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Help Prepare Your Stammering Child For The Future

By Andrew Burgon / phoenix@projectfellowship.com
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November 14, 2013


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As a parent of a stammering teenager, you need to be mindful of the need to help offset the unpleasant effects of a stammer.

A thoughtful parent could save his or her child a lot of stress and heartache particularly in their teenage years . Having had a stammer till I was in my late twenties I wish to share with those parents who have a stammering child three things of importance. Speech therapy, getting your children ready for public speaking in Senior High School and for entering the workforce.

Speech Therapy

I believe that speech therapy should play a solid role in a stammering child’s life. It doesn’t have to be constant but should be at least revisited from time-to-time. Be wary of complacency and ‘just’ hoping your child will grow out of it. If you do nothing for many years the stammer may entrench itself along with certain habits like avoiding the phone and speaking to others.

To you it may seem as though your child is waltzing through childhood despite the crippled speech. That may be so to a certain extent. By the time your son or daughter reaches adulthood though you may be shocked to discover the countless times they actually avoided speaking to others in order to be shielded from potential embarrassment. Also, the amount of times your child looked longingly and enviously at the friendships of others.

Having a stammer can suppress a child’s personality to a certain extent especially if they have a fervent heart and place an importance on friendships. For a time they may become withdrawn and a reluctant loner. I only fully understood this truth later in life.

How would I, as a parent who stammered badly as a child and a young adult, raise a stammering child? I can assure you I would take it seriously. There is an unpleasant side to being a stammerer and I would wish to help my child forego the experience or at least significantly reduce them.

At home I would be my son’s speech therapist though I certainly wouldn’t hassle him about it all the time. I would sometimes encourage him to use the techniques he learned and practice them with his family. I would be well versed in different kinds of speech therapy, courses available and communities of stammerers. With the help of a speech therapist I would chart a path for him that offered  the best chance of overcoming his stammer.

If he still had a speech impediment by the age of 14 I would start to impress upon him the importance of speaking clearly and fluently and the reasons why. As well, the challenges people face who can’t speak well. I would try to motivate him to do something about it. Otherwise, I may be setting up my son for a rude awakening later on in life.

In my childhood, I only remember having speech therapy when I was very young. In hindsight, I dearly wish I had of received more therapy especially in lead up to senior high school. I resumed speech therapy late in my teens. I went to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane, Australia and started learning ‘Smooth Speech.’ It was helpful and I actually surprised myself when I did an almost flawless speech in front of a small group of people.

As part of the course, we were encouraged to meet up with other people who stammered socially. This way we could practice the technique. Alas, it didn’t last long. To a certain degree I resented it. Being with other people who had a stammer only reminded me of the ‘problem’ I had. I think it’s a good idea though and I would encourage my son to meet-up with other people his age who stammered.

Senior High School Speeches

I would definitely do something to get my son ready for senior high school. I’d give him a heads up that he will probably have to do a number of speeches and take part in debates. These are big challenges that are best not left to the last minute to hurdle. If I didn’t do this I would feel partly responsible if my son fell flat on his face. I would get him to practice public speaking on a small scale at home in front of his family at least six months before and maybe arrange speech nights with other families who have stammering children who are soon to enter senior high school.

My first speech in senior high school was ‘painfully excruciating.’ I was at a new school so I didn’t know my classmates that well. I shook like a drug addict on cold turkey in front of them. I froze up so badly I was having a little trouble breathing. Be careful that your actions or lack of actions don’t equate to throwing your child into the deep end of a pool.

Getting Ready for the Workforce

As I mentioned earlier, I would impress upon my son the importance of speaking well. This includes pointing out to him that many jobs require people to communicate to others. Answering the phone, interviews, talking in meetings and with customers. Even if you manage to find a job that has little contact with other people you may need to answer calls or deal with people when other staff have gone out for lunch. I would emphasize that he would be at a great disadvantage in finding these kind of jobs. However, I would balance this out with some positives. For example, if he is determined and resourceful he will be able to find work just like his father did.

If my son seemed to be unable to shake off his stammer then at some point after his mid-teens I would start to seriously think about suitable jobs he could do as a stammering adult. I would educate him concerning ways he could earn money despite a stammer. In effect, I would be a kind of career counselor. I would present to him many options including graphic arts, stock photography, website creation and writing. I would give him a chance to explore some of these avenues and hopefully discover something he is passionate about or at least drawn to. I’d make sure that his skills were advanced in one of these areas before making the plunge into the workforce. I’d call it, Project Smooth Transition.

Entering the workforce was somewhat of a rude awakening for me. On the one hand, I was very courageous to start off with though there were a number of job interviews I had to decline because of my speech. At times I had to overcome anxiety and a strong aversion for looking for work. I did manage to get a temporary clerk-typist job that required fielding phone calls on the odd occasion only. One day I answered the call but ended up handling it poorly. “You’re the best they can do?,” was how the scathing rebuke began. There was a similar incident before that. I felt something SNAP inside me then. It was the last straw that broke the camels back. That is definitely not something I’d want my child to experience.

I wish I had of acquired skills and established some kind of portfolio of work before I entered the workforce. I say that realizing though that the reason why my speech is so much better now is because I ended up taking a path in life that required me to talk a lot! Had I of done the former and there was really no need to improve my speech I would most likely still be stammering badly today. Nevertheless, it would have been sweet to enter the workforce having a honed employable skill that was speech independent.

In conclusion, speech therapy is important and should be part of a stammering child’s life growing up. Become familiar with the techniques and encourage your child to practice them with you at home. Let your child know when he or she is older the importance of speaking well in Senior High School and in joining the workforce. Use foresight to prepare them for these eventualities.

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