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Quiet world of 'chatterbox' girl from Kent

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by Graham Tutthill

At home, Megan Coleman is a right little chatterbox.

A bright 11-year-old, she enjoys playing with her friends,
belongs to a dancing school and is a member of a cheerleading

And she has just been awarded a grammar school place.

But outside her home, and away from her immediate family, Megan
finds it almost impossible to talk to anyone else.

Megan has selective mutism, an anxiety condition which gives her
a fear of her voice being heard in public.

It started when she was four, but now it is beginning to

Using a Sliding In programme, speech therapist Miriam Jemmett
has been helping Megan speak to a few friends at school, her
teacher Mark Cornell and teaching assistant Carol Johnson.

Now, in class, when Mr Cornell asks a question, Megan's hand
goes up, and in a very quiet voice comes the answer.

For Megan, it’s a huge step, and one that millions of television
viewers saw her take when she featured in a fascinating and moving
documentary which was screened earlier this year.

A special group was formed at St Martin’s Primary School for
Megan and her friends to help them communicate with each other,
holding sessions in their lunchbreaks.

"Megan has helped other children who find it difficult to talk
because they are shy," said Mrs Johnson. "She now talks to her
friends in class and takes messages to other teachers. All the
children in the class have supported her. She has a lot more

"It’s been a positive journey, and one that is still

Megan says she sometimes feels upset that she can't speak to her
friends. She forms the words in her head, but they just won't come

She also hopes that her change of school might help her overcome
her anxiety.

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