Often we see how people behave insensitively to those who deviate from what is called ‘normal’ in social parlance. A common example is the phenomena of stammering. Those who stammer speak with sudden involuntary pauses and have a tendency to repeat the initial letters before they begin again. Recent bollywood movies like Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahaani and Jagga Jasoos shows Ranbir Kapoor as a guy who stammer. Have we ever thought about the reason of such speech impairments and why do they exist? Let us try to understand it briefly.
Why does it happen?
The biological process of speech requires larynx, cheeks, tongues and lips to be in sync so that they can produce sound. A person, who stammers, lacks such coordination.
The speech development of children starts by associating sounds with person and objects. Speech involves coordination of many aspects of brain function. These areas in the brain, particularly those concerned with aspects of speech, are located in the dominant hemisphere of right-handed person and in either hemisphere of left-handed people. Disease of these parts of the brain leads to characteristic forms of stammering.
Stammering rarely shows up before the age of four or five. It mostly occurs after puberty. In scientific terms, stuttering or stammering is known as ‘Dysphemia’. One of its manifestations is when the speaker cannot utter a word clearly – spasms occur in the speech muscles and he gets stuck with the first sound. So instead of saying my, he would say ‘m-m-my.’
In another form, the muscles in the tongue, throat and face get spasms, and despite the fact that facial muscles work to make sound, no words come out. The face gets twisted. It is more common in males than in females. According to studies, the ratio between males and females is 4:1. Doctors and researchers are yet not sure about the definite cause of this disorder. However, it is often connected with a physical disorder or some emotional disturbance. Hereditary predispositions of stammering have been noted in many studies. In one study about 40% stutterers were found to inherit this disorder.
It arises early in a child’s life when they are learning to speak. Most children will have some level of stuttering as they grow, but some will have problems that persist.
These can arise as a result of stroke or head trauma or any other serious medical issue. The connections between language centers of the brain and the muscles that are used in speaking are weakened or disconnected.
These are caused by exposure to an emotionally traumatic event.
Stammering can be improved to some extent by special training in reading and speaking. In this, the person is taught to read and speak slowly and carefully, and breathe regularly while speaking. The treatment is difficult and it demands much skills and sense of responsibility on the part of the therapist.
However, psychotherapy and speechotherapy have been quite effective. In this, attempts are made to overcome speech difficulties, this is particularly important in children. Parents can take care of their children in such a way that they do not develop the habit of hesitation, or syllable repetition. Parental guidance has also been found quiet effective in reducing the number of stutterers. A very controlled, guided and conscious approach on the part of the stutterer often helps to redress the problem.
Top 10 simple tips to reduce stammering/ stuttering:
Speak slowly and simply.
Practice words that you notice as problematic.
Gradually increase the length of words and sentences.
Monitor your speech as you talk.
Don’t be afraid to leave pauses or silence in your speech.
Don’t force words. Go at your own pace as you practice.
Don’t always change your words or what you want to say.
Pause and take a deep breath before speaking.
Lengthen the first letter of a word that you are stammering while delivering it. For instance while saying apple, start like Ah……pple. This way you can reduce stammer.
You can also install and make use of some anti-stuttering apps. But do check with your medical practitioner before you start using them.
Relax and reduce anxiety about speaking can also help reduce stuttering. Be confident. It is not going to be perfect at first, but you will inevitably improve over time.