Family matters

Father and son grow closer through ISTAR family-based treatment

Anne-Marie Aguilar - 18 June 2021

In 2018 Ryan and Jennifer Stanton first noticed their then five year-old son, Cole, struggling to communicate. As months passed and Cole began to choose silence over the frustration of speaking, Ryan felt like he was reliving his own painful experience.

Growing up, Ryan also had a stutter. As he got older, the more noticeable his stutter became, particularly during presentations and public speaking. Gradually he learned to manage his stutter on his own. He learned to pace himself and pause when needed and developed confidence in his speech. Despite his success, he wishes he had awareness of and access to programs available to help him when he was struggling.

Now, as a father, he knew he needed to find a way to help his son.

“I knew what he was going through, I knew how frustrating it was being unable to express yourself,” he says.

Together, the Stanton family did some research and discovered the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR) at the University of Alberta.

In October 2020, Ryan took Cole to his first consultation at ISTAR and has been by his side throughout his treatment. The Stanton family has been following ISTAR’s Lidcombe program, which teaches parents to support their child’s therapy through coaching and positive feedback. Ryan and Jennifer attend weekly sessions with Cole’s clinician, each time learning new strategies to support his speech fluency and communication skills.

“Ryan often takes the lead with Cole's therapy and has a very unique and close knit bond with [him],” says Ashley Saunders, one of ISTAR’s speech-language pathologists and Cole’s clinician. “The pair really are best buds! Cole really looks up to Ryan.”

Through ISTAR, the Stantons have learned to support Cole in a way that keeps things fun.

For example, as they read a book or play Lego together, Cole explains what he's building or what’s happening in the story. His mom and dad praise him when he talks smoothly and focus on what he’s saying instead of how he says it. 

This time together has helped Cole gain confidence – instead of staying silent, he regularly participates in class and at home volunteers what he learned each day in school.

“As a father, you just want what is best for your child,” Ryan says. “I just want him to feel confident in his talking, and with the help of ISTAR, Cole has improved a lot.”

For more information about the
Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR), visit