‘People make fun of my stuttering’

Dear Auntie,

I hope this mail finds you in the best of health. I am a 21-year-old boy currently doing an accountancy degree. My problem is stuttering. I have been stuttering since birth.

I have been a laughing stock all my life, whether it is for my brothers, cousins or friends. I have even been mocked by little five-year-olds about this. Now, because of this issue, I don’t pick up calls; I don’t talk much, talk in a very low voice and often stay quiet. But the problem with that is people start thinking that I am rude. I never talk about this to anyone. Just like Joe Biden once said, “Stuttering is the only physical disability that’s made a fun of by everyone.”

I am a high achiever in academics but, when it comes to communication, I get anxiety and fail miserably. My parents had me take therapy, but it was too expensive and not working. And since there is no cure for stuttering, I left it. I belong to a well-off family, I could have continued the therapy but I don’t want to be a burden on my parents for a thing that isn’t being effective. What can I do about this?

Hopeless

Dear Hopeless,

If people are laughing at a person who has a disability, then those people are the problem and not the disabled person. Making fun of another’s disability is exploitative and counts as bullying behaviour. Remember when Donald Trump made fun of a disabled journalist? There was a global uproar and POTUS was criticised mercilessly for mimicking the journalist, all of which was totally deserved.

I am truly surprised by the fact that the people around you are mocking you. I would have thought that the world would have moved on from mocking the disabled. But apparently it has not.We, as a nation, need to call out the bullying of the disabled and do our bit for changing outdated attitudes towards disability.

In your case, please let people know that it is not okay to mock and belittle you, even if you stutter while you are speaking out. Don’t be embarrassed. Mockers are the ones that need to be shamed. Laughing at someone who has no control over their disability is outdated and unwarranted. Let your mockers know that.

Since you mentioned Joe Biden, I would like to draw your attention to the other things he said in that interview in which he discussed his stuttering. Biden said he is in touch with about 15 people who stutter, and he tells them it is “critically important for them not to judge themselves by their speech — not let that define them.” That should be your takeaway from Biden’s interview and not the fact that people mock stutterers.

He talks about strategies he used to overcome his stuttering and you may want to try the same or something else that you feel would work for you. He stutters and is the next POTUS — does it get any bigger than that? You should be drawing inspiration from him.

At the same time, I would urge you to find a qualified speech therapist. If your current therapist isn’t working for you — provided you have stayed with therapy for a reasonable amount of time — then please do your research, ask around for recommendations and switch to someone else.

Your current therapist is not your only choice. In fact, staying with a therapist for some time and then switching if it isn’t working, is not ‘wasting’ your parents’ money, simply because there are no mistakes, only learning. Learning what works and what doesn’t is part of your journey. But the quest for the right therapist must go on.

Also self-educate yourself about the problem, using credible sources of information. It is not going to be an overnight miracle, you will need to be patient and the problem may not be cured forever. However, you can improve a lot if you work patiently with a qualified therapist.

I hope this helps. All the best to you.

Auntie will not reply privately to any query. Please send concise queries to: auntieagni@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, EOS, January 10th, 2021

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