By Caroline Boyani

The month of October encompassed several notable days, ranging from breast cancer awareness month to national holidays such as Mashujaa day. However, some significant days such as international stuttering day and national cholesterol month went unobserved, despite their equal importance in the society.  Little awareness was made about these days, yet these are aspects we encounter daily. International stuttering day is commemorated on 22nd October every year to create awareness on stammering condition that affects both children and is persistent in some adults. About 1% of the world’s population have the stammering condition. According to the Stammering Association of Kenya (SAK), a non- profit support group based in Nairobi for those who stammer, about 476,000 individuals have persistent stuttering in adulthood. About 1 in 12 young children experience a phase of stammering, and it’s more prevalent in boys than girls.

Joyce, a mother of three, has a twelve-year-old son who still stammers. She narrates,” In the beginning I thought Jamal, my youngest son is going through the normal phase of children stammering but when he started school and the stammering persisted, I got worried.” She noted that there had been no history of stammerers in their family lineage. At one point, she entertained the idea that it could be the doing of black magic. However, after seeking medical assistance, she discovered that the condition is manageable.” I joined a support group where we were taught on how to create a conducive environment for our kids and encouraged to take them for speech therapy,” she expressed her relief.

Dr. Ryan, a speech therapist based in Nairobi expressed his concern over the low awareness of the condition. He explained that most people who stutter are mocked and some of their families view them as a burden. “Speech delay and stammering are common in children but it can also happen in adulthood due to brain disorders, a traumatic brain injury, or a stroke, which we refer to as neurogenic stuttering,” he elaborated. Stuttering affects the social lives of those with the condition and can even affect their career life.

“This condition can be managed by working on feelings such as fear and anxiety that are associated with stammering and trying to speak slowly so that all the words can come out clearly,” he added. In children, the condition can arise from a child’s developing underdeveloped coordination within their system, resulting repetitions and stoppages. It can also occur when a child tries to say too much at once.

Parents and adults with the condition can explore strategies to increase fluency and develop communication skills, such as speech therapy or medication. The condition has not been classified as a disability but a few of those with persistent stammering have registered as people living with disability. Mocking people who stammer is inhumane and should cease, as the associated stigma can affect them adversely.

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