I Have A Son Who Stutters: Acceptance as a Parent Who Stutters

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This is the third post in a series on parenting a child who stutters as an adult who stutters. For context, I’ve worked hard to achieve my own personal version of self-acceptance of my stutter, and, therefore, may hold different perspectives on how best to support my son’s journey. I offer my story and that of my family to bring awareness to this part of the stuttering experience that both people who stutter often fear and usually overlook as a transition in their journey that we will have to confront.

Perhaps it was irrational while being somewhat inevitable. For as long as I can remember, I feared that if I were to have a child, then they would stutter. This is a commonly held fear for PWS. 

The road to parenthood was filled with challenges, as each person who stutters navigates the barriers to finding a partner in their own ways, though usually all having to first achieve some degree of self-acceptance of their stuttering. (I won’t rehash my story, but if you’re interested in the twists and turns of mine, see Every Waking Moment.) 

To be blunt—the reality of passing on my experience of stuttering was the fear, not so much that my child would stutter. For me, it was my then teenage and young adult perspectives’ inability to improve my own quality of life and vision of who I could become that made me believe my child would also have a similar traumatic experience of stuttering. 

However, on the other side of the traumatic state of stuttering—which I define as the helpless and hopeless conflict of being unable to do and say what you want, when and how you want—I have begun to grind down this fear. 

Since working extremely hard over the last ten years to achieve enough of my own self-acceptance, I am taking on my new role as a parent who stutters of a child who stutters to find a higher level of acceptance. There was no sitting on the sidelines, lost in wonder of how one begins to embrace and confront this rollercoaster experience. But let’s be clear—I wasn’t prepared for my son to stutter even after fearing it for thousands (millions?) of thoughts throughout my life. 

What were the initial steps that I took into accepting my new role and my son’s stutter?

I started talking openly about it.  

Whenever I had an opportunity, which was often. It was hard at first. I couldn’t comprehend what it meant even though I’d thought about it for so many years. There was no preparation for how I would and could begin this very different journey of acceptance until I was within the reality.

Different, yet similar, because I started by talking through my thoughts, feelings, and emotions with a significant degree of uncertainty about where the journey will lead. As with my self-acceptance journey, honesty and vulnerability have led the way thus far. 

My wife and I have had regular deep and difficult conversations about or son’s stutter while shedding many tears. I wrote about it for a blog post interview, talked about the very raw emotions during an author’s roundtable for the Stuttering Foundation, and on every subsequent podcast. 

I’m not going to make my son’s stutter the elephant in the room. My acceptance of mine and his is going to become the model through which he stays grounded in his journey. 

It is hard for others to believe that his journey will be any different than mine, particularly for those who have lived alongside me. 

Imagine, though, as a young child who is struggling to speak, being told and shown—by your father—that stuttering is okay, doesn’t need to be fixed, and that a window won’t close, forcing you to stutter forever [the horror…] if you don’t try harder to use your tools.  

Imagine never allowing him to experience and internalize the toil and trauma of years of speech therapy that focuses only on the sound of his stutter, without an outlet to release how it makes him feel. 

Imagine my son at 13 years old never being haunted by the now-or-never experience of a month-long sleep-away-from-home intensive fluency shaping clinic, coming out on the other side contemplating whether life was worth living because he stuttered.

Imagine a young boy who stutters living through his formative years and growing up into a young man with a parent who stutters first clearing their way forward, then modeling true self-acceptance, and finally walking step for step through life as a mentor, never once feeling like you’re alone or the only one struggling with stuttering. 

Imagine a child who stutters beginning their journey to self-acceptance as a child.

This may come across as a reeling father attempting to convince himself that everything will be okay, while denying how overwhelmed and hurt he is inside. Wrong. I am really hurting. My heart breaks nearly every day. 

But—and I’ve shared this with those closest to me—when you’ve come out on the other side of a lifelong, all-consuming experience like stuttering, a pervasive belief in my ability to navigate uncertainty has developed to guide me forward, one without worry that whatever the challenge might be won’t work out for the best.

All the above is my coming to terms, why I believe, and how I, we, will arrive at acceptance by talking about stuttering, living with stuttering, thriving with stuttering, and loving with stuttering. I feel for the parents who don’t stutter with a child or children who stutter, such as my wife, who cannot fathom a future that isn’t stalled by a struggle to speak because of stutter. 

I want to and will help change the trajectory of this part of the lived experience of stuttering. 


For more on my experiences of being a parent who stutters, see the following series of posts I wrote two years ago before I knew my son would stutter. 

Losing the Light: Will My Son Stutter?

Turning Up: What Will My Son Think of Stuttering?

Daddy's Superpower: Explaining Stuttering to My Son

The Hardest Thing to Say: What's His Name?

Unfounded Guilt: What If They Stutter?

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