No, its not.
There are more than 45 million people in the world today who stammer and approximately 10 million live in India . Stammering is predominantly a 'male' condition (80% of all stammerers are male) and it usually affects the first-born male child. A significant majority of stammerers (65%) have a family history of the disorder; usually the father who stammers or speaks at a rapid rate. Nearly always, stammering starts before the child is 5 years of age. If left untreated, it peaks in severity around the age of 10 to 18 years and then begins to stabilize or fade away as the stammerer grows older.
A stammerer knows precisely what he wants to say but cannot, for the moment, say it because of an involuntary repetition, prolongation or cessation of the speech sound. Research suggests that the disorder might be caused due to a 'neurological mistiming' during the act of speech which leaves the stammerer confused about when exactly to say the word he wants to say. Speaking is not merely the movement of the tongue but involves a fine coordination of both mental and physical processes. Like all other physical actions, the act of speech is the result of neuro-muscular coordination which involves the transmitting of electro-chemical messages from the brain to the appropriate muscle groups. For everyone of us (non-stammerers and stammerers alike), this neuro-muscular system sometimes trips and fails especially during moments of inadequate emotional control. Haven't we all found the quality of our speech delivery changing with our feelings as we experience thrill, anger, fear, joy or other such strong emotions? For the stammerer, this 'tripping' occurs much more frequently than it does for normal speakers. Whenever he faces what he perceives as a 'feared' situation, the stammerer adopts a mind-set which triggers off spasms of speech-blocks. Such fears can also center around certain speech sounds or even certain people.
Scientists have yet to pin-point the exact cause of stammering. In ancient times, the condition was attributed to every possible source including sometimes the devil himself. One can only guess the varieties of tortures undergone by stammerers in their quest for speech fluency in those days. Even now, stammering has remained a confusing speech impediment for the sufferer as well as for those who have attempted to cure it through medicines.
One stammerer poignantly asks :
I can see
I can hear
I can sprightly walk.
Why do all my problems surface When I try to talk?
In their desperate search for fluency, many stammerers in India subject themselves to a myriad of so-called treatments ranging from swallowing vile concoctions to allowing themselves to be pierced with needles and cut with knives. Actually, such treatments hold no relevance to the problem of stammering and only cause greater frustration in the long run.
Yoga and meditation might really hold the key to solving the problem of stammering. With the greater sense of emotional and intellectual balance that these disciplines promote, the stammerer might find them of tremendous help in his attempts to develop
better control over his speech.
Dr. Edward Conture, Professor of Speech Pathology at Syracuse University, New York, talks about what causes stammering :
"Things that cause stammering may be, and probably are, quite different from the things that keep it going, aggravate or worsen it. For example, if you mishandle a knife, you may cut your finger. The knife causes the cut and initial pain. Salt rubbed into the cut makes the pain continue or even worsen it but the salt does not cause the cut". Dr. Conture says, scientists "...still haven't found the 'knife' that causes stammering. However, we do know something about the 'salt' that keeps it going, makes it worse or aggravates it".
These are aspects which can be changed through self-therapy to help the person overcome his speaking difficulty.
Many of the Non-stammerers might experience a feeling of embarrassment when we converse with stammerers; some of us look away while others go ahead to complete their sentences for them. In talking with a stammerer, the following hints might be of help:
Listen to what is said, not how it is said.
Be patient and don't hurry the person talking.
Try to maintain natural eye contact.
Simplistic advice ("breathe properly", "don't worry", "don't be afraid", etc.) though well- meant is not always helpful.
Stammerers have difficulty when talking but don't assume they are stupid or confused about what they are saying.
Many stammerers have difficulty when they speak on the telephone. Please do not hang up if the caller is taking longer than usual or if he is silent for a while.
Stammerers usually try and hide their speech problem from their listeners. This attempt at camouflage is counter-productive because it only acts as psychological 'fuel' for even more speech-blocks. If the stammerer is open about his speech difficulty, he experiences lesser stress and is able to speak with greater control.
In the final analysis, stammering can be overcome if the sufferer seeks scientific, professional guidance and is ready to work towards achieving speech fluency through regular practice of therapeutic techniques. It certainly cannot disappear by ingesting some magic potent!
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