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 is a speech disorder characterized by involuntary repetition of sounds and words.
Till date, Scientist are yet to come to conclusion on what exactly hijacks an individual’s brain activity and prompts stammering. While genetics is shown to be the growing evidence, I’ve list out some possible causes that can perhaps trigger this speech disorder:
Neurological Stammering: caused due to injury (clot) in the brain as a result of severe cerebral infections or accidents
Drug-related Stammering: triggered due to the side-effects of the prescripted medicines.
Stress-related Stammering: Majority cases emerges from this category where events of bereavement, post-traumatic stress disorder (horrific events) causes long-term disfluency.
Genetic-related stammering: if any of your family member stammers, there is huge chances that you may develop this speech disorder. Stammering can affect even when you are in the mid-40s.
5% of children under the age of 5 will go through a phase of stammering in some point of life, if remained untreated or not intervened during pre-school years, the condition remains persistent. 1% of adult population stammers and more men have dysfluency than women.
Celebrities like Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan (who’d opened up big time about his stammering years in talk show ‘Tere Mere Beach Mein’ with Filmmaker Farah Khan as host), Hollywood sensation Bruce Willis, Julia Robert, Marilyn Monroe, Sam Neil, Huge Grant, Samuel L Jackson reportedly have faced stammering/stuttering years of youth. Now look where they are 🙂
There is a way how to address the people suffering from this disorder and NO, They shouldn’t labeled as ‘Stammerer‘ or mock them as ‘Hakloochand‘ or ‘Hakloo‘.
We need to use term as Person or people who stammers (PWS), if it’s a child then child/children who stammer (CWS).
People who stammer are as equally intelligent and sound as others, what lags them behind is their speed of speech.
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 others who stammer. I would skip normal oral test (would had to reluctantly speak for marks in examinations), never participate in elocution, debate, 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 the hell out of him/her as if doomsday has arrived. They are under impression that stammering in front of people is a sign of ‘shame’ or ‘being weak’. This attitude often psychologically affects the person/child who stammer and digs a thought in the mind that ‘Stammering is shameful’.
As a result, they are stigmatized and always under immense pressure to talk normal as much as possible. This internalizing thought-process hampers the prospect in such a manner that cost marks, interview, jobs.
Rules for the parents, relatives, friends who is familiar with person/child who stammers:
- Do not judge them. Lower down your expectations that stammering is completely curable (can be possible when real cause is identified).
- Allow the person/ child to complete their statement and when they complete what they want to say, Do not make him/her realize all the time that they’ve to concentrate on certain words and sentence. It’s badly irritating.
- There are times when person/child who stammers attend few weeks of therapy classes and discontinue, It is always out of monotonous and not-so-creative environment and never because they are lazy or careless. Avoid demotivating them.
- Never, I repeat, NEVER insist the person/child who stammer to conceal their disorder a secret from the world. It gives an impression that their disorder is symbol of shame and makes him/her feel like social outcast, and more they try to hide, it gets even more worst. You, as an elder, must prepare yourself with a mindset that there is no wrong if a person fumble; unless you don’t inculcate this habit, journey is going to be difficult.
- Give them the opportunity to ‘speak’ without interruption. Owing to generation gap, polarizing viewpoint is bound to exist. Stammering does happen when you aren’t allowed to speak or say a word on something. This results in tensed muscles to the throat, add more pressure on vocal chord and energy is disrupted.
- Have patience. Do not loose temper so fast if the person/child who stammer does some mistake. Those few seconds of anger and unhealthy word are enough to create distance.
- Avoid all 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, give them to independence to speak without fear. it’s not a crime to fumble or get blocked.
For the people/children who stammer, remember : ACCEPT YOURSELF
Acceptance is the first step to a solution and half battle 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.
Join any Self Help Group where you will meet people like who has experienced the dread like you have or had. Read books in loud voice, talk to yourself in front of the mirror, sing songs.
Write a lot because you 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.
It’s just that their journey and struggle is different, so is yours.
You are genius, amazing and lovely people, you are more than the stammerer label.