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Advice for children who stutter: Jean-François Leblanc


Tell me about yourself:

My name is Jean-François Leblanc. 48 years old. I live in Quebec City, QC, Canada. I work as Scientific Information Specialist for the R&D department of a not-for-profit organization called Héma-Québec. This organization is in charge of supplying hospitals of the Province of Québec with blood components, so Héma-Québec organizes blood drives, collects blood, does all the testing for blood component qualification, and ships qualified blood components to hospitals throughout the Province of Québec.

Tell me about your stuttering history

As far as I can remember (and my parents validated this perception), I started to stutter at about the same time I learned to speak, but that stuttering episode did not last too long, as I recovered when I was still preschool age, but relapsed around kindergarden or Grade 1. Stuttered since then. I would qualify myself as a mild stutterer, but every once in a while I get into a good repetitive-type stutter or a mild block. All in all, my main concern for years, in fact decades, was the so-called iceberg, i.e., the negative feelings and emotions associated with stuttering. I recently joined the stuttering self-help movement because I did not like the way I dealt with some stuttering moments internally. Never been in speech therapy, but been in psychotherapy – good old “shrink therapy” – in my early twenties. At that time, I was convinced (and so did my parents) that stuttering was a psychological issue. The therapy had no impact on overt stuttering, but it stopped the self-destructive spiral I got into back then. I managed to go through life (undergraduate and graduate studies, find a job, girlfriend, etc.) without stuttering being in the way.

Can you share a funny stuttering moment?

I am still in the process of coming to terms with stuttering. I thought about this question for a while, and I cannot come up with a truly funny stuttering moment. Not much of a surprise, since until I joined the stuttering community, I hated stuttering, would get upset at myself, would feel crappy about myself if I got into a stuttering moment. I’ll keep my antenna stretched in case a stuttering moment turns funny.

What advice would you give to children who stutter?

Is there a proverb that says something like “Advice is only good for ourselves”? In any event, I would tell him that there are lots of options available, but whatever the path you want to take (speech therapy, self-help/support organization, etc.), you will have to bring the issue up with someone and talk about it, whether it be your parents, relatives, friends, teachers, etc. Trying to hide it will only lead to more shame and embarrassment. Talking about it sends the message to your audience that you are somewhat OK with it, that you are willing to educate people about what stuttering is. If you are considering speech therapy, you will have to talk about it with your parents and/or teachers. If you want to fully participate in class at school, I would encourage you to talk about stuttering with your teacher and classmates. That might actually be a great opportunity for the entire class to have a thorough discussion about variations and differences between individuals at-large, issues of tolerance, openness, respect, and ways to fight bullying at school.

You’ve been reading one of a few posts in a blog series profiling the real people behind the caricatures I’m including in the stuttering advice book I’m creating. Stay tooned for more!

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