My son started stuttering out of the blue one day just before his second birthday. At first, everyone thought it was so cute! He'd point at the dog with a huge smile and say, "D-d-d-d-dog!" Adorable. But as time moved on, the stuttering became more and more frequent and pronounced. It became a little less cute, and a lot more concerning.
I took him to our family doctor to see what she recommended, but as he was only two she wasn't worried. She advised me not to panic, that it would clear up on its own as he grew older.
By the time my son's third birthday came around though, his stutter was severely affecting his ability to communicate. He would try to begin a sentence and get so stuck on the first word, that all he'd manage to eventually spit out was "I-I-I-I-I-I can't talk properly!" The "I" could go on for up to a minute, he was truly struggling. He was so frustrated with himself, there were a lot of times when he would simply not be able to say the words he wanted to.
I took him back to the doctor to voice my concerns, but still, she wasn't at all worried. He was only three after all, and a boy, which made it all the more common for him to develop a slight stutter that would eventually correct itself. But you know that gut instinct we often get as mothers? That feeling told me it wasn't going to be so simple for my son.
My mother-in-law agreed with me, and so I found a local speech therapist and made an appointment to have my son assessed. He did really well and hardly stuttered through the flash cards he was shown, however after hearing of how hard he often found it to speak and how frustrated he could get at times, they put him on the waiting list for future treatment. At that point, there was a six to twelve month wait for children needing help.
The months that we spent waiting for him to start therapy were quite hard. It really is an awfully sad thing to watch your child struggle so intensely to tell a simple story, especially when you don't know how to help them. My son would often rush when speaking and get so caught up in his words that he'd repeat one single word many, many times. I'd ask him to say it again slowly, and that seemed to help a little, but not nearly enough. Often it seemed his brain was working faster than his mouth would physically allow; although he knew what he wanted to say, the words just would not come out smoothly for him.
The day I received a call to say that my son had finally reached the top of the waiting list and would have his first speech therapy appointment the following week, I almost cried with happiness. We were finally going to get some help! My son was just over four when he began treatment for his stutter. His speech therapist talked with him and listened to him speak, and she rated him as having a severe stutter, the type that does not clear up on its own.
We started the Lidcombe Program right away, and within a few weeks my son started making progress. We have spent the last eight months working on his stutter every single day, and it has paid off. He is over halfway through the treatment now, and is speaking as well as any other child his age.
Had I passively waited for my son's stutter to clear up on its own, it would have caused him greater strife in his older years. The stutter would have been more ingrained as a habit than it already was, and it would have been harder to treat. It would have continued to impact his ability to communicate with others, to learn, to make friends. I am so grateful that he has managed to overcome this hurdle. He is not quite five, and his stutter is no longer noticeable.
My son doesn't even remember having such a hard time speaking anymore, but when I think about how far he has come it makes me cry with real emotion. I cry tears of sadness for that younger boy of mine who could not speak a single sentence without stuttering and struggling. I cry tears of joy that my son's efforts have paid off, and he can now communicate his thoughts without becoming stressed and upset. Mostly, I cry big, fat tears of happiness because I am so proud of him, I know just how hard he has worked through his time in therapy to get to where he is today.
If you notice your child stuttering, I urge you to speak to a qualified speech therapist for specialised advice. Your child might be one of the lucky ones who naturally grows out of their stutter. But, they might not be. It doesn't hurt to have them assessed. Always trust your instincts as a mother when you feel like something isn't right.