Photo: Cynthianna, age 10, with Eeva Stierwalt, CSA National Coordinator
My name is Cynthia and I am a Mother of two children who stutter: Nathdaniel, age 17 and Cynthianna, age 10.
When they were small children, we didn’t know what they had, They both had trouble speaking and had a stutter. There is no speech therapist (SLP) in our community. There was also a lack of resources in our community to help my kids and eventually we had to go privately with an SLP (Anny Dubé) in a nearby city.
Then, in 2002, I found out about the Canadian Stuttering Association (CSA) Conference coming up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, through our SLP (Speech and Language Pathologist) Anny.
We were lucky enough to get financial assistance through Jordan’s Principal to attend the conference in Niagara Falls at the reduced family registration rates offered by the CSA.
Nathdaniel was 16 and Cynthianna was only 9 years old when they attended their first CSA Conference and it was also my first time attending a stuttering conference ever! I’ll never forget it when both kids were there at a youth workshop and Cynthianna, age 9 at the time, was so moved when Alexandra D’Agostino was the speaker. It was the first time she saw and heard someone who stuttered, and more than she did. I didn’t know that my daughter was crying during the workshop because she was so moved listening to Alexandra speak. Nathdaniel, my son, asked why she was crying. Cynthianna said she felt so sad for Alexandra because of her speech!
Cynthianna said it was first time she ever heard another person who stuttered.
After the speech was finished, it was Q & A time, and Cynthianna, wanted to speak, but she was so shy. Cynthianna was generally a loner and a bit shy and didn’t mix well with other kids because she faced lots of bullying, which made her emotional and even more shy. I encouraged her to speak for herself. I told her: “You have to, speak for yourself”. Cynthianna drummed up some courage and asked Alexandra if she had ever encountered bullies herself. Alexandra told about her experiences with bullies and how she handled them.
Cynthianna said she felt something in her, but after she spoke her question, it wasn’t scary anymore, and people even clapped when she spoke. This gave Cynthianna more courage. She improved and her self esteem began to improve.
During that conference, we attended many workshops and heard from other people and their experiences and especially from youth. I also attended workshops for parents on how to help your children when they stutter.
After the conference, we went home, and I began to notice that at special occasions, Cynthianna wanted to try out new things that she wouldn’t have done before, due of her shyness. She was asked to sing at a special occasion in front of people, and she said she wanted to sing, and she did! In December 2022, I noticed that she was starting to try new things and I was so proud of her!
After that, Cynthianna’s courage grew even more as she became more interactive even with classmates, and we experienced a lot of improvement with her. She even became more talkative. I was amazed, because at times before, Cynthianna didn’t want to talk because of her stutter. She had a really hard time to speak out for herself and when she tried, kids bullied her because of how she spoke. The only thing I could do for my part was to encourage her to do new things! And now she was doing just that!
The CSA Conference Is what really motivated her, and this year at the 2023 CSA Conference in Ottawa, she really spoke out! She is now un-stoppable and she also tries new experiences.
She participated in the final Open Mic workshop at the Conference! She jumped up onto the stage and spoke with the microphone and didn’t want to get off stage and even invited her SLP Anny up to verify that the author of the Stuttering is Cool book that Anny introduced to Cynthianna was in the audience! Franky Banky is the fox that stutters in the book by the author Daniele Rossi, also a person who stutters! Cynthianna even learned how to draw the comic character Franky Banky (Daniele hosted a Let’s Draw Comics Workshop for kids at the conference). She is a talented artist!
After her speech, she sang for the entire audience!
Then, she volunteered to draw the winner of the 50/50 draw, and much to everyone’s surprise, she drew Daniele Rossi’s ticket! Again, she took the microphone and spoke a few words with Daniele standing next to her! No more shyness, no more fear!
As a parent, I had been really concerned and used to tell her: “you won’t achieve anything if you don’t do it for yourself. Speak for yourself!”. That is what I used to tell her. It was really hard on her because she encountered a lot of bullying growing up. To top it off, they would blame her, because she would fight for herself when someone was bullying her. And there were behavioural problems that ensued.
NOW, thanks to the CSA Conferences, she is very different. She speaks for herself and when bullied, she will tell the school counsellor and teacher and get help.
The transformation between Cynthianna’s first Conference in Niagara Falls and the conference this year in Ottawa is amazing! She is so different! When she first comes to a new place (e.g. the Conference in Ottawa), though the idea is at first scary, once she arrives, despite the fact that she stutters, she speaks for herself! And she does this consistently anywhere in public now. She does what she wants to do in life now.
When other youth speak out about their experiences, she now learns and knows what to do! She is being taught at a such a young age to hear from other young people at the conference who are sharing their experiences! She has learned so much and I was overwhelmed to hear these things from her! I am so proud of her and amazed at what came out of my 10 year daughter’s mouth! Now, she is Very OPEN!
This is a major transformation for Cynthianna. Before she was a very quiet and shy person, but now at the conference in Ottawa, there’s no fear – she talks to everyone with no fear, thanks to the Canadian Stuttering Association Conferences.
Cynthianna is lucky to have an older brother, Nathdaniel, age 17, who also stutters. He intervenes and advises her with bullying and his own experiences, even when Mother isn’t there.
I have to admit that I get emotional about Cynthianna’s progress and Nathdaniel’s help and I am very proud of them both!
Next year we are planning to attend as a family, including Nathdaniel who said he is coming to the conference no matter what! Thank you to the CSA!