Today we observed International Stuttering Awareness Day, an occasion for the betterment of those who stutter.
“Stuttering is a speech disorder characterised by repetition of sounds, syllables, or words; prolongation of sounds; and interruptions in speech known as blocks,” explains the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). “An individual who stutters exactly knows what he or she would like to say but has trouble producing a normal flow of speech.”
For those affected by stuttering, the effects are often far-reaching. “These speech disruptions may be accompanied by struggle behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips,” the NIDCD elaborates. “Stuttering can make it difficult to communicate with other people, which often affects a person’s quality of life and interpersonal relationships. Stuttering can also negatively influence job performance and opportunities, and treatment can come at a high financial cost.”
Stuttering has garnered enhanced prominence this year due to the candidacy of Joe Biden for President of the United States in this year’s election. Biden has been candid about his experiences with a stutter. Talking to John Hendrickson (who also stutters) of The Atlantic, he said “I haven’t stuttered in so long…what I do remember is the feeling.”
Biden is not the sole person affected by a stutter. More than seventy million people worldwide are affected by a stutter. In India in 2010, it was estimated that the number of Indians who stutter to be ten to twelve million people. Yet, as with so many conditions, stuttering comes with the price of social stigma.
“Being a Person Who Stammers (PWS) in India is being likened to a gay or lesbian person,” commented Dr Satyendra Srivastava, who co-started the Indian Stammering Association (TISA), to NDTV. “The society does not accept people who stammer.”
Advocacy is key. Advocacy cannot occur without awareness. That is why this day is so key – and there is much we can do as individuals and societies. Supporting advocacy groups, tendering our support to individuals affected, and the relevant stakeholders to provide the necessary support are among them. To raise awareness among those who may be misinformed is vital too.
To conclude with the words of Dr Srivastava, “it is such people who really need help, as they are ignorant about how to deal with the problem.”