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’ at, 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 visit 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!