The Gift of Self Esteem

We all have something to say. We all have our own way of saying it. And that is beautiful. That makes the world a better, more diverse place.

In December 2016, another voice entered the world. It belonged to Theo. As a baby, he enjoyed sharing his opinion with bright and affectionate sounds. After his first birthday, those sounds slowly formed into words. Into his toddler years, his parents noticed that Theo had a stutter when he spoke.

This past summer, Theo watched himself on a video and said, “I don’t talk so good.” While his parents had concerns about his speech before then, when Theo noticed the difference himself and thought negatively about it, they knew it was time to get help. At the Center for Childhood Development, Theo was diagnosed with a speech disability. Hannah Pettinga and Elise Dirkse have supported Theo and helped him learn new strategies in speech and have even taught his parents how to use visual cues to help Theo stretch out his words or slow down. With the help of a scholarship from Family Hope Foundation, Theo continues his therapy appointments and has made progress, meeting some of his personal goals. He also gets speech services through Jenison Public Schools.

It might take him longer to say what he wants to say, especially if he’s excited, but he has learned to let others know that they need to stop and listen to him. Recently, he said to his aunt, “I have something important to tell you.”

Theo has learned that it is okay to have a speech disability and not to be embarrassed about it. It is part of who he is. Just like his love of music, drawing, riding bikes, exploring nature, and playing with Legos. His speech is a part of his voice, his personality, his self-expression. It’s not something that needs to be “fixed” or “overcome”. He simply desires to be able to share his full thoughts. Because Theo is a thinker. He likes to discuss important things. He notices and cares about how others are feeling. It is his empathetic heart that wants to connect with others.

We live in a diverse world, with diverse voices, that need to be heard and celebrated.

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