I know how it feels to be the person who stammers (PWS).
The experience had never been pleasant until I accepted it as part of my life. ‘Stammering‘ (used in UK and India) or ‘Stuttering‘ (US and Australia) – As per information mentioned in “The British Stammering Association” – is a speech disorder characterized by involuntary repetition of sounds and words.
According to a website do something (dot) org, About 5% of children (1 in 20) ages 2 to 5 will develop some stuttering during their childhood. It may last for several weeks to several years. While some will recover by age 7 or 8, 1 out of every 100 children will be left with long-term stuttering. Stuttering is more common in boys than girls. It also tends to persist into adulthood more often in boys than in girls. More than 70 million people worldwide are stutterers — that’s one in every 100. In the US, more than 3 million people stutter.
People who stammer (PWS) are as equally intelligent and sound as others, what pulls them behind is the lack of fluency and speed in their communication.
Below is the flow chart of normal flow of thought processes:
For the people/children who stammer, The block is formed between the 3rd and 4th step. The ideas have formed, creatively structured but due to anxiety, words go haywire forming traffic and fails to make it verbally. As a result, they mumble, slur with repetitive statements causing over-anxiety, stress, tensed muscles, loss of confidence and embarrassment.
My experience is exactly the same as anyone who stammers. I would skip normal oral test during my school days (Many occasions had to reluctantly give exams for get grades), would avoid participating in elocution competition, stay miles away from debates, avoid conversing with people esp. strangers. Hesitation to receive or make calls, it would take seconds to say ‘Hello’, let alone be name. I do struggle to pronounce in some alphabets like T, V, P, C, Z.
Stammering, going by scientist’s research works and personal experience, has not yet been able to vouch for it’s cure. But it can be controlled with proper diaphragmatic breathing, speech therapy exercise like loud reading books, breaking words and interchanging the alphabets, singing, relaxing throat muscles.
There is a myth making rounds that parents are the reason behind child’s speech disorder, I would beg to differ with respect. NEVER. There are many reasons why a child or an adult stammer (like I mentioned earlier). However, they do have a huge role in managing their child’s speech fluency and a lot has to do with how patient, understanding and non-judgement they are
I would like to stress that besides breathing and speech therapy exercise, PATIENCE is the key.
Parents and similarly aged relatives have an annoying habit of finding unusual things highly offensive or fearsome. Even today if a person or child who stammers is found mumbling or lost out of words, many often scare him/her for no apparent reason whatsoever, guilt-tripping them. They are under impression that stammering is a sign of ‘shame’ or ‘being weak’. This attitude often psychologically stigmatizes the person/child who stammer and digs a thought in the mind that ‘Stammering is shameful’.
As a result, they are always under immense pressure to talk normal as much as possible.
Rules for the parents, relatives, friends who is familiar with person/child who stammers:
- Do not judge them. There is nothing to feel ashamed about stammering. It is okay.
- Allow the person/ child to complete their statement and while they’re completing what they want to say, please refrain from interfering and talking for them. It obstructs their flow completely.
- Never insist the person/child who stammer to conceal their speech impediment a secret from the world. The more they try to hide, it gets even more worst. You, as an elder, must prepare yourself with a mindset that there is nothing wrong if a person fumble; unless you don’t come to terms with it, journey is going to be difficult.
- Please develop patience. Do not loose temper swiftly if the person/child who stammer.
- Avoid any forms of surveillance on them. More they get conscious about your inspection, harder it would be for them to speak. Let them loosen up a bit.
For the people/children who stammer, remember : ACCEPT YOURSELF
Acceptance is the first step to a solution and half battle is won. Talk slowly as much as you can, no one in this world is too hurry to leave you unheard. Address more and more people (like teachers, friends, office colleague, boss) about your speech impediment, not to gain sympathy and feel sorry for you, but for the moral support that can largely boost your self-confidence.
If interested, join any Self Help Group where you can meet people who have experienced the struggle you did, and strives to work hard on it. Other solutions also includes reading, self talk before the mirror, singing songs.
Best thing one can possibly do is lot of writing because it creates a channel to pave way for the struck energy to form sentences. Keep in mind, that it’s a lifelong commitment and might take years to cure but it is definitely in your hands to control it.