Society is made up of people. Every member of society is uniquely valuable. Is this the reality though? Does everyone feel valued? Why are some people valued or accepted more than others?
Imagine not feeling valued because of how you walk, talk, look or behave. How will that make you feel? This brings us to the theme for this year’s International Stammering Awareness Day (ISAD). October 22 of every year has been set aside by the United Nations to mark ISAD.
On this day, various events are organised to create awareness of stammering. This year’s theme is: ‘Being Seen, Being Heard– Representation and Normalisation of Stammering in the Mainstream’.
It focuses on hearing the voices of people who stammer. Stammering impacts the flow of speech. It is found in men and women, people of all ages and in every culture and society on earth. It does not vary because of personality, intelligence, occupation or wealth.
How can society create opportunities for people who stammer to be seen and heard?
People who stammer face a lot of challenges in society because of their stammer. Society or community here refers to family, neighbours, friends, professionals etc.
Our communities therefore have a role to play if people who stammer are to be seen and heard. These include, but are not limited to:
• Avoid trying to ‘fix’ people who stammer by insisting on getting rid of the stammer.
• Do not make fun of people who stammer through jokes and by mimicking their stammer.
• Be an advocate for people who stammer by speaking against ridicule, bully and mockery of them.
• Offer the person who stammers the job because they qualify in all required areas and do not overlook them due to their stammer.
• Do not make faces when talking to people who stammer and be patient to listen to them.
• Allow them to finish off their words without interrupting.
• Allow them to speak freely without focusing on their stammer.
• Avoid offering what you may think is good advice to people who stammer to help correct their stammering when you’re not a language specialist.
• Show an interest in what they have to say.
Stammering can have a significant impact on a person’s well-being at home, in education, at the workplace and in the community based on how society treats those who stammer. Let us make people who stammer be seen and be heard.