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Giving Equal Opportunity To People Who Stutter

Employers have to be particularly sensitized so they do not judge the personality and performance of an individual through their verbal communication, shares Sweta Rawat, Chairperson, The Hans Foundation - close to International Stuttering Awareness Day

Image: timpspeech.com

Stuttering is a common human speech disorder, present across cultures and race. What differs is the prevalent attitudes towards the people and in many societies, this attitude and acceptance plays an important role in giving equal opportunity to the people who stutter in all spheres of life – whether personal, social, or professional.

Stuttering affects over 70 million people all over the world. Though there is no known cure, there is a silver lining that partial or even complete recovery is possible through specific interventions. Stuttering affects the personality of an individual as fear of being trapped in public conversation or of not being able to fluently communicate with others, is a very serious concern. Ramifications include self-imposed isolation, anxiety, stress, shame. Among children, the examples of being bullied and berated by peers are very common.

NGOs play a great role in advocating for this disability. Organizations across the globe are working towards an inclusive society, where there is equal responsibility to provide accessible and acceptable environment for people with all forms of disability. The society with the help of NGOs should encourage the affected people to seek speech therapy to decrease speech disfluency. The approach towards speed reduction, breathing regulation has shown some positive results in this direction, though there should also be a good mechanism of reviewing the progress of therapy, so effectiveness can be assessed. Strategies should be modified to reap maximum benefit for every individual. There should be centers available at a low/subsidized cost to ensure accessibility to the services by people across strata and geography. Existing speech centers operated by the NGOs across India can easily provide this extra service. The support system of counseling and psychological support can be delivered by the government agencies. The goal of stuttering modification therapy should not be to eliminate stuttering, but to modify it so that stuttering is minimized.

Individuals who stutter tend to be of above average intelligence, so the initial judgement of a stutterer as “inferior” is a completely deviant notion. Everyone should be given a level playing field to vie for employment opportunities. Employers have to be particularly sensitized so they do not judge personality and performance of an individual through their verbal communication. In addition, speech dysfunctionality has no affect on the quality of work output.

NGOs can also help to educate communities on how to respond to people with speech disorder – people should be empathetic and their body language, facial expression and gestures should be encouraging rather than demeaning towards such people. There should be a conscious effort of not pointing out errors to people with speech disorders. This will reduce the stutterer’s self concisousness and create an enabling environment. Positive environments in social settings such as schools and workplaces will assist in reducing the stigma and bias towards people who stutter. The unwholesome environment in these places can jeopardies individuals’ self image and push them towards inferiority complex and depression. In fact, children should be encouraged to accept their classmates and friends with speech dysfunctionality. NGOs can start public awareness campaigns emphasizing the role every individual in society has to treat people with speech disorders in an equal and fair manner. The role of mass media also becomes immensely important in showcasing people with disabilities as winners and confident, contributing members of society.

Self help and support groups have also played an important role in reducing the depression and isolation connected to stuttering. The stammering associations/bodies are already active in India.

Stuttering is a minor disability and should not hamper an individual’s chance at growth and self-discovery. We should all consciously move towards a society where all disabilities are recognized and accepted as a part of human condition. Denial and isolation will not help such people recognize their true potential.