7th December 2021
Heather Brigden-McLean tells us how sharing experiences with other parents through our online group has helped her to understand stammering and support her daughter.
My name is Heather and my daughter Jasmine developed a stammer earlier this year. Six months ago, when her stammer started to escalate, I would have found it hard to talk about. But thanks to the support I have received from the Parent2Parent Support groups, run by STAMMA, I now feel completely differently.
The STAMMA website was recommended to me by the NHS as a starting point and it became my lifeline to understanding Jasmine's world a little better. So much information was available, and it was presented in such a positive way. But I was still confused and upset, unsure how to help Jasmine for the best. At this stage I hadn't even spoken to her about her stammer in fear that doing so could make her stammer more. I was anxious, she was anxious, and her stammer continued to develop and exhaust her on a daily basis.
When I saw the Parent group zoom sessions advertised on the website, I jumped at the chance to be involved. However, I was really nervous, worried about my lack of knowledge and that my questions might sound stupid. I was anxious that I might say the wrong thing and upset someone.
The sessions stopped us feeling so powerless and gave us a new focus, a plan of action and improved understanding. I no longer wanted to change my daughter's stammer.
That first session, however, was such a huge turning point for me and I came away with strategies to help Jasmine. The group facilitators were so kind and supportive, and encouraged us all to talk in an honest and open way. No one judged me for being upset or initially misunderstanding the stammering condition. I heard many stories about children of different ages from all over the country. Parents shared their worries, fears and struggles as well as their successes and what had helped them to support their children through tough moments.
One kind parent who I won't ever forget shared with me the impact of talking to her child about stammering. I heard how it gave them language to describe what was going on, how it empowered their daughter to tackle discussions with friends, and how it normalised stammering as part of her life. She gave me ideas on how to approach it with Jasmine and reassured me that many parents had felt how I was feeling.
I learnt that stammers can come and go, that many children and adults cope perfectly well and are proud of their stammer — it doesn’t always have a negative impact! I heard success stories alongside the challenges that stammering can bring, the positive moments along with the tough days. We discussed support in school and how as parents, we may have to lead the way on what support should be offered for our child and push for them to have the space they need to be heard.
Strategies and acceptance
These peer support sessions also gave my husband a chance to be involved. Until then all the calls with Jasmine's therapist had been for one parent only, so he had really missed out on being able to ask questions and explore how he felt.
The sessions stopped us feeling so powerless and gave us a new focus, a plan of action and improved understanding. I no longer wanted to change my daughter's stammer. The parents I had spoken to had opened my eyes — Jasmine doesn't need to change, she is perfect as she is; she just needs more support so that she is comfortable and confident, and so that her stammer doesn't become a negative experience for her.
There is a network out there to help; other parents who understand and who might have new ideas or who will be there just to listen.
Following the sessions, I chose a quiet time and I sat down with Jasmine to talk to her about her 'bumpy words'. The look of relief on her face that someone had noticed, understood and told her it was OK was heartbreaking. I wish I had done it sooner. She told me, "Mummy, sometimes my words are so hard and it makes me sad". I cried and she cried, but since that day we have a new understanding. We work together and when I recognise she is struggling I step in to support her rather than living in fear of making her stammer more.
I will be forever grateful to the parents who helped get me on the path to accepting and supporting Jasmine's stammer. Of course, we still have many days where she struggles and there are times when she doesn't cope very well. But it is no longer the end of the world. I know it's just part of the rollercoaster ride — there will be ups and downs.
- Become a STAMMA Member and we will keep you updated with our Parent2Parent online meetings
We don't know where it will end up, but we do know that there is a network out there to help; other parents who understand and who might have new ideas or who will be there just to listen.
I have attended a few sessions online now and plan to do so again. Partly to keep learning, partly for support for our family, but also with a hope that one day I can help another parent who might be struggling, in the way that we were helped at a time when our family needed it most.
If you'd like to join one a Parent2Parent support group session, email us at email@example.com and we will tell you about our upcoming events.
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