International Stammering Awareness Day - One size does not fit all, diversity, equity, inclusion

The phrase, "One size does not fit all" simply indicates that what works for person A may not work for person B. A society that does not embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is doomed to failure. 

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DEI basically refers to a world in which all groups of people, particularly those with disabilities, are allowed to participate fully in community development.

Stammering (also known as stuttering) is a relatively unpopular disability that can be defined as a difference in speech pattern characterised by repetition, prolongation or becoming stuck on sounds or words when speaking.

Stammering is also accompanied by unpleasant physical behaviours, such as, physical tension in the mouth, face, and body; closing of eyes before speaking and tapping the fingers or stamping the feet, and jerking one's head to get a word out, and so on.

Feelings

The physical behaviours linked with stammering are not as irritating and painful for the majority of PWS as the related internalised negative feelings.

 These unpleasant feelings include shame, embarrassment, fear of speaking, lack of self-confidence, anxiety, stigma etc.

Being a PWS myself, I have always believed that the stammering itself is what we experience within, not what others see.

This is supported by Dr Joseph Sheehan's stammering metaphor: He compares it to an iceberg, with only a little bit visible above the water and the majority of the iceberg hidden beneath.

Carrying a stammer within can be so burdensome that it cripples one of their life's aims and dreams.

PWS are frequently misunderstood, ridiculed and disregarded in society.

Why? Because people do not understand the complexities of stammering.

And, due to a lack of awareness of its complexity, some people believe that having a stammer is a “minor inconvenience”, and hence, does not require particular attention.

As the saying goes, "the one who feels the pain knows everything."

 And, as a PWS who understands the anguish, treating PWS like any other speaker would be like attempting to squeeze our legs into the same shoe size as “fluent” speakers.

Day

As we mark International Stammering Awareness Day (ISAD) on October 22, we implore you to take responsibility for your actions and create an environment that encourages PWS to be their best.

Please keep in mind that your actions or inaction might drastically undermine a PWS's confidence.

 You can avoid a one-size-fits-all shoe for PWS by doing the following:

• Maintain good eye contact rather than looking away during stammering moments.

• Exhibit good listening skills by using appropriate body language to demonstrate that you are engaged in what they are saying.

• Do not rush the conversation and avoid appearing to be in a hurry to get away.

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• Express interest in what they are saying rather than pity or impatient with how they are speaking.

• Do not finish sentences for PWS; instead, be patient and wait for them to finish.

• Avoid asking him/her to slow down or take a deep breath while they are still speaking; these acts are counterproductive.

• Never mock a PWS.

 It can seriously damage their self-esteem.

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• Keep your own speech rate at an even pace.

• Ask the PWS how you can help if you are unsure about how to support.

• Learn about stammering and how you can make talking easier for PWS.

By taking these actions, you are contributing your quota to making the environment openly embrace PWS, thus helping foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in our society.

Let's all get involved; one size does not fit PWS!

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