Thirteen-year-old Jackson Montalbano wishes people knew that stuttering has nothing to do with someone’s intelligence. "People who hear me stutter think I’m not smart," says the Lemont eighth-grader.
"He’s an honor student, but people are making judgments," agrees Jackson’s mom Chris. But at the Montalbano home, there are no judgments, only support for Jackson. "If the parents are OK with it, the kids are OK. You have to let them know, you stutter, it’s something you do, not who you are."
Getting to that point as a parent and as a child who stutters isn’t always easy, but Chris’ involvement with the National Stuttering Association helped the family find local resources, including connecting with other parents and kids who stutter. "As a parent of a stutterer and as a stutterer to a stutterer, it’s such a blessing to know you’re not alone," Chris says.
Chris had Jackson evaluated when he was 3, after she realized he was having problems with words in a sentence. "He was able to say single words, but when it came to a whole thought process he was having trouble articulating," she says. Jackson began speech therapy, something he continues today.
The goal at this point is to help Jackson manage his speech rather than attain complete fluency. "There is no magic pill. Jackson’s been in therapy 10 years," Chris says.
And with the teen years upon them, a whole new set of social issues comes into play, so at this point the family has left therapy decisions up to Jackson. "For us, we don’t push. At some point Jackson may want to advance and it’ll be up to him," Chris says. "When Jackson’s ready to tackle this, I think he’ll go through more intense therapy and he’ll conquer this."
Both Jackson and his parents expect no special favors, especially in school, where Jackson has become comfortable addressing the class or even the whole school body during school programs. "I find that people are receptive to him. When someone stutters, you slow down and give them space to finish their thought," she advises. "You need to slow down your speech and realize whatever they have to say is important."
Jackson asks only one thing of the people he meets. "Just let me finish. That’s all."
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