My family: our story
Mum-of-three Tessa Coupar shares her worries for her youngest son, but with an older brother who’s now a youth ambassador with the Scottish Stammering Network, he has a great role model. We all need to slow down and show respect for one another, she says.
I would like to introduce to you my family. I have a wonderful husband, three amazing kids and Ben the dog. Or ‘Benbo Doggins’ as we fondly call him.
My eldest son is at university; he’s hardworking and history mad. Oh, he also has a stammer. My daughter is at high school; she’s outgoing and music mad. She also has dyslexia. My youngest son is at primary school; he’s a born comic and art mad. He has the double whammy: a stammer and dyslexia. I have a very mild stammer and my dad also stammers. I’m not sure where the dyslexia fits in to the genetics of our family. No one is owning up to it! I thought I’d write this article to share our story.
My eldest: the campaigner
My eldest son stammered from the age of five. I remember the day clearly when his primary one teacher caught me at the school gate and said, "Your sssson has ssstarted to ssstammmer." At the time I didn’t think that this mocking of his speech from a teacher was a 'red flag' that more support for teachers was needed to understand stammering. I do now.
My son described his stammer as ‘boring’. He was always quiet; not shy but not wanting to push himself forward to speak out in class or dare to buy something in a shop. At university he found the Scottish Stammering Network, quickly became a youth ambassador and he’s now a true inspiration to others who stammer.
Do I worry about the future for my children? I would be lying if I said no but I am so proud of all of them and what they have achieved so far.
He identified that throughout his schooling there was a lack of awareness amongst staff in supporting a child with a stammer and he has made it his mission to try to make changes to teacher-training in Scotland. Putting forward a motion to Parliament is a long and tough process. His first attempt failed at the last hurdle but he has learnt a lot from it and is now planning to raise more awareness through talking to teachers and presenting at conferences – or as he puts it, ‘changing the world one syllable at a time’. You can watch a speech my son did via Facebook live streaming for the Scottish Stammering Network here.
My youngest: the born comic
My youngest son started to stammer from the moment he learnt to talk. I was aware he was elongating and repeating sounds, etc. I was also aware he had speech sound difficulties and making himself understood was very difficult, leading to frustration and outbursts of anger manifesting in him biting and hitting himself. I remember clearly other children chatting away at the nursery door to their parents and having lovely to and fro conversations. This was difficult with my son. I did most of the talking as he struggled to put two or three words together. The natural flow of conversation was lost and this broke my heart.
With support from a speech and language therapist he can now hold a conversation although his stammer can get him down at times. But he is quite resilient and has a great role model in his big brother. It does upset him if his friends don’t give him time or don’t understand what he has said.
I did however observe lovely natural interaction between him and a friend recently. After every few words my son said, his friend would repeat those words back which showed he was listening and trying to follow my son’s conversation. This encouraged my son to keep on talking and finishing the important sentence he was trying to say (it was probably about the latest game or Roblox toys — all important stuff when you are 10 years old!). We laugh a lot; as I said, my youngest is a born comic, full of fun and has the most endearing smile ever.
My take-home message to other parents
As parents we have learnt to give our boys time, be patient, let them talk and not to hurry them along. Yes, it can be tough, especially when my son strikes up a conversation when you’re hurrying to get into the car to get to school. We live in a fast-paced life. We’re always rushing to get to the next place and rushing to speak and get our voices heard. We all need to slow down and show respect for one another. What we all have to say is important, not how we say it.
Do I worry about the future for my children? I would be lying if I said no but I am so proud of all of them and what they have achieved so far. I do worry more about my youngest, as having dyslexia and a stammer is a double whammy of communication difficulties and disabilities that are not fully recognised or understood. But he has a beautiful smile — he will go far with that smile!