Make Room For The Stuttering

A Letter To His Son

Posted on: May 22, 2009

I have to share this. It’s a story that needs to be told. I hope I didn’t screw it up. It brought tears to my eyes as I heard it, and as I wrote this. I had a great real-time conversation with Shaun. Facebook and email is great, but sometimes, you just have to talk to someone in real time. Shaun was the first SLP graduate student I let “work on me” three years ago. We clicked! It was her first time working with an adult who stutters and it was my first foray into dealing with being very covert.

I had just joined this group called “fluency council”, but I didn’t really want “fluency”. I wanted to begin the journey of finding me, and she got that. That’s why she is going to be a great SLP. She already is. She gets it.

We try to stay in touch, but it had been a while since we had talked over the phone. We treated ourselves to an hour.

She is currently working as a SLP in a middle school, and has three kids who stutter on her caseload. She told me a little about how these kids didn’t know much about their stuttering when she started with them at the beginning of the year. It seems their previous school therapists didn’t have much experience with stuttering. (Surprise, surprise).

One kid was having a particularly rough time, not only with his severe stuttering but his dad’s attitude was not positive. Dad was concerned that son wasn’t trying hard enough, and voiced to Shaun the lament that his son would be doomed because of his stuttering. He wouldn’t get a good job, what would happen to him, and so on. The son was picking up his dad’s shame.

Shaun goes on to tell me that she spoke to dad about this, how his son was picking up his dad’s cues and was beginning to internalize shame himself, despite the gains he was making in therapy. What courage it took for her to say this to dad! Shaun shared with dad her experience working with ME. She told him some of my story. How my early experiences with my dad being so negative and critical set the stage for my very painful journey. Shaun gently encouraged dad to see the value in his son’s stuttering and asked him to consider that among his child’s many gifts, maybe stuttering was one of them. OMG, I was getting goosebumps just listening to this.

One of the gains the kid had made was getting up on stage during a bullying assembly and participating in a skit. He role-played how it might be bullying for a kid to be made fun of for stuttering. This kid was 11 years old. Shaun shared that the whole room, peers and teachers, erupted into huge applause for this kid. It was a shining, special, always remember, proud moment. And his SLP (I had her first!) is a shining star,  for doing that kind of acceptance work with him. The really important stuff at that age.

Shaun told me that she shared with dad MY BLOG and sent him some posts by email to read. The tears were already starting to form when she was telling me this over the phone. She said the dad told her he was reading some of my blog posts. He told Shaun that he didn’t want to be that kind of father who was ashamed of his kid, and that he didn’t realize how his concerns and negativity might really be transferring to his son.

Ready for this? The son comes to therapy one day and brings a letter his dad wrote to him. In this letter, dad tells his son how proud he is of him, and that stuttering makes him special. Of course,the kid is thrilled. I sucked in my breath as I was listening to this and gasped.

So then the kid feels so much more accepting of his stuttering that he tells Shaun that he is OK. She tells him  he doesn’t have to return next year for therapy, that it is his choice. He chooses to continue. He wants to continue working on his stuttering journey.

By this time, tears are streaming down my face. I felt so honored. I am so glad she shared this story. Aren’t you? I asked her to tell the young man and his dad that I said Hi! Please be sure you do, Shaun.

And Dad, if you by chance read this post, I hope you don’t mind. This story had to be told.  Your letter has changed your son’s life. Forget about heroes you see on TV and in the news.  You are the real hero. I won’t soon forget this.  Congratulations!!

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11 Responses to "A Letter To His Son"

Thank you Pam, Shaun, kid and dad!
I’m left with tears in my eyes, goose bumps, a big smile on my face and a really good feeling in my heart.
Thank you, thank you for doing this and for sharing! 😀

Thanks for sharing Pam!!

This is a story that for all SLPs should read. Learning to understand the child/adult who stutters is the hardest part but the most important part of all! It really matters and can make all of the difference! Thank you Pam and Shaun for remembering to KEEP IT REAL!

Tone, Lori, Jennifer,

Thanks for reading. When Shaundrika shared this with me, I knew I had to share this. I was overwhelmed and honored to think I had some small part in this.

I hope SLPs do read this and get it. My life would have been so very different had I had a supportive environement at home and in school.

Pam 🙂

Hey StutterRockStar, you’ve done it again. You have a real personal touch with these posts. I hope this post continues to provide guidance for parents of kids who stutter for years to come. As I have said before, you have a gift Pam. love SJ

My heart writes most of these posts – so they have to be personal. Every person’s stuttering story has value. When someone told me otherwise, I am so glad I did not agree with them

Hi Pamelaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa,
I’ve been dying to read the post but I’ve been away and made myself promise no internet–to take some time for me!!

I think part of being an SLP is to remind client that their self-worth cannot be taken from them or damaged by life’s rigors, however acknowledge that it can easily be forgotten if they don’t do check-ins. Check-ins are regularly recognizing your self-worth and it helps to guarantee that you never forget how important, loved, and special you are. The world is a different place because you are in it. (Say it and believe it).

Every person is born worthy—your worth is intertwined with your very being. Your belief and acknowledgement of your self-worth is defined by your actions. Each time you learn to appreciate yourself, love yourself, exceed and broaden personal boundaries, be “proactive” in making needs are met, then you are defining your worth. When you have not yet seen the potential of your worth then you are filled with insecurity and a lack of confidence. When you feel worthy, however, you will accept yourself without hesitation and questions. It is your worth as an individual that allows you to be happy, confident, and hopefully for all that you are and want to be. As an SLP sometimes we have to be the bad guys and have those uncomfortable conversations to make the journey a bit easier especially for children. Children are seeking approval and have not set forth the fundamental building blocks of their self-worth. They look to their peers, parents and others in their immediate environment to tell them that they are worthy. It is then that you have to take what they can and can not do and give them the hope that with perseverance and hard work that all things can be possible. It doesn’t have to just be an SLP— you can easily impact someone’s lives by sharing your stories, heartbreaks and successes. Why do you think I got on your case about journaling way back then Pam???

Were it not for your willingness to “walk the walk” with me, we might not be interacting as we are now. We all touch certain lives for a reason, at certain times. There was a reason we met and did the work we did. Thank you for continuing what you do. Those kids in your school are very lucky to have you.

I still have the pink journal you gave me. The pages are all curled, and the words impossible to read. Thats why I type. But a journal is the window to the soul, yes, I finally get it.

This is a good post for all parents. We all worry that our kids won’t live up to their full potentials, and when there’s a specific reason why, focus on what might happen if it isn’t fixed.

A beautiful and insightful description of the SLP/client relationship as it should be. It makes us realize that to criticize a person for stuttering is a form of bullying that person, and is destructive of the interpersonal relationship.

This is great !!!! Thank you so much for sharing it. It touched me as a newly graduated clinician (yeah!) and as a parent. We sometimes forget that negative feelings can be communicated to children on so many different levels and in ways that we aren’t aware of ourselves.

What a loving dad to admit so openly that he was missing the boat, so to speak. And, as always, I am proud of you for so freely sharing your story. It continues to touch people in truly awesome ways. . .

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2017.