Does your child stammer?
Speech therapist Ajit Harisinghani tells you how and why your child's stammering can be stopped at the right time.
Mum..mummy! We wa.wa.wa..won the
mmm..mmmatch!" Mrs Sharma's body tenses up whenever she hears her ten year-old
son stuttering. Whenever Amit gets stuck on a word, she gets desperate.
Amit's younger brother speaks absolutely normally, and that makes Amit's
handicap ever more noticeable. Very often classmates tease him. Last year,
he came home crying quite often. Interestingly, Amit has no difficulty
when he sings or recites from memory. But the problem comes when the teacher
asks him to read aloud in the class. Also when he is very excited and angry.
Talking on the telephone is also difficult for Amit. Like Amit, many children
face the speech problem. And like Mrs Sharma, many mothers worry over their
child's stammering. But mere worry does not help. One has to understand
the disorder before tackling it.
What is stammering?
Stammering is predominantly a 'male' condition (80% of stammerers are male) and it usually affects the first-born male child. A significant majority of stammerers (65%) have a family history of the disorder. Nearly always, stammering starts before the child is five years of age. If left untreated, it peaks in severity around the age of ten to eighteen years and then begins to stabilize or fade away as the person grows older.
A stammerer knows precisely what
he wants to say but cannot, for a moment, say it because of an involuntary
repetition, prolongation or cessation of the speech sound. Research suggests
that the disorder might be caused due to a 'neurological mistiming' during
the act of speech which leaves the stammerer confused about when exactly
to say the word he or she wants to say. Speaking is not merely the movement
of the tongue but involves a fine coordination of both mental and physical
processes. Like all other physical actions, the act of speech is
the result of neuro-muscular coordination that involves the transmitting
of electro-chemical messages from the brain to the appropriate muscle groups.
Actually, all stammerers have periods of fluency when they are emotionally
relaxed but revert back to diffluent speech under stress. Answering the
roll call in a class, or speaking on the telephone, or
talking to someone in authority, or speaking in a group, or attending a
job interview are some pressure situations which might increase behavior.
What is exactly wrong?
Another interesting fact about stammering
is that even those who stammer severely can sing fluently without
any speech blocks. It is because when we sing a song, we know exactly
when to say what. But in a conversation, people become
disoriented and cannot maintain smooth forward flow of words in the form
of sentences. Even as a child stammers, he builds an accumulated fear of
stammering. With growing years, these fears keep snowballing until the
child begins to experience tremendous frustration, anxiety,
shame, embarrassment, and even guilt. He or she begins to recoil from speaking.
He fears listeners. In the bargain, he also loses confidence. But, he does
not know that except for the stammering, he is a normal human being. In
fact, most stammerers are sensitive and intelligent people.
It is a habit
Speech is one of the strongest habits
of our body. And naturally, stammered speech is also a habit. Stammering
is not a disease and therefore, it cannot be treated through medicines.
The stammering child or adult has to be helped to develop
a new, more fluent manner of
Never hide the problem
A stutterer usually tries to hide
his or her speech problem. This attempt at camouflage is counter-productive
because it only acts as psychological 'fuel' for further speech-blocks.
If the stammerer is open about his speech difficulty, he experiences lesser
stress and is able to speak with greater control.
In the final analysis, stammering
ans stuttering can be overcome if the sufferer seeks scientific, professional
guidance and is ready to work towards achieving speech fluency through
regular practice of therapeutic techniques. It certainly cannot disappear
by some magic pill. And as a parent, one has to realize this fact.
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