“Honey should be applied to a baby’s tongue soon after birth. The child then goes on to develop sweet speech with no stammering.”
This was the practice a century ago. Medically, the honey did nothing to prevent stammering. But if it was contaminated with bacteria, it did cause fatal botulinium poisoning with flaccid paralysis in a significant percentage of children.
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Around 10 million people in India stammer. The speech disorder affects 3-5 per cent of children, of which one per cent continues to stammer into adult life. About 80 per cent of the affected children are boys, and first-born males are more likely to be affected. Around 65 per cent of them have a family history of stammering. In most cases, it is the father who stammers or has rapid staccato speech.
Speech is a complex process. A person decides what he or she wants to say, and electro chemical signals are triggered in the brain’s speech area. These signals have to reach the muscle groups in the pharynx, larynx and tongue. If the speed of the thought and the release of the chemicals are not perfectly co-ordinated, stammering occurs. Words or syllables are repeated or prolonged, speech suddenly stops and no sound emerges. The speech becomes blocked in spasms, resulting in repetitive sounds or no sound at all. Even in normal people, emotions can trigger such a condition. In those who stammer, anxiety anticipation of stammering, and embarrassment can trigger tics and spasms of the facial muscles as well.
Children start to stammer before the age of five. It may first become evident when they start school. Many recover spontaneously, while others require treatment. If the stammering continues beyond the age of seven, it is likely to persist into adult life.
Many famous people like Winston Churchill stammered. It didn’t prevent them from scaling great heights. In most cases, however, the sufferer fails to achieve his or her potential. Such people fail in job interviews and viva voce presentations, as stress worsens the stammer. Society often pokes fun at these individuals. In films too comedians are often shown to stammer. As a result, these otherwise intelligent and sensitive people become withdrawn and isolated.
When in contact with a person who stammers:–
• Try not to show your embarrassment or look away. Do not reassure them just wait patiently and they will complete what they want to say
• Do not try to complete their sentences for them
• Maintain eye contact
• Many of those who stammer find answering the phone an ordeal. So if the phone rings and there is silence, wait till the person is able to speak.
Stammering is not due to tongue-tie, so surgery does not help. Since it is aggravated by stress, and the affected individuals appear distressed, antiaxiolytic medications like alpraxolam and valium, tranquillisers and antidepressants were initially tried. But they were not very useful. In short, there is no magic pill to cure stammering.
If a child’s stammer lasts more than six months, causes psychological problems in school, or continues beyond the age of five, it needs to be evaluated.
Children cannot voluntarily control stammering. Ridicule, asking him or her to speak slowly, or forcing him or her to repeat the words wont help. The only way parents can help is by providing a relaxed and supportive environment where the child is allowed to speak without feeling self-conscious.
Speech therapists can work with people who stammer, and by using a variety of techniques, can improve the speech. They can also help improve communication skills and create self awareness and confidence. Newer auditory feedback devices and computer assisted speech training can also be tried out. Many people do not have access to speech therapists and are forced to handle their child’s stammering as best they can.
A person may stammer while talking but not while singing. Asking him or her to formulate thoughts in the mind and then speak in a singsong way often helps. Speaking slowly, syllable by syllable instead of complete words, gets rid of the repetitive “th th th” sounds. Asking the person to follow the speech of the therapist or parent also helps. Sometimes using a gesture as the stammer sets in takes the concentration away from the speech and the stammer disappears.
UNIVERSAL TIPS :-
• Sing the words
• Visualise the words in your head first
• Take a deep breath before speaking
• Speak slowly and break up the words into smaller components
• Speaking loudly or in a whisper makes stammering less obvious
If your child stammers, encourage him or her to do physical activity. This gives confidence which helps the anxiety and depression caused by stammering. Yoga calms the mind and corrects faulty breathing. It also improves speech in those who stammer.
Source: The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)
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