This isn’t really a personal blog, but today we had some great news that I thought might encourage other folks out there.
When my water mermaid was two years old and at nursery, she started to stammer about the same time she started to talk. It was hard to tell if it was a normal learning to speak thing, or if it was a problem to investigate… because she talked like a two year old after all. After a few months it didn’t go away and so we got referred, via nursery, through to Speech and Language Therapy.
Shortly after the diagnosis, I did what many of us would do, and that is to imagine the worst case scenario do with stammering… speech dysfluency forever, trouble making friends at school, bullying, employment challenges etc etc… just awful, and a little fanciful and unjustified. DESPITE being fully aware that this was a highly unlikely scenario, sometimes I just can’t help myself. But sometimes its healthy to have a wallow and cry, then move on.
My logical mind next mostly compartmentalised this away and got onto the ‘lets just get on with it then’ phase. Much more manageable, and as time went on and we were taught how to manage it, the first scenario entered my mind less and less, which was a giant phew really.
There is not a universal cause of stammering, and in many cases it can’t be explained, but actually about 5% of children experience this, mostly boys, and usually under the age of five. We had a lot of elongated vowels and stretched words, e.g. ‘Mmmmmmummy’ or ‘wwwwwwwwwwhy’, as well as getting stuck on certain sounds, and the occasional red faced can’t get anything out at all issue, as if something is gripping onto the sounds in the throat and they just can’t escape (this is called silent blocking). Fortunately we had very few incidences of other children noticing or commenting on it, I think most under fives are still young enough to accept a person as a person, however they come. Its frustrating, and of course upsetting to see your child struggling, I remember many bedtimes that lasted far longer than they should, as the sentences she wanted to say took so long to come out, if they did at all. But with a lot of patience and perseverance over two years, its actually got better.
Today we had speech therapy and we got DISCHARGED, hooray! It’s not 100% gone, maybe it will in the future, maybe it won’t, but its so minor in comparison now, it barely gets noticed, and amazingly it hasn’t knocked her confidence at all. So resilient. Most children grow out of it by age 5, which is where we nearly are. I almost didn’t dare believe she would be one of the fortunate ones that grow out of it, just in case she wasn’t and I was disappointed, but looks like we have been blessed with that.
In the last two years I’ve done all sorts with her to support the process, and of course you do all this knowing that it might not ultimately work. Making sure the atmosphere is calm, slowing down my own speech, playing set speech games, keeping stammer diary charts, not rushing her, asking less questions, trying to be patient (the hardest part), trying to get other people to be patient, and generally trying to make the speech therapy games seem interesting when they were the last thing I fancied doing. I MIGHT have guessed/made up results on a few days even (sorry NHS, the guilt!). It’s been a commitment that’s worth it though. To anyone embarking on a speech therapy process, don’t worry, they support they offer is great and I highly rate it… but most of the main work does have to be done by you, and it can get monotonous.
So that’s it really. We will still have instances of stammering here and there, but I’m confident these are going to get farther and farther in between, until one day, I hope, another one just doesn’t arrive. Its a family win… Hooray to that!
For further information, the British Stammering Association produces brilliant resources for parents, and runs a helpline for anyone concerned or needing advice on these issues.