Sunday, March 6, 2016

How to interact with people with stammering

There is a scene in Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam where the protagonist is trying to buy egg (Kozhimutta in Malayalam), but ends up in buying cauliflower. This scene is a very good representation of the problems faced by stammerers. The shopkeeper is in a hurry and asks him what he wants. He struggles and a lady standing near him laughs. He struggles again and the shopkeeper shows his impatience. This compounds his problems and it becomes almost impossible for him to say Kozhimutta. In the end the shopkeeper decides to help him by completing his word and asks him whether he is asking for cauliflower. He thinks enough is enough and decides to buy cauliflower!

If you are thinking what all need to be taken care of while interacting with a stammerer, this scene gives details of what all should not be done! Recently I read somewhere that a person, who is dumb, is usually treated with much dignity, but a less severe problem of stammering, in comparison with dumbness, is usually ridiculed. Most of the time the people who laugh at stammerers do not understand how much it affects the self esteem of the person. He is struggling to convey his thoughts and when he faces these situations he goes into a shell and dreads facing the world. Please give them the same respect that you give others.

Please be patient while interacting with a stammerer. Please listen to him and maintain normal eye contact. Do not allow your expressions, words or acts convey the message that you are becoming impatient. Let him take his own time, but never advise him to slow down or take a deep breath. All these will only aggravate the situation. If the situation becomes friendly, he also will become relaxed and speak better.

In some cases you might get a feeling that you should help the stammerer by completing his words or sentences. Please don’t do that. It will give him a feeling that he failed in conveying his ideas and will affect his confidence. Let him finish the sentence and if you couldn’t understand what he told, please ask him to repeat. It is much better than supplying words. In some cases, in order to escape from the situation, he might accept the word supplied by you, even if it was not what he meant! That is exactly what happened in this scene. The shopkeeper was impatient and he decidied to buy whatever he suggested.

Please treat stammering just like any other disability. Please give them some space. They will also become comfortable with the situations and lead a normal and dignified life.