About Us

VOICE was created by a group of parents and ex-sufferers of selective mutism. Together we bring the passion and desire to spread awareness and offer support for all who are affected by this condition.

It is our Vision to spread awareness about selective mutism to all parents, ECE and school teachers, Plunket nurses and child health professionals in New Zealand. We aim to offer a supportive community to families and all those affected by selective mutism.

Toni Pakula is the driving force and co-ordinator of Voice, with a huge passion for promoting awareness and empathic understanding of selective mutism. Toni is Mum of three, and has been homeschooling her two oldest children for the past six months …

“My daughter, now 8, was diagnosed as having selective mutism at age 6 after failing to speak consistently at school for more than 8 months. My son, aged 7, also appears to have SM tendencies but has never been diagnosed as such.

We have been on a real journey after discovering that our daughter’s silence around people was more than just ‘shyness’, and our biggest battle has been educating other people, including the school. Without all-round support and intervention the tunnel can seem very bleak and dark.

I found that most people, even GPs and CAMHS have often never heard of selective mutism, and this doesn’t help with accessing resources and support. It breaks my heart when I hear stories of children and their parents struggling and not being able to get the support or understanding they so desperately need.

My drive and passion for VOICE is to help others touched by or suffering from SM to give them a place of resource and support, and an understanding they are not alone.

Kathryn Harper is the designer and writer for Voice – drawing­ on her own childhood experiences and passion for clear, creative communication. She is Mum of two non-SM children, but suffered herself as a child and into her twenties …

“I was diagnosed with ‘’voluntary mutism’ when I was 4 years old, a number of years before today’s insight that selective mutism is not a choice, and that people like me literally cannot make a sound in select situations. As a result I grew up feeling misunderstood and struggling to make sense of the many questions that came my way. 

Selective mutism developed into eating disorders, depression and alcohol dependency before I started to give myself the help and attention I needed in my mid-twenties.

Today I am excited about clearly expressing myself in many ways – and I work as a writer, illustrator and designer with a passion for speaking my truth. I find it crazy that there are still many misconceptions about SM today, which is why working with Voice appealed so much. I love the idea that through our clear and effective messaging Voice will be able to help many children feel heard and understood in the way I used to long to feel myself.

Rachel Dell is in charge of fundraising and accounts for Voice – loving the opportunity to help raise awareness so that other parents and involved professionals can recognise when a child is ‘more than shy’. Rachel has two children and a background in marketing, IT, project management and governance within the tourism, education and financial services sectors.

“I discovered what selective mutism was when trying to understand why my nearly 3 year old daughter (at the time) behaved and communicated completely differently at home than when in social situations.  Upon also learning that no speaking had happened at a pre-school for nearly a year, a psychologist diagnosed selective mutism. 

Ever since, it has been an every day focus for me to help and support my daughter, who started a new pre-school after a long break and who has recently transitioned to school with help from her teachers, Special Education and CAMHS and is exceeding expectations of everyone who has been involved and slowly developing her language in the classroom. 

I wish I had been more aware as a first time mother as to what selective mutism is, and this is why I jumped at the chance to be involved with Voice.”

Anna Brooks is in charge of researching and studying selective mutism for Voice – using her skills and passion to bring greater awareness and scientific understanding to SM. Anna suffered from selective mutism as a child.

“I suffered from SM back in the eighties at a time when it was not even recognized as a “thing”. Therefore I received no formal treatment or diagnosis. I was considered “over it” by the end of primary school however, little did I know that the underlying, undiagnosed anxiety would still be with me.

Fast forward to my twenties. This is when I decided to do some online searches – I was a PhD student and researching was my nature. It was only then that I discovered that SM was a thing- a childhood syndrome, a diagnosable condition. What shocked me though was after all these years, still, so little was known about SM and how best to treat it.

It touched me deeply to find it was not overly common to get through SM with no intervention and was inspired to do anything I could to provide support and hope that there can indeed be a life after SM”


    KatHarperAbout Us