Connor's Journey

The WELL team heard from Connors dad a few years ago regarding his incredible story and we have been closely in touch ever since. If anyone can relate to Connors Journey and would like to Christopher, please reach out to

Connors Journey

My son Connor had selective mutism from the age of 3 to 9 years old. Selective mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterised by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. This disorder is quite debilitating and painful to the child. Children and adolescents with selective mutism have an actual fear of speaking and of social interactions where there is an expectation to speak and communicate.

For up to 6 years Connor was only able to speak at home, he was unable to speak at school or to any of his wider family.

Connor was referred to a Clinical Psychologist from an early age, at one stage the Clinical Psychologist advised that if it continues until he is 11, then it is possible that Connor would have it for the rest of his life.

My wife and I had attended several meetings with the Clinical Psychologist and attended his school , even sitting in the classroom over several years. One day when I picked him from school I was greeted by the principal and his teacher, they both hugged me and their words were “He has done it, every teacher are walking on air right now” I spoke to Connor in the car and he said “I was in my group and I felt the courage to speak with my teacher, I read my book out loud, I’m really proud of myself”

One of his friends in class told him “I have 5p and I want you to have it as you done really well and I’m glad that I heard your voice”

After 6 years he done it!

From that point on Connors confidence grew, he was discharged from the Clinical Psychologist and started to take part in Football.

In secondary school Connor has a keen interest in politics and from the age of 13 he decided to join the District Community Association in his local area. He helps set up discos and quiz nights for young people.

Now in his 5th year at school he was nominated to take part in a Rotary Youth Leadership development competition. The competition is an opportunity for young people to enhance their communication and teambuilding skills. Students learn life skills, as well as gaining confidence in public speaking and debate.

All school winners in Northern Ireland are interviewed and Connors interview was held in November. Connor made it through to the Zone final and was up against two A Level students from two grammar schools. Connor was interviewed again by 3 panel members and was announced as the winner of the competition. Connor was the youngest winner of the competition at just 16 years of age.
In total 24 students from the island of Ireland were selected for the prize.

The prize was a five day all expenses paid trip, which includes a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Trip starts with a visit to Stormont in Belfast, The European Parliament Office in Dublin, Dáil Eirann and then to Strasbourg. In advance of the trip students will be informed of the current European issues which they will debate, amend, vote and adopt on the EU Parliament.

In February Connor teamed up with the 24 other students in Belfast. They received a private tour of City Hall and a tour of Stormont in which they were able to meet with MLA’s and sit the in the visitor gallery to watch MLA’s in discussions. In Dublin they enjoyed presentations about the EU at the European Parliament Liaison office before being presented with their leadership certificates. They went on tours of the Dáil where they met several politicians, they then flew to Frankfurt for a 3 day visit to Strasbourg. After enjoying a walking tour of the city on arrival, the following day was spent at the European Parliament, debating topical issues with 555 other young Europeans at Euroscola where students got to be MEP for a day. At 16 years old Connor was one of the youngest students to debate at the EU Parliament that day.

From a boy who had selective mutism to now speaking at the EU parliament in front of 555 people is just incredible and my wife and I are so proud of our son.

I’m  happy to share Connors story as I wish to raise awareness of Selective Mutism.

Thank you.

Christopher McVarnock