There is someone or the other we know who stutters or stammers. But what do we do besides trying to control our laughter or mock them? On International Stuttering Day NT BUZZ attempts to sensitise readers and highlight how intervention and support can be of great assistance
Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ
Imagine going to an interview for a job which you have always dreamed of. You prepare for it very well. But when you enter the interview room and are asked your name, you say something like this: “My nnnnnameis SSSSSSSuresh PPPPaaaaatil.” Within those seconds, you can feel all your dreams coming crashing down.
And just when you think you are not like the rest and your inability to communicate affects people and you in particular, do not worry as this disorder is common – and can be overcome.
Stammering also known as stuttering is a relatively common speech disorder, which is poorly understood and rarely discussed. It affects males more than females with a ratio of 3:1.
“I was never shy or reluctant when it came to speaking in public as a young kid, but there were times and now too, when words don’t come out of my mouth,” says an assistant professor who mentions that she is a people person but avoids conversations and is considered reserved or as having an attitude, when in fact she’s afraid to stammer and be judged by people.
Despite research and studies, the specific cause of stammering has not been ascertained. However, speech therapists and experts believe this condition could be due to one or more reasons like trauma, neurogenic disorders, genetic and pressure during childhood.
My parents would tell me to speak slowly, and think and speak. But nothing worked. In fact there are days I don’t stammer at all. And there are days when simple words like ‘mama’, ‘eat’ and ‘hello’ come out with so much difficulty that I just go quiet and feel awkward,” says the lady.
One of the most challenging aspects of stammering is that it has no cure. People who stutter (PWS) tend to find it difficult to get words out, especially in difficult situations. Due to the humiliation, teasing or mocking faced by PWS in childhood, it makes a deep impact on PWS’ psychology, which makes him/her shy and less confident to face the world.
She now takes it in her stride when her younger brother makes fun or others laugh. “I don’t feel bad when people make fun anymore. Instead I’ve begun laughing at myself,” she says adding that she tries to find out for herself the patterns of her stuttering, the moments when it occurs the most, etc.
Whenever a PWS experiences blocks and is unable to get the words out, he goes through the cycle of fear-shame-self hate-guilt. Twenty-year-old Rahul tells us: “Having a block is one of the worst feelings I go through. Not being able to say my name, which even a 4-year-old can, makes me lose my confidence. How can I succeed when I know I won’t be able to say my name properly?” he questions his own ability and power.
Medical practitioner Ravi Lotliker is surprised that when the world has progressed so much, there is little or no awareness about stammering in India. He says: “They are mocked, made fun of and the severity of the issue is not taken seriously. It is high time that awareness is raised about stammering and the detrimental effects it has on us. This should be the last generation that has to go through the pain, humiliation of stammering.” Awareness is the way to do that, he believes.
“I tell people I stammer, sometimes people are shocked that I teach in college and talk to people because of my work. Hiding won’t sort my issues. But telling others might help in reducing the mockery people like me go through,” she says.
Twenty three-year-old Sukhveer Bajwa has tried everything to overcome his stammering. From speech therapies, sessions with psychologists/psychiatrists, homeopathy and Ayurveda, nothing worked for this lad. “I sometimes feel people are unable to understand what I am going through. Being able to speak very fluently at one moment and being unable to get my words out the next second makes me feel helpless,” he says.
NT BUZZ randomly asked a handful of people what they think when a person in front of them stutters. From saying it’s normal to thinking that the person is frightened and searching for words, the person who stutters is judged in several ways and is seldom given the assurance that ‘it is okay’.
So know that when people stutter, they are aware of what they want to say, but have difficulty saying it. From repeating or prolonging a word, a syllable, or a consonant or vowel sound, to having pauses during speech because they’ve reached a problematic word or sound, those who stutter work their way forward. They try hard and are capable of doing everything you and I do.