Four-year-old boy gives his mom the chance to hear him say "Happy Mother’s Day"

Lucas Klassen’s mom used to be his interpreter. But thanks to the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR) he’s now able to speak for himself

Jonathan Pullin - 10 May 2019

While some kids get their mom flowers for Mother’s Day, four-year-old Lucas Klassen gave his mom Lana Bang the chance to hear him speak for himself—a priceless gift for the Red Deer resident who was diagnosed with otosclerosis, a disorder that will eventually take away her hearing. 

Bang would describe her son as a rambunctious and happy four-year-old boy. He loves seeing his friends at preschool, attending Taekwondo and watching documentaries on robotics. He is smart, funny and social.

But only a short time ago, Lucas had difficulty communicating. His mother noticed early on that he wasn’t keeping up with his peers. By the age of three, he was only able to speak a handful of words. When he tried to string more than a couple of words together, he would become flustered–he could understand others but he couldn’t express himself, and that was the hardest part.

That’s when they suspected that Lucas had a stutter.

"He could always play well with kids, but he couldn’t talk to them. It was to the point that they would ask me what he was saying and I had to be his interpreter. Other kids didn’t know how to feel about him. All he wanted was to make friends, but they would ostracize him," remembered Bang.

 "One day, his frustration levels were so intense that he screamed for an hour. I felt helpless. He would try to talk but the words wouldn’t come out."

The search for a speech therapist in Red Deer fell short, with many telling Bang they could not provide any more assistance to Lucas.

Just when things seemed hopeless, one of Bang’s friends told her about the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR). After reading more about services they offered, the family decided to apply for Lucas’s assessment and treatment, and were accepted just in time.

"I have been diagnosed with otosclerosis, a disorder that will eventually take my hearing," said Bang. "The clock was ticking for me to help Lucas before I could no longer be his interpreter—before I could no longer have hope of hearing my son speak fluently."

I didn’t want Lucas to fall through the cracks. He is the love of my life and I could not bear the thought of how hard life, school and future relationships would be if he could not communicate easily on his own."

After making the trek to Edmonton from Red Deer for an assessment, where he was officially diagnosed with a stutter, Bang knew this was the place for her son.

"Lucas seemed so relaxed at ISTAR," said Bang. "His sessions with Shea, his speech-language pathologist, are tailored to him by finding methods that he responds to. The program keeps parents involved by having them provide feedback to their child each day. Shea asks Lucas to assess himself by asking ‘are you being smooth?’"

"She also teaches me how to apply the skills they learn together at home. Shea is amazing at guiding and helping me refine the skills in a way that is best suited to help Lucas."

Ever since his treatment at ISTAR, the progress has been astonishing.

"We’re shocked at how well he has responded to the treatment at ISTAR—he’s getting better every day. People are commenting on the change," said Bang.

"His grandparents can understand what he’s saying now and you can see the confidence building in him. He’s inviting other kids over to our house, he’s interacting with strangers instead of hiding behind my leg. It’s amazing."

Lucas continues with his weekly Skype sessions with Shea to keep his speech in tip-top shape. His mother says now that he’s started talking, he never wants to stop.

"He takes over the conversation around the dinner table," Bang said with a laugh. "He’s been so responsive to the treatments. It’s like watching this little seed grow into a flower."

For other parents that may be experiencing the same situation with their child, Bang advises them to ‘keep their heads up.’

"It gets better. Keep encouraging your child. You know your child the best. Trust the process, because it does work—Lucas is living proof."

Thanks to ISTAR and Bang’s continual support and love, Lucas is able to say "Happy Mother’s Day" this year.