A speech therapist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Dr Mayowa Afolabi, has advised comedians and movie producers to stop creating jokes around stammerers.
She said such action stigmatises people living with speech impediments and could make stammerers withdraw from regular conversations.
According to the therapist, some speech disorders exist either for congenital reasons or environmental factors, both of which may prevent an individual from speaking fluently, hence the term ‘stuttering’ or ‘stammering.’
Afolabi spoke at a one-day awareness seminar on stammering packaged by Yxora Resources, Art4Life and the Lagos State Ministry of Health. The event held at Alliance Française, Lagos.
She said, “It is important to note that 70 million of the world population stutters and it is more prevalent in the males than females.”
Afolabi said normal non-fluency “occurs in children between ages two and five,” because children in that category were usually not conscious of the challenge until it was brought to their notice.
According to the don, the secondary stuttering stage is when the stammerer becomes aware of the flaw and makes an effort to correct it.
She identified genetics, accidents/trauma, illness and race as leading causes of stammering.
Afolabi said, “On the issue of race, it is pertinent to point out here that African-Americans stutter more than their contemporaries in Europe and Asia.
“Treatment comes in two folds – direct and indirect approaches.
“Under direct approach, stutterers are mature and trained on how to perfect their speech.”
According to Afolabi, the indirect approach is a level where stutterers are not yet aware of their speech impediment and other co-morbidities existing with stuttering.
She said, “Art therapy in form of dance, poetry and visual arts like painting and drawing fall in the category of indirect approach to treatment.
“Art therapy is a creative strategy to enhance growth of individual ability to convey emotions and may lead to increased confidence, self-esteem and better communication skills.”
Afolabi urged listeners to desist from helping stutterers to finish their sentences, noting, “Sometimes, the messages you declare may not be what they have in mind.”
Director, Alliance Française, Mr Charles Courdent, who grew up in France, said, “As a young boy, I was not fluent, and I stuttered every time I tried to communicate in French. The fear of being misconstrued and jeered at made me a very conservative personality who hardly went to parties or enjoyed speaking in open places.”
Chairman, Art4Life Steering Committee, Ms Aduke Gomez, narrated the psychological trauma she suffered as an 11-year-old stuttering child.
She described her experience as “hostile,” noting that even her Form One teacher in secondary school did not spare her from bullying and name-calling because of her speech impediment.”