This is possibly the best email I've received in many years. It highlights so well the concerns of a mum on the day her son starts big school - we know that transition to secondary school can be a difficult time.
He's OK, by the way. Mum says "First day has gone well - he seems happy and that's all you can ask!"
5 September 2017
I wanted to write to you to thank the BSA for the support my son has received over the last year to feel more confident about his stammer. Like parents up and down the country this week, I woke extra early to make sure my 11 year old's first morning before going to their new school went as smoothly as possible. All those worries we adults carry for them as they start high school weighing heavily on my shoulders, but knowing he faced an extra obstacle than some. In fact he had summed up his worries up very eloquently the day before. What does he do when the words fail?
In fact he had summed up his worries up very eloquently the day before. What does he do when the words fail?
There aren’t many who truly understand the enormity of the mental impact this concept has on a child. Already nervous about attending a school that has a single year intake larger than the entire primary school he attended, he also has to contend with trying to make new friends, finding his way, getting lost and asking for help - and all at a time when his words are failing him. How do you start a conversation when the what’s, why’s, where’s and how’s are the most difficult words for you to say. Never mind if he should befriend a Harry or a Henry…
So I pack up all my worries for him and firmly put them out of sight and we, his family, do what we can.
As much as I wish I could change things for him and make the words come easier, make his life easier, I can’t. And as frustrating and upsetting I find this fact, that is not going to help. So I pack up all my worries for him and firmly put them out of sight and we, his family, do what we can. We have a calm, slow morning today. We chat (one at a time) at the table, listening to him. We help him with ideas when he asks for ways to start those conversations without his troublesome letters - such as ‘alright’ instead of ‘hello’ or ‘is it science next?’ rather than ‘what’s next?’. We’ve no idea if this is the right thing to do, but we are guided by my son, we are all focussed on giving him what he needs to enjoy his journey. And then, most importantly, we remind him it is OK to stammer. We try to give him the confidence to just be him, because he is awesome and we love him for who he is, not how he speaks. He is excited and happy as he leaves the house and I hope we have given him the confidence to continue through the day and enjoy it, whatever his words
And then, most importantly, we remind him it is OK to stammer. We try to give him the confidence to just be him, because he is awesome and we love him for who he is, not how he speaks.
As the day continues, I know that like most parents I will think of him, wondering what he’s doing, if he’s spoken to anyone, if he has made any friends yet and mostly if he is happy. But I will also have those worries that others don’t. Will he be able to ask someone if he gets lost? Will someone listen if he gets confused at lunch? Will he be able to ask where the toilet is? Questions that don’t even cross non-stammerers' minds will haunt my day from time to time. And I am thankful he can walk to and from school and faces no more challenges with his commute.
I wish all those children starting high school with similar challenges today, and their families, the best of luck. I know I am looking forward to seeing my son tonight. I cannot fix his speech, and I cannot make the world be kind, but I can listen.
I know I am looking forward to seeing my son tonight. I cannot fix his speech, and I cannot make the world be kind, but I can listen.
I am grateful to the BSA for the support they provide for stammering children and their families. Without the workshop days and events he has attended he would not have the confidence he has today. During his time at primary, support from the school has not been that forthcoming. Indeed his file at high school reflected that primary school did not see there was still an issue (my son has a good level of control over his stammer), showing again a lack of understanding of the continued mental impact of a stammer, yet the BSA have helped me to stand up for him and get what he needs to be the fabulous young man he is today.
The BSA have helped me to stand up for him and get what he needs to be the fabulous young man he is today.
Who knows what the future will hold, but I hope the work of the BSA (and speech therapists up and down the country) will continue. The support it provides for me and my family to be able to help him is invaluable and I’m sure we will continue to access the help you provide in the future.