter has just passed all her GCSE’s and has just started 6th form studying for her A levels.
Lindsay Whittington, Phil Thomason, Claire Neal and Anneka Saggers are also Facebook admins.