Many children whose first language is not English go through a “silent period” when they first come into school in this country. This may last for several months but eventually these children do begin to speak at school. Priscilla Clarke’s strategies listed below offer advice on ways to help children through the silent period:
Clarke, Priscilla (1992) English as a Second Language in Early Childhood
A few children don’t manage the transition from silence to speech in spite of staff using the strategies suggested for children in the silent period. This small percentage of children is sometimes referred to as “selectively mute”; there is no physical reason for their lack of speech but in particular environments, for instance when at school, they do not speak. By contrast in other environments, for instance when at home with family members or friends, they are quite happy to talk.
Further information on selective mutism is available in the SEN section.