The Message Matters: A Look Back on Three Years of Stuttering

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A mom talking to her daughter.
Photo by Three Anchors Photography

In December 2020, I wrote an article about my then-three-year-old identical twins, who had been stuttering for over a year. I was concerned because I thought they could become people who would persistently stutter into adulthood. The people I know who stutter were frequently bullied because of their speech. I was afraid my girls wouldn’t be able to escape that either.

I was pregnant with my first child as a speech-language pathology student. Learning about all of the medical complications and disorders was stressful. I was concerned about almost everything that could go wrong with my pregnancy and my future children’s early development.

Stuttering was never on my radar.

According to Dennis Drayna, Ph.D., a researcher for the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 5% of people stutter as young children, and about 80% of these people outgrow it. This leaves about 1% of the general population (which equates to approximately 3 million people in the U.S. and 60 million people worldwide) who continue to stutter into adulthood.

As my girls have been persistently stuttering for the past three years, it seems likely that they are probably in that 1%.

In the past two years since I wrote the article linked above, I have been blessed to find some fantastic mentors who have changed my entire perspective about how to approach stuttering and our feelings about it in our household.

Instead of trying to “cure” or “fix” their speech disorder, we have embraced it as just another incredible part of who they are and what makes them unique.

We have opened our family dialogue about the way we speak. We take turns, we wait for the other person to finish talking, and we provide a safe space for all of our children to communicate (whether they stutter or not).

We acknowledge that their message matters to us.

Since we began this indirect home therapy, the girls still stutter. However, because we no longer interrupt their message, they know we hear them. It is not our goal to make them “stutter less,” but to help instill confidence so that they can generally speak where they want, when they want, to whom they want, saying what they want.

One of the most important things we can do for any child is to acknowledge them and provide feedback, so they know what they say matters to us. When we validate a child’s message, we also validate them as people.

It’s not that I want my children to be people who stutter. Still, I realize how many lessons they are teaching us about how to acknowledge and listen to children as valuable members of the household and society as a whole.

So today, on International Stuttering Awareness Day, I want to honor and celebrate my twins. They are kind, headstrong, brave, silly, and brilliant, and they are also people who stutter. I hope they will continue to advocate for themselves and each other as they learn and grow into adulthood.

And even if they don’t realize it, I hope they continue to teach others to do the same.

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Charity is originally from CT, but grew up in New Hampshire. She returned to CT in 2000 for college, and currently resides in Monroe with her husband (married in 2011) and three children (A son born in 2012 and identical twin daughters born in 2017). Charity works part time as a Speech-Language Pathologist for the CT Birth to Three system. She thinks it's the best of both worlds because she gets to work in a job she loves (and needs to pay off those hefty grad school loans!) and be home a few days a week with her children. Charity enjoys theatre, and brings her son often. This past year, she discovered her gifts as an intuitive medium. You can visit her personal website at: www.charityferrisintuitivemedium.mypixieset.com.

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