MOTHER'S DAY FEATURE: With a little help from mom, dad and the Elks, five-year-old gains the confidence to tackle stuttering and learn three languages

With support from his parents and help from the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children, Nicolas was able to continue treatment at ISTAR

Amy Knezevich - 10 May 2017

For three-year-old Nicolas, growing up in a trilingual environment had its challenges, but the greatest obstacle was expressing himself when it really mattered.
"He stuttered the most when he asked for things he wanted really badly, or when he was excited or anxious about something," said Diana, recalling when she and her husband Julian first noticed that their son Nicolas stuttered, in the summer of 2015.
Stuttering was affecting Nicolas at home, with friends and in school as he was often not able to express himself properly. He felt frustrated and misunderstood.
"Nicolas is a very happy and spontaneous kid who enjoys life and is full of energy and wants to take part in everything happening around him, so at times when Nicolas was not able to express himself as he wanted, he experienced a high level of frustration and anxiety, which we did not want for our lovely kid," said Diana.
That summer and into the fall, the family struggled with Nicolas' stuttering.
"We felt very confused and scared about his future. We knew we had to find Nicolas the best possible stuttering treatment," said Julian.
Wanting to avoid any delay in Nicolas' treatment, they began the search for a private speech-language pathologist (SLP), which led them to the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR).

"The ISTAR program and Elks funding have not only helped Nicolas to speak more smoothly and to be happier, they have also helped us reinforce our ties as a family as we have been given the opportunity to set time aside every day to talk and to share time together."

Nicolas was assessed for stuttering at ISTAR in September 2015, and he started treatment in October. After a few sessions, the family was happy with the support and treatment they received, but could not afford to continue. They went elsewhere, but after two months of treatment outside of ISTAR, they weren't achieving the level of results they had been.
"Luckily, we were given the opportunity to apply for funding, and we went back to ISTAR as soon as we got the funding approved," said Julian. The family received funding from the Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children, and also received support from the Edmonton Elks Lodge #11.
"After just a couple of sessions, we could tell that he enjoyed all the games and conversations focused on the treatment. He still enjoys it, and he really likes when we and the SLP praise his development and his efforts for speaking smoother and slower," said Diana.
"Nicolas still has many challenges to face and improvements to make in regards to his speech and communication skills development, but he, and we as parents, are very happy to see him come down from a severity rating of 4 in 2015 to a 1.5 during the last couple of months."
It has not been an easy journey for Nicolas, but it has been rewarding.
Nicolas started the programs having difficulties expressing his thoughts and feelings in the way he wanted, and experiencing tension and frustration on a daily basis. Now two years later at five years old, Nicolas' speech has had remarkable improvements.
"We have advanced up to the point where we can enjoy free conversation with Nicolas, where we can happily note he can have several chunks of smooth talking, while being confident when speaking without experiencing almost any sort of tension or frustration," said Julian.
Before starting treatment, Nicolas was assessed as having mild to moderate stuttering, often stretching out or repeating parts of words, and displaying visible lip and jaw tension. At this point in the treatment, Nicolas has improved significantly. He thinks carefully before he starts talking, speaking more slowly and smoothly, even when he is excited, upset or anxious. He has even started using the techniques to speak Spanish more confidently.
"He seems much more confident when interacting with family, friends and teachers. We have noticed that because Nicolas is more confident while speaking, he seems happier. He can express himself much better in school, demonstrating a high level of confidence when he's asked questions or when he expresses his needs and desires," said Diana.
Nicolas' parents credit the ISTAR treatment, and the support from his family, friends and teachers for significantly affecting Nicolas' life in a positive way.
"The ISTAR program has been a great experience for Nicolas and for us as a family. He has improved tremendously because of his hard work and dedication to the treatment, and of course because of the ISTAR SLPs and Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children," said Julian.
"It has been a great experience for us as a family and as immigrants to Canada to have such great support and a welcoming attitude from each and every one of the members of the ISTAR and Elks organizations," said Diana.
And Diana continues to be a proud mom, knowing they gave Nicolas the help he needed from ISTAR.
"The ISTAR program and Elks funding have not only helped Nicolas to speak more smoothly and to be happier, they have also helped us reinforce our ties as a family as we have been given the opportunity to set time aside every day to talk and to share time together."
*Last names have been omitted to respect patient confidentiality.
Did you know that over 300,000 Canadians are currently experiencing stuttering, and even more are dealing with speech issues? Join us for this FREE event and learn more about what stuttering is and how ISTAR can help, all while having fun!
Saturday, May 13, 2017, 1-3 P.M.
West Edmonton Mall, Centre Stage, Phase 1
Free event open to the public
  • Interactive booths on stuttering and speech for adults and kids
  • Cookie decorating
  • Pictures with Disney princesses
  • Free swag
  • Draw prizes
We are also proud to have the Organization of Alberta Students in Speech (OASIS) joining us to help raise awareness of speech and hearing disorders as part of the 3rd Annual OASIS Speech and Hearing Month Event.