Bollywood, in its whims and fancies, has been rather derogatory to characters with a disability. A disability, as the word suggests, is an inability to do a certain task. While the offence has been raised as an issue, the audience often tends to relate disabilities with the characters in the movies. From neurological conditions to physical handicap, there is an Indian movie to relate to. However, there is one disability that has been treated more harshly than the other – a stammer.
Stammering, or STUTTERING, is a SPEECH IMPAIRMENT which causes the individual difficulty in speaking smoothly. A stammer manifests in a variety of ways – the inability to utter certain syllables, elongation of words and the most common, jerks in speech. Some people consider a LISP under the category of a stammer too – a lisp is a speech defect which is observed as a mix-up of sounds in a word (for example, pronouncing the sound of s as th in thick).
A stammer is caused due to several reasons ranging from psychological complications to a genetic predisposition. Children are more susceptible to acquiring a stammer than an adult; also, boys are observed to be more likely to have a stammer than girls. However, most children lose their stammer before puberty and which don’t are subjected to SPEECH THERAPY. Stuttering in adults is a rare, but plausible instance.
What are the types of stammer?
The types of stammering are of two categories – those which depend on the incidence of a stammer and the kind of stammer observed. The incidence of a stammer is defined with –
- DEVELOPMENTAL STAMMER – A developmental STAMMER is one which is noted in early childhood as the child is growing. Since the child is subjected to a whole world of words, the brain may take time to process it. The lag in the processing of the brain displays as a stammer. Most children grow out of it, but the ones which do not are observed to stammer even in adulthood.
- ACQUIRED STAMMER – For an individual to acquire a stammer is rare – such as adults possessing a stammer – and is caused by a plethora of reasons.
The types of stammer concerning the speech defect are –
- Repetition of syllables
- Elongation of words
- Incapacity to utter the word
What are the factors affecting a stutter?
- Age – Children are more prone to stammering than adults. It is also said that the earlier a child develops a stutter, the longer it would persist (perhaps even into adulthood).
- Sex – As mentioned before, male children are more likely to have a stutter than females of the same age.
- Family – The chances for a person to have a stammer is seen to increase when there is a fellow family member with the same problem.
What causes a stammer?
Scientists have gone through a variety of reasons which correlate with the occurrence of a stammer, but since each person is unique, several factors add to the cause of the stammer. Overall, the cause of a stutter is attributed to a mishap in the psyche of the individual. Broadly, a stammer is caused due to the neurological state of a person, the psychological state of a person and the development of a person.
The present psychological state of a person may not directly trigger the occurrence of a stutter but can worsen the symptoms. Conditions such as chronic stress, anxiety, and depression have led to a dramatic increase in the implications of having a stutter. These conditions can also cause a relapse in the case of people who have recovered from having a stutter.
Often, people with a pre-existing stutter may get conscious and develop a psychological condition that can worsen the situation. The personality or the environment of a person can contribute to a psychological condition, but it is not always this case. Emotions and the expression of the same also adversely affect the psyche of the person.
There is a vast difference between the psychological and neurological attributes to a stutter. Neurological conditions are brought upon by other causes, while psychological problems deal with the basic framework of the psyche and are more difficult to define. The neurological conditions which may cause a stutter are DEGENERATIVE DISEASES (like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), STROKE, or major head trauma. Such conditions may lead to miscommunication between the brain and the nerves responsible for speech.
- Speech development
The development of a child is individualistic and a culmination of their environment, genetics, and lifestyle, which makes it unique. While many children encounter a stutter in their daily life, some are unable to recover from it. Certain children grow up with a stutter and experience it even in their adulthood, which is just a testimony to their developmental skills. Since the development of each person is unique, one cannot attribute a particular reason why someone is less ‘developed’ than the other.
Can people not overcome a stutter?
To reiterate, children tend to lose their stutter in a few years without any professional intervention. If it is observed that the stammering has continued for a moderate amount of time, help from speech therapists is acquired. A speech therapist would employ various techniques to put a reason to the stuttering and understand the extent of it. If a chronic problem is diagnosed, the therapist – through a variety of techniques – tries the person to overcome it.
Although there is a stigma attached to the occurrence of stuttering, it is not a testament to the ability of a person. Should the person employ therapeutic help to overcome it or not is a personal choice? Even if there is a developmental issue leading to stuttering, it is impossible to solely judge a person’s capability based on it. For most children, a comfortable environment with healthy communication amongst the family or friends is a way to grow out of the stutter.
For people with psychological illnesses, support from family and friends is crucial for them to relax their burdened brain and remain healthy. Support and ensuring a comfortable environment is the foremost task a person can do while living with a ‘disabled’ person. Such an atmosphere can promote the mental health of a person and see a drastic improvement in their conditions – perhaps even without professional aid.