Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum ~ Stutter

Jack’s mother was not happy. ‘How could you have sold the cow for some beans?’ she fumed. ‘The cow’s milk was our only hope! And now we have nothing!!!!’

‘B-b-b-but, mother, an o-o-o-old man told me they’re magic beans!’ Jack replied.

‘There is no such thing as magic, Jack, go to bed!’ screamed his mother, as she threw the beans on the ground.

As Jack climbed the stairs and curled up into bed, a tear fell from the side of his cheek. He was upset. He knew how challenging it had been to go out and sell the cow. Communicating with others was difficult for him. He did not like the fact that he continuously stuttered before starting any sentence. Jack closed his eyes. As he fell asleep, he wished everything would be better tomorrow.

The next day, as Jack wakes up and opens his curtains, he was astonished. A gigantic beanstalk had grown from the magic beans. He knew climbing this over-sized beanstalk to a land high in the sky would help overcome his mother’s worries, and maybe he could even find an answer to his stuttering. So he began climbing…

Finally, reaching the top he comes across an enormous castle. He decides to enter and have a wander. After all, he was on an adventure. Suddenly, he heard a loud thump and Jack hid behind a huge cupboard.

‘Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman, be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.’ Jack peaked out of the cupboard. He gasped. It was a giant.

The giant turned. He was quick to see Jack in the cupboard. ‘I’ve found you, little boy,’ he said as he opened the cupboard and picked Jack up. ‘Now, I’ll let you go if you tell me why you’re here’.

‘P-p-p-p-p-p-p-pl-pl-pl…’ stumbled Jack.

‘Come on boy, speak, I won’t hurt you,’ demanded the giant.

‘I-i-i-i-i- c-c-c-c-can’t s-s-s-speak w-w-w-without stuttering,’ said Jack, and he began to cry. ‘I-I-I’m sorry! This is h-h-how I-I-I speak. I’m a failure! Every-o-o-one’s to-o-old me! And I’ve upset my mother’.

The giant’s face dropped. He was speechless and a wave of sorrow glided across his body as his heart melted. He knew exactly what condition the boy had and wanted to help him.

‘Firstly boy, do not worry about your speech. I can see I have upset you, I’m sorry. What you have is a common speech problem in childhood. It’s called stuttering or stammering, and can also carry on into adulthood. It is characterised by repeating certain sounds or syllables, which is what is evident in your case, but other signs are prolonging sounds, pausing before certain words, avoiding eye contact and saying ‘um’ and ‘ah’ often. Some affected children may also have associated repetitive physical behaviour such as tapping their fingers, eye blinking and quivering lips and their stutter may become worse in situations where they are aware of their speech and may be trying extra hard not to stutter!’

‘T-t-that’s what happened-d-d t-t-to me! I was t-t-thinking really hard b-b-before speaking to you!’ exclaimed Jack.

‘Yes my boy. It varies between everyone and sometimes you may even have periods where you can speak fluently. There are two types: developmental and acquired stuttering. Developmental is the most common type that becomes apparent as a child is learning how to speak and acquired occurs in older children and is the result of a severe head injury, stroke or progressive neurological disease. You have the developmental type’, explained the Giant.

‘B-b-b-but Giant, why do I have it? None of the other children do!’ asked Jack.

‘I’m afraid the cause is still unclear. There is a part of your brain that is involved in speech and they think the structure and functioning of this part of the brain is different in people who stutter. However, you are still young, and your brain is still developing. Some children eventually ‘grow out’ of stuttering and treatment at a young age is seen to be beneficial. Another theory is that it’s genetic and certain genes have been identified, but how they lead to the condition is still unknown.’

‘My m-m-m-mum doesn’t have it. J-j-j-just me’, answered Jack.

‘It’s quite common. 1 in 20 children experience a phase of non-fluent speech, and in 3 in 4 it will resolve overtime with or without treatment. It’s also more common in boys. I would advise you to contact your doctor as soon as you go back to lowland. They can help you, and if necessary refer you to a Speech and Language therapist, who can formulate a suitable plan according to your circumstance. They can also work on your feelings associated with stuttering, help you feel more confident with your language, and give you strategies to improve your fluency and communication skills. Another form of treatment involves psychological therapy, but the doctor will explain more to you about this if it is right for you. You should get going boy, and speak with your mother,’ stated the Giant.

‘Th-th-th-thank you, Giant, but m-m-my mother is up-up-upset at me. We have no m-m-m-money and I sold our c-c-cow for these m-m-magic beans that grew into this b-b-beanstalk that I climbed to get here – ‘our only source of income’ is w-w-what my mum r-r-referred to her as’, Jack said, happiness in his tone of voice as he had finally found some answers to his condition. He was excited to explain it to his mother; if she’d speak to him…

Shrinal Kotecha


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