A Conversation with my Father

by Elaine Saitta


I am going to see my Dad and I decided I want to talk to him about my stuttering. My parents never discussed my stuttering when I was growing up. And we continue to never discuss it. I am 35 years old and only recently been facing my stuttering head on. I have talked to my husband, friends and even beginning to talk to my children openly about it. There are many places I am not open and continue to hide, or try to hide, my stuttering. I have been going to NSP meetings every month and that is real helpful.

I really want to find out what the reason is that my Parents never talked about it. Was there a therapist...(I never had formal speech therapy til I was 12 and then it didn't last long, since I refused to talk to her!) Was there a Doctor who said not to say anything??? I want to openly talk about it with my dad. My mom passed away 10 years ago, so I feel the need to talk to my dad. Right now I feel stuck until I can talk about that elephant in the middle of the room that was never talked about in my family.

I am not sure if I should tell him before hand that I want to talk about it or just bring it up when I see him. I also know that I need to be prepared for what he might say. It may not be what I want to hear. I am ready to talk about my stuttering. I know it is important to understand the reasons for talking about it and be accepting of the answers he has. Even if he can't remember.


I did the hardest thing I thought possible. I faced my scariest fear... I spoke to my father about stuttering. We never, ever talked about it. My mother passed away ten years ago and I miss very much the ability to tell her too. My dad had a little bit of a warning, since I talked to his wife before I got there. I asked them to think about my childhood and his memories of my stuttering.

I just brought it up by saying that I really want to talk about my stuttering. He said he knows I used to stutter and thought I didn't anymore. Well this is part of what we talked about. I am sooooo tired of hiding it and doing all those unhealthy things to pass my self off as a fluent person. It is way too painful and eating me up on the inside. I will stutter alot more and this is who I am, I stutter. In not hiding it, I will and did stutter. He said he has never heard me stutter as much as he did that night. That was me, I said what I wanted to say. PHEW! And it was OK.

He talked about how much pain and how lonely I was as a child. They thought maybe the lonliness and difficulty making friends caused my stuttering........I set him straight and explained it was the other way around. I was terribly isolated and lonely due to my stuttering.

He saw me as a pretty mild stutterer. What he didn't see was all the pain of hiding my moderate stutter. We talked about this.

He apologized for all the pain I was in and said if he knew what to do he would have done something. The Pediatrician of course said don't discuss it or make an issue about it. My mother I guess idolized the Dr. and did all that he said. I asked why you couldn't talk about it, why was it never mentioned? Why couldn't you say that I was OK even if I stutter? Why didn't you accept me? He said he didn't know. I said I couldn't ask for it, I didn't know what I wanted, needed. You were the parent you needed to reach out to me.

The silence taught me it was shameful and embarassing. He states it was never embarrassing to him, family members never said anything. He doesn't see it as shameful and certainly never meant to give me that message.

He said if there is anything he could do let him know. (Paying for my master' degree is helpful:) Which was very giving of him. He said he was proud of me to face my pain and grow from it. Hey that is pretty cool.

They asked what to say to a child who stutters, and that was helpful to talk about: not finishing sentences, slowing their speech down, taking the time to listen however long it takes. Mentioning stuttering is important how you do it will look different for each child. Don't ignore it though, it is happening. I am reading a book I got from the convention called Listen with your Heart, reflections of growing up with stuttering. Stories of children who stutter, adults who stutter and their experiences as a child and parents of children who stutter. I will copy off the pages that discuss what to do with a child who stutters...and send it to my dad.

I was very proud of myself to be able to educate my dad, and share my feelings!!!!!!!

I wasn't accusing or blaming. It was a great conversation. What was I afraid of??????? He was accepting (which I needed), kind and especially proud. I did this for me. To speak of that elephant in the living room that was never spoke of as a child has been very freeing for me.

I feel like hundreds of pounds have been lifted from my shoulders. I DID IT!!

Why do I feel down right now? I am stuttering so much more and I don't know how to deal with it in my everyday life. At the convention and with my dad it was OK. I know it is OK, but it doesn't feel that way right now. I am who I am. Accept me or not I don't care. You know what? I accept me. I can let go of my childhood pain now, nurture that sad little girl and become all I can be.

Elaine Saitta
added with permission July 8, 1998
(There is a nice little article on the British Stammering Association Site entitled The First Time: How do I start a conversation with my child about stammering? that might be of interest to those reading this article. JAK)