Rahul is a lonely child. He is laughed at because whenever he speaks, he stutters. He goes “my name is Ra-Ra-Rahul.” His mother and grandmother thought it was because he had a short tongue. Other people said it was because, as a baby, Rahul’s hair was cut before he spoke his first word. Finally, Rahul’s mother took him to the doctor. She was told that it had nothing to do with these myths. Rather, Rahul had a speech disorder called dysphemia.

When we speak, a complex system of muscles coordinates the tongue, larynx (voice box), lips and mouth to produce sound. Sometimes a spasm occurs in these muscles and the speaker gets stuck with the first sound of the word. So instead of saying ‘Rahul’ the person would say ‘Ra-Ra-Rahul’.

Why do Some People Stutter?
Why do Some People Stutter? [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
Very many myths surround this disorder. People think stuttering is caused by forcing a left-handed child to be right-handed or tickling the child too much and so on. Stuttering or stammering is a speech disorder, the cause of which is still unknown.

It would be mere speculation to suggest it may have something to do with physical disorder or emotional disturbance. It can, though, be hereditary and is found to occur in children in the age group of six or seven years. It afflicts boys more than girls.

Can stuttering be controlled?

It is generally accepted that if you have a speech disorder, you should learn to accept the situation and overcome the fear. By accepting the worst you feel confident enough to relax and be spontaneous.

Stuttering is difficult to treat and demands skill and a sense of responsibility on the part of the therapist. It can be corrected through psychotherapy or speech therapy. Those afflicted are taught to read and speak slowly, distinctly and to breathe regularly while speaking.

Parental counselling can sometimes help prevent stuttering. Parents can ensure that their children do not develop habits of hesitation or syllable repetition while speaking.

People who stutter must remember that it is not their fault. Also, they do not stutter all the time. When they are singing, whispering, speaking in chorus or when they are alone or being totally spontaneous, they are perfect.

There are days when one does not stutter at all while other days can be sheer misery. When trying to impress someone, do not try to hide the fact that you stutter and make a mess of it. Instead, make people pay attention to what you are saying, not how you are saying it.

In the end, remember, stuttering is a disorder that interferes with the flow of speech. But you are not alone. Nearly everyone suffers from this problem to some extent. However, the differentiating factor is the frequency and severity of behaviour and loss of control. It is this loss of control, which can’t be experienced by the listener and causes the greatest problem.

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