Thursday, November 23, 2017

How to deal with children who stammer

Sometimes, I get messages asking for tips on dealing with children who stammer. Some of them tell they had little success with speech therapy of their children. On a few occasions, I told them that generally speech therapy was about managing stammering and chances of a complete recovery were high among children. I also told them that we ourselves can help the children in most of the cases. Unfortunately a few of them became more worried after hearing these. Instead of that, let us look at the positives.

Early and correct intervention from our side will help the child a lot, even leading to complete recovery. In fact my kids, son and daughter had also shown some signs of disfluency when they were 2 to 3 years old. Since I myself am a stammerer, I was really worried though my close relatives told these were normal in any child. Since there is a genetic connection to stammering, I wanted to ensure that they did not get it. The following points about dealing with stammering in children are based on my experiences too.

Old habits never die. If the child becomes successful in not making this style of speaking a habit, it leads to a complete recovery. To help the child in this, we should not make the child conscious of the way in which he or she speaks. The parent should not panic and show it on his or her face while dealing with the child. The child should not get a feeling that something is wrong. Let the child speak as if everything is fine. As some people say, stammering is something which happens when we try not to stammer. So let the child continue to speak without struggling to correct the speech.

In a bid to help the child we might advise him or her to slow down. This will help only in making the child conscious of the fact that something is wrong with his speech. Instead of that we should convey the same message by slowing down our own speech. If everybody at home decides to speak slowly, the same will be picked up by the child! 

Similarly allow the child to complete the words even if he or she is struggling. Do not try to complete the words. Be patient and listen carefully by maintaining normal eye contact and without flinching. These would help in not making the child conscious of the issue. Normally the onset of stammering happens when the child is 2 years old. At that time, the child will be most probably in the care of the parents. 

The points mentioned above if practiced, can help the child in coming out of the issue before he or she grows up  and starts interacting with the external world. If child has grown up, the following points in addition to  the above points might help.

Though adults do not face much ridicule, a child who stammers faces this a lot. The other children might see it as something funny and might make comments or laugh at it. If the child has siblings, talk to them and ask them to follow the same points mentioned above. Ask them to behave normally with him or her. If possible do the same with his or her friends too. If the child is of the school going age, please inform the teacher about this. If the child is complaining of children making fun of him, please convey the same to the teacher or take the help of the teacher. 

If the child is discussing about the issues of stammering, be open and calm and make him or her feel that it is okay to stammer. Encourage the child to do whatever he or she likes and appreciate him or her for the achievements. Let the child feel that he or she is just like any other child. If required, take the help of a speech therapist (speech language pathologist) who focusses of fluency issues. 

The confidence gained by the child in a friendly atmosphere at home and outside will surely help him or her in dealing with this situation. Early intervention aimed at not making the child conscious of the issue is the key. A few videos which might be of help are given below.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

How to deal with stammering (A sequel to Ssstammering and my life)

Sometimes I get mails from people, who read my blog ‘Ssstammering and my life’ athttp://sudheendranavittathur.blogspot.in/2016/02/ssstammering-and-my-life.html, asking whether there is a cure for stammering and what are the ways of dealing with stammering. I am not a person who is cured of stammering. In fact there is no known cure for it. In other words, there is no treatment which can guarantee a cure. When somebody hears this, he usually becomes disappointed. There is no need to become disappointed, as stammering can be managed to such an extent that it doesn’t affect the life of the stammerer.
The experts compare stammering with an iceberg. What you see outside is only a small part. There is a big emotional baggage which is not visible outside. From my experience, the traditional treatments or therapies deal with the part which is seen outside. They teach methods like prolongation, speaking slowly, breathing techniques etc, but they don’t usually deal with the submerged part. May be, that is the reason why most of the traditional therapies do not give long lasting relief from stammering.

There are people who lead a normal life though they stammer. Most of them do not show any symptom of stammering or they stammer very lightly. How is it so? The answer is; they manage it. They have learned how to deal with it and how to handle the day to day activities without difficulties. They have learned how to live with it. They have accepted their stammering and they do not run away from things from which they always used to run away.

The most important point is accepting yourself as a stammerer and removing the shame of stammering from the mind. When we try to hide or fight with it, it increases the tension. It will aggravate the problem. Instead of that be comfortable with it and stammer easily. We can even tell in advance that we stammer. By doing this, we won’t try to hide our stammering and the tension will go away.

Accepting yourself as a stammerer is a concept which is very much misunderstood. We speak about revealing our stammering in advance and relieving the tension. When I just finished my education and was looking for a job, I used to reveal my stammering in interviews, but I never got any relief! I used to stammer more and used to fail miserably! I used to reveal it, as if I was resigned to the fact that I was a stammerer and that I was sorry about that. It was that attitude which was creating the issue.

Acceptance is living with stammering, without fighting with that. You accept it as a part of your life and go ahead in life. You learn to be easy with that or learn to coexist with that. You don’t think of getting a magic remedy with which you can come out of it. You learn to stammer easily.

Most of the time, we are very much worried about the reaction of others or what others think about us when we stammer. We think others will ridicule us. In reality others are more interested in what we speak, not in how we speak. Most of the people are accommodative and are willing to listen (this might not be the case with children though). Only a minority laughs at this. Let them laugh. Let us laugh along with them or laugh off their ridicule. When a majority is willing to accommodate us, let us speak, even if we stammer. Lets not hide it.

The article ‘Ssstammering and my life’ was written when I was in HCL. That was the time when I started to accept my stammering. By 2010, I left HCL and joined JSW group in their IT division known as JSoft solutions. I joined them in a senior level role and it was necessary for me to interact with the CEO and other leaders of the organization, coordinate meetings of seniors, deal with external vendors etc. Though I used to run meetings with seniors in my previous jobs, I used to struggle a lot and used to feel bad. This job required that and a bit more to be done frequently. The concept of acceptance made me at ease and I began to do these with ease, though I used to stammer. I would continue irrespective of my stammering!

After one year, I  joined Infosys. Here too, interactions and meetings with senior leaders were part of the job. Though I faltered in a few cases, I continued. I slowly realized that I was not feeling bad in these situations. Another area which I could improve was talking over the phone, as the people with whom I interacted were sitting in different cities. Earlier I was not comfortable with telephonic conversations. Again, doing it continuously gave me the confidence. The new found confidence combined with acceptance made me a better speaker over the phone too.

Experts say, facing the challenges head on is the best way to deal with it. My experience is not different. Accepting your limitations and going ahead in life is the best way to deal with any difficult situation including stammering.

Does it mean that we should not go for any treatment? Partly yes, but it doesn’t mean that it has to be avoided. Usually, we approach treatments with the hope of getting a complete cure. As mentioned earlier, there is no guaranteed cure for this. When we do not get a cure we become disappointed. It, in turn creates more trouble. So always go to those therapists who treat fluency disorders and those who do not charge a big fee. Go there only to learn some techniques which might help in dealing with stammering and not for cure. Go there to learn how to deal with the visible part of the stammering iceberg. Deal with the submerged part through acceptance and facing the challenges head on.

Most of the people ask about support systems which will help in managing stammering.  Joining the self help group (SHG) will be a good option. It is happening in several places. It is free of cost. It helps you in interacting with fellow stammeres and learning from them. Most of the time, whatever you get to learn from a therapist, can be learned from there free of cost! If you are in India, please visithttp://stammer.in/ to get the details of SHGs run by TISA (The Indian Stammering Association). There will be similar groups in other countries too. TISA also conducts skype calls periodically. Please join those call, if you are unable to join SHGs. These will help in improving your confidence, accepting your stammering and improving your communication skill.

There is more to life than stammering. Start enjoying the life. Some of us would be holding us back from those things which we always wanted to do. We might be under the feeling that we would do it once stammering is cured! Don’t wait for that cure. Just go ahead and do those things which we always wanted to. We will start engaging with life. We will realize that there are several things to attend to other than stammering. Slowly stammering will become not important. Instead of clinging on to stammering, we will release it. We will allow it to be with us without giving it any importance.

If you are comfortable when you stammer, if you develop a smile when somebody ridicules you for stammering, if you are comfortable in talking about stammering, if you are doing those things from which you were running away, then you are managing your stammering well. Does it mean that you will be cured of it after some time? No, you might still stammer, but you will be at ease with it. You will face the world and will succeed!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Driving and anger management - how to face challenges like stammering


The philosophers say “it is not the problems, but our reaction to the problems which matter a lot”. Indian philosophy, especially Bhagavat Gita speaks about Sthitaprajna. Sthitaprajna is a person who takes both good and bad experiences of life with equanimity. For him all experiences are alike. If we can develop an attitude in which we do our activities in the best possible way without reacting too much to the situations around us, the life becomes very simple! Let us see this in one of the situations in life, where the people become angry very easily, namely driving!  

Some people say driving through chaotic traffic makes them stressful and angry and that they do not enjoy the driving. All of us face situations, which irritate us, while driving, but if we deal with them in a composed way, we will enjoy our driving.  

While driving, several people feel bad when somebody overtakes them. I remember seeing a TV program, when I was young, about good driving. According to the guy in the program, if somebody is trying to overtake you, allow him to, as he is driving faster than you. Instead of that, you  drive faster when you see others closing in on you or try to block them by not giving much space to them. When you drive faster or block others, you are in fact putting others in trouble. They become agitated and it can even lead to accidents. When I faced these situations, the old program and whatever the guy told in that came to my mind. I realized that allowing others to overtake didn’t make me a bad driver. We drive to reach our destination and others overtaking you doesn’t affect that goal at all! So why should we be worrying about that too much? In life too, some people might achieve whatever you were trying to achieve, faster than you. In fact, you also will reach your goal, if you follow your path! 

Some people change the lane and suddenly move to your lane and some other people overtake you through the wrong side and come to your lane. You are following the lane discipline, but other are not. You become angry and again try to block others. Usually these happen when you are stuck at a signal or in a traffic jam. When you try to block others, it, in fact, makes the situation worse. The gridlock in which you are stuck increases! You get more and more delayed. It is not that others were right in changing the lane and overtaking in the wrong way. They will realize the mistake or face the consequences in due course of time. Our reaction to these doesn’t change them or change the situation, but only aggravates the situation. Similarly you might see others irritating you in some way or the other. Don’t react unless it is a major issue. They will fritter away! 

Some people especially two wheelers and autorikshaws squeeze through the gaps between the vehicles. This is very similar to the one described above. This happen in slow moving traffic and when you are stuck in signals or in traffic Jams. If you allow them to go, they just go away and do not trouble you at all. They will find some other gaps and move ahead! Instead of that if you try to stop it, it can make the situation worse. It can lead to them scraping your vehicle or can even lead to arguments and fights. It spoils the day.  

In some cases, people come in the wrong direction, through the wrong carriageway or by breaking the one way rules. You get irritated by this. In some cases, you stop these people and it leads to traffic pile up, arguments and fights. Again, they were not right in breaking the rule and they will realize the mistake or face the consequences in due course of time. In life too, you might see people achieving the goals in the wrong way. Let us follow our path and achieve our goal without getting affected by others. 

Another irritant while driving will be, vehicles, especially heavy vehicles, going slowly and we getting stuck behind them. In most of the cases, you get stuck as the roads are narrow or due to heavy traffic. If you observe, in some cases, if you patiently follow them, you will get a chance to overtake and move ahead when you reach wider stretches of the road or when the traffic subsides. The same with problems in life too. If you patiently wait, you will get an opportunity to overcome them. In some other cases, the vehicle in front of you will take a different route, allowing you to move freely! Like this, the problems in life too may go away on their own! In other cases, the vehicle in front of you will continue till end of the road. It might delay you, but you will reach your destination safely. If you had tried to overtake them forcefully, you would have become agitated or it would  have led to some accidents. In the same way, some of the problems will remain with us, but if we accept them, we will ultimately achieve our goals.  

So, the way we react to the problems faced, while driving and also in other fields in life really matters. If we improve our reaction to these situations, we might improve our reactions to other situations too (including stammering) and manage them in a better way.  Initially we might feel angry deep within, though we might not show  it outside. It will improve over a period of time. May be, we can use our reaction to these situations as a measure of our own improvement or spiritual progress!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

How to interact with people with stammering

There is a scene in Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam where the protagonist is trying to buy egg (Kozhimutta in Malayalam), but ends up in buying cauliflower. This scene is a very good representation of the problems faced by stammerers. The shopkeeper is in a hurry and asks him what he wants. He struggles and a lady standing near him laughs. He struggles again and the shopkeeper shows his impatience. This compounds his problems and it becomes almost impossible for him to say Kozhimutta. In the end the shopkeeper decides to help him by completing his word and asks him whether he is asking for cauliflower. He thinks enough is enough and decides to buy cauliflower!

If you are thinking what all need to be taken care of while interacting with a stammerer, this scene gives details of what all should not be done! Recently I read somewhere that a person, who is dumb, is usually treated with much dignity, but a less severe problem of stammering, in comparison with dumbness, is usually ridiculed. Most of the time the people who laugh at stammerers do not understand how much it affects the self esteem of the person. He is struggling to convey his thoughts and when he faces these situations he goes into a shell and dreads facing the world. Please give them the same respect that you give others.

Please be patient while interacting with a stammerer. Please listen to him and maintain normal eye contact. Do not allow your expressions, words or acts convey the message that you are becoming impatient. Let him take his own time, but never advise him to slow down or take a deep breath. All these will only aggravate the situation. If the situation becomes friendly, he also will become relaxed and speak better.

In some cases you might get a feeling that you should help the stammerer by completing his words or sentences. Please don’t do that. It will give him a feeling that he failed in conveying his ideas and will affect his confidence. Let him finish the sentence and if you couldn’t understand what he told, please ask him to repeat. It is much better than supplying words. In some cases, in order to escape from the situation, he might accept the word supplied by you, even if it was not what he meant! That is exactly what happened in this scene. The shopkeeper was impatient and he decidied to buy whatever he suggested.

Please treat stammering just like any other disability. Please give them some space. They will also become comfortable with the situations and lead a normal and dignified life.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bangalore stammering SHG – What was ailing it initially and how is it now?


Initial meetings

The first meeting of Bangalore stammering SHG happened on 13-Sep-2009 and it went on till 11-Apr-2010 with at least a few participants. After this there was a meeting in which nobody turned, up other than me, and then there were no meetings for a long time. After a few months Karthk took the initiative to rejuvenate it and decided to meet at Cubbon park on alternate days in the morning from 28-Aug-2010. The details of the meeting on 28-Aug-2010 can be read at http://t-tisa.blogspot.in/2010/08/bangalore-shg-meeting-on-28-aug-2010.html and http://stammer.in/menu-shg-activities/57-bengaluru-shg/373-bangalore-shg-meeting-on-28-aug-2010.html.  This went on for some time but didn’t continue for long.

 What went wrong?

When I look back I feel the factors which contributed to the downfall of SHG initially were these; expectation of the participants that they would find a cure in SHG, not much attractive activities in SHG which help them in improving the communication skill and the same person doing the role of coordinator. Let me go through these points a bit more in the following sections.

Most of the people consider SHG as a place where they could learn some techniques which would cure their stammering. Most of these people come to SHGs after trying different methods like speech therapy, psychotherapy etc. They would have not seen much improvements in their situation or would have experienced relapse after seeing improvements. They think SHG might give them a lasting cure. SHG surely is a place where they can learn some techniques used by fellow stammerers but TISA and SHGs try to convey the message that there is no known cure for it. In other words, it remains with us throughout the life though there are some cases in which a cure is reported. We can manage it.  For that, we should accept ourselves as stammerers and learn how to deal with it. We have to do those things from which we always used to run away and work on our communication skill. SHG is to be used for that. Whenever these points about cure and acceptance are conveyed some of the participants become upset which subsequently lead to them not turning up. May be, the coordinator in me failed in conveying the points clearly or in a more diplomatic way.

The second point was about working on communication skills and giving opportunities do things which the participants were scared to do. Though the SHG was run taking into consideration the views of the participants and we had some activities like slow reading, speaking about a topic etc, there was no structured agenda. By nature, most of the stammerers are introverts and they do not open up. So there were not much inputs about the activities they wanted in SHG. So most of the time it was limited to introductions, discussions about the problems faced, practicing some of the techniques and very rarely somebody presenting a topic. It would not have helped them in improving their communication or attacking their fears.

The last point was about the same person running the SHG continuously. Initially though Amit was available as a coordinator, I had to take up the role of coordinator due to his non availability. So the SHG was run on a monotonous way, though I used to take the feedback from the participants on the activities they wanted. Unfortunately as pointed out earlier, not much ideas came out. Though we tried running the SHGs by identifying a volunteer who would take over the coordinator role in a particular meeting, it was again run in the same way! So fresh ideas were not coming up.

How the SHG was revived

Though the SHG was dormant for more than a year, some more people like Dinesh joined the SHG google groups and they suggested, modelling the SHG meetings on some of the famous personality development and communication skill development programs. The discussions went on for some time and Dinesh planned a meeting on 26-Feb-2012 at Madiwala. The details can be read at http://t-tisa.blogspot.in/2012/02/bangalore-shg-meet-26th-feb.html

How is it different now?

Though the SHG still conveys the message that there is no cure for stammering, that is more than offset by addressing the other two issues with the previous SHG. May be, the present coordinators are better than me in conveying the messages!

As was mentioned earlier, the SHG meetings are now modelled on some of the concepts from well-known programs. They are well structured and the attendance in the meeting is steady. This itself is a proof that the people are getting benefits and are enjoying the activities. I understand that they also plan get-together and some outdoor activities. The details of the meeting are available in TISA blog.

The meetings are now run by different people on a periodic basis. It helps in giving a chance to different people in taking up leadership role and also in bringing in fresh ideas. Previously it was held in Madiwala and now it has come back to the old place of Cubbon park. Some of the old participants like Pramod, Karthik are still active. They also have a WhatsApp group which helps in staying connected.

This means most of the issues plaguing the initial SHG were taken care of and it is running successfully now. Attending SHGs will be the best way to deal with stammering. If interested the person can even take over the role of the coordinator! So please go ahead and join the Bangalore stammering SHG by sending a mail to shgblr@googlegroups.com.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Banglore group talks to media

The article about TISA came in 'The Hindu' on 11-Jan-2010 under the column 'Urban Rites'. It can be read at http://www.thehindu.com/2010/01/11/stories/2010011157780200.htm .

The details of the meeting with the reported can be read at http://t-tisa.blogspot.in/2009/11/bangalore-shg-meeting-on-01-nov-2009.html and http://stammer.in/menu-shg-activities/57-bengaluru-shg/231-bangalore-shg-meeting-on-01-nov-2009.html

(Originally written on 11-Jan-2010 at https://t-tisa.blogspot.in/2010/01/banglore-group-talks-to-media.html)

Speaking about stammering

Naveen is one of the members of the Bangalore SHG from the very first meeting itself. I still remember the first meeting and was really surprised to see a person like him in the meeting as he was speaking fluently. He told he acquired this habit when he was in seventh standard and that he was a good speaker and an actor before that. He spoke a lot about the problems of stammering like running away from situations in which he had to speak and his struggles to hide his stammering. He told none in his company knew he was a stammerer.

Recently he sent a mail to the group telling he faced some personal tragedies and was living in his native place which was around 100 KMs from Bangalore and was travelling daily to Bangalore and back. His stammering had also aggravated due to this. In addition to that he was denied a promotion to the managerial post in his company. His CEO felt he had some attitudinal issues as he always used to reply in monologues to him and always avoided talking to him over the phone. He did this as he didn’t want them to know about his stammering. He asked for suggestions to come out of this situation.

Most of us including Dr. Sachin suggested him to speak to the CEO about his problem and to avoid hiding his problem. Though he was a bit apprehensive, in the end he decided to speak to him about this. After a few days he sent a mail telling he had a discussion with his CEO about stammering. His CEO told him that he knew about his stammering and that he was waiting for him to talk to him about this! He promised all his help to him and asked him to work on his presentation skill and prove to himself that he was a good presenter.

After a few days, he sent one more mail telling he talked to one more director of the company and she also told she knew about his stammering and used to communicate to him only through the mail because of that. He always used to speak in monologues and she thought that was the best way to talk to him! She advised him to practice yoga and meditation and offered all the help.

These incidents show the advantages of not hiding the stammering. We undergo a great amount of tension hiding our stammering and most of the time stammering comes out on its own without our knowledge. Most of the time the listeners are not concerned about the stammering but about our habit of running away from the situations and going into a shell. Sometimes they might even offer help! So, let us not hide the stammering. Let us remove some tension by openly speaking about it.

(Originally written on 15-Jul-2011 at https://t-tisa.blogspot.in/2011/07/speaking-about-stammering.html and http://stammer.in/articles/38-cat-stuttering-related/466-speaking-about-stammering.html)