There was an article How to curb a stammer
in Deccan Herald Living Supplement. The author is supposedly a professional, but the article is filled with myths and stereotypes about stuttering and people who stutter.
I was very angry, doubly so because it is professionals such as these who should spread awareness about stuttering, and instead, he is propagating nonsense. I wrote this letter to DH:
I read with dismay the misleading article on stuttering "How to curb a stammer" in today's DH Living. The author suggests that low self-esteem and low confidence leads to stuttering. This is one of the several myths and false perceptions that exist about stuttering and people who stutter. Stuttering could possibly lead to low self-esteem and low confidence because of the insensitivity of people, but the converse is not necessarily true.
The article also refers to stuttering as a "handicap." It also perpetuates the same stereotypes about stuttering that ought to be dispelled by professionals like the author himself. Misinformed articles like this perform a disservice to people who stutter by desensitizing people further.
It was not published.
So I thought I would take this up on my blog - because as a person who stutters myself, I have had it up to here with insensitivity towards people who stutter (PWS).
In the article, the author says:
1) "Stuttering is a handicap." It need not be a handicap. Simple and plain. I feel that labelling stuttering a handicap automatically creates negativity in the minds of PWS. While it might be true that there are certain professions and situations where having a stutter is a disadvantage, there are many PWS who have gone beyond this disadvantage to achieve what they want to. And PWS who are already wallowing in the depths of the misery of not being able to speak fluently, need to know this. That life is not the end if you have a stutter.
2) "Stuttering is caused by low confidence and low self-esteem." Like I said in my letter above, this is not true. While it is still not certain what causes stuttering, making a generalized statement like this only serves to reinforce stereotypes, as well as give parents and teachers of young children especially, the wrong idea.
Guess what, I started out thinking I'll tackle this man's article line by line. But turns out that when I look at it that way, I will have to reproduce his whole article and tell you what is wrong with it.
But suffice to say for now:
1) Nobody knows what causes stuttering, exactly. We only know what possibly aggravates a stutter. (And it differs from person to person)
2) Just because people who don't usually stutter, tend to stutter when they are nervous and anxious or scared, it is assumed that people who stutter are by nature nervous and anxious and shy and not confident. That is not true.
3) Stuttering might cause a person to become less and less confident. But low-confidence doesn't necessarily cause stuttering.
4) PWS are not less intelligent or less capable in any way than people who don't stutter
5) A person who stutters severely can be happy, healthy individuals with fulfilling careers or happy childhoods, leading a contented life, with lots of friends, and with great relationships. They can even be miserable and unhappy. But this holds good even for a person who doesn't stutter.
I'll probably do more posts on this topic soon, but I've got over my anger and dismay over that misleading article, and so I will stop now.