“Mom, it’s so hard for me to talk today.”
And my heart shattered into millions of pieces.
Was it my fault?
Is he being bullied in school? Did anyone bother him in class? Was it my fault?
Is it because his father is away? Is it because we moved? Was it my fault?
Is there anything I missed? Being so sick with this pregnancy there must be something I missed. It definitely is my fault.
This happened exactly a year ago, and even though DS’ stutter is much better, it still brings tears to my eyes writing this. All the websites, research, and our trusted pediatrician say it’s not my fault, I still felt like a failure. I failed to protect him. And the worst part is, I don’t even know how I can help him, or if I can.
He is only 4 years old. He doesn’t understand what is happening to him. Why could he speak so clearly and fluently just a couple of days ago and now suddenly, the words are all tangled and messed up? I didn’t understand. How can I expect a 4 year old to? And from that day I was on a mission. I think I must’ve read all there is about stuttering on the internet.
Definition of Stuttering:
“Stuttering is a speech disorder characterized by repetition of sounds, syllables, or words; prolongation of sounds; and interruptions in speech known as blocks. An individual who stutters exactly knows what he or she would like to say but has trouble producing a normal flow of speech. These speech disruptions may be accompanied by struggle behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips.”
–– National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorder (NIDCD)
What causes stuttering:
The causes of stuttering are still not understood but there are some factors that might increase the chances of a person developing this disorder:
- Genetics: studies have shown that approximately 60% of people who stutter have a relative that stutters as well.
- Gender: Boys are 2-3 times more likely to develop a stutter than girls.
- Age: Although stuttering affects people of all ages, it most often occurs in children between the ages of 2 – 6.
Children who stutter:
Around 5-10% of all children stutter at one point in their development. Almost 75% of these children outgrow their stutter.
It is also very important to realize these points:
- Stuttering does not affect intelligence.
- Anxiety and stress do not cause stuttering.
- A stutter can be treated
How do you know if a child stutters:
There are different types of stutters:
- Repetition of a sound: C-c-c-c-can I have chocolate?
- Repetition of a word: She – She – She – did it.
- Repetition of a phrase: I want – I want – I want to go to the mall.
- Prolongations: (extending or stretching a sound in a word) Caaaaaaaaaan I get water?
- Blocking: not able to say produce any sound.
How can I help my child?
Every child has a different experience with stuttering so every child needs a different approach. You can find more information from the links below: (note: all the information above have been gathered from the websites below).
National Institute on Deafness & Other Communication Disorders
Web MD: Stuttering
The Stuttering Foundation
The British Stammering Association
Chatterbox Speech Pathology (Australia)
Out of the five types of stutters, my son experiences all of them with varying severity depending on the day. I was very worried and devastated. How can I protect him? How can I help him?
I took him to our pediatrician whom I love. It took him awhile to calm me down. He stayed a good 5-10 minutes talking to him. And even though DS has a stutter, he is not shy and spoke his mind.
Diagnosis: He is fine. He will learn how to get over it. He is not shy and has an amazing vocabulary. I don’t have to take him to a speech therapist. If he stays like this till he is 7 years old, then yes take him to a speech therapist. But most probably, he will get over it before then.
So the first thing that every mom of a child who begins to show signs of stuttering should do is: GET A PROFESSIONAL OPINION.
The thing our doc stressed though is we must never ever make him feel like there is something wrong with him. It is of course ok to acknowledge the stutter, especially if he wants to talk about it, but never make him feel like he’s different or needs ‘fixing.’
I was determined that we will get through this. No matter the outcome, no matter whether he does get over his stutter or not, we will be ok.
There was this one day that his stutter was really really bad. I can see that sometimes he doesn’t talk even if he has something to say because of his stutter. My DD said, in front of all of us: Mom why does he talk like this now? (the tone she used wasn’t of trying to make fun of him, it was a real question).
I can see my DS freeze.
I said: its ok, this happens to a lot of people. Sometimes when you speak some words or letters are harder to say than others.
DD: But why?
Me: No one really knows. Maybe it’s because your brain is learning so much stuff. But it is completely normal. It happened to me too when I was young. (not really but I wanted him to feel better in any way I could).
Me: Yes of course! But you know what? You are much braver than I am. I would just stay quiet instead of talk. You never shy away in a situation even if it’s a struggle at first, you always say what you want to say. I am so proud of you!
DD: Are you proud of me too?
Me: Of course I am!
My second advice to moms of kids who stutter is: Tell them it’s ok. They will be ok. There is nothing wrong with them. And tell them again and again how proud you are of them, and how much you love them. Don’t cringe when they stutter. Don’t try to finish off a sentence for them. Be patient. Let them do it by themselves and show them that you will wait patiently till they do.
Mother’s day last year. Kindergarten at the kids school always invite the mom’s over and do something very sweet and cute. I knew he has was in one of his rough weeks. And I knew they will stand in front of all the moms and talk. I was getting nervous. And there I was in his class, sitting on the small tiny chair looking at the entire class standing in the front, singing a mothers day song.
The teacher then said that the kids have something special to say. Then one by one, each child took a step forward, said why they loved their mom, everyone clapped, and they stood back in line. As my son’s turn got close, I can feel my heart beating faster and faster. I couldn’t even hear what the other kids were saying, I was focused on him. He seemed ok. Then it was his turn. He took a step forward:
“I love my mom because Sh-Sh-Sh-
I can’t really describe what I felt in words. I didn’t want any of my emotions to show on my face and I tried so hard. My heart pounding so hard, my hands so sweaty, I felt like I was going to faint. DS pulled on his shirt collar as he was trying to get the word out. After three or four tugs of his collar, he said:
Sheeeeeee hugs me.”
Everyone clapped. He stepped back. He was proud. I was proud. I was fighting back tears, and fighting back tears now while writing this. But he did it! He didn’t run away. There were kids who ran to their mom as soon as they saw them and didn’t want to participate, there were kids who cried, and there were kids who looked up, down, or sideways when talking. And they didn’t have a stutter. My strong, unbelievably brave child stood his ground, and finished the entire performance. He then ran to me, gave me the tightest hug in the world, and we stayed taking selfies. I was, and still am so proud of him! At that moment, I knew we were going to be ok.
Now, one year later, his stutter is much better. I wont say he is completely over it. He sometimes has days or weeks of perfect fluency. And he still has some bad days (especially when he has a cough). He still sometimes stretches his word when he is excited. But you know what? His friends don’t care that he stutters sometimes. His sister doesn’t care that he stutters sometimes. And the most important thing is, HE doesn’t care that he stutters sometimes.
As for me, I can not be any prouder. He overcame an obstacle with such courage, that I am sure he will one day be on the list of famous stutterers, along with Emily Blunt, Elvis Presley, and Winston Churchill.