Each one of us has a voice. We have things in our heart that we want to express. People who have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, even they desire to be accepted and given opportunities to voice their thoughts.
The Indian Stammering Association (TISA) is an organisation that came into existence about a decade ago under the vision of Dr. Satyendra (Sachin) Shrivastava. He envisioned a community of purpose driven stutterers who would get together and share their experiences. TISA is, now, a huge organisation that regularly organises workshops and conferences on stammering all over the country. With acceptance, comes willingness to change and that is how Persons with Stammering (PWS) have been improving upon their speech skills at TISA.
I came across TISA in May 2016 through meetup.com where I was searching for some out-of-the-box social groups. After spending a few hours with fellow stutterers at their Delhi Self Help Group (SHG) meeting, I agreed to attend their workshop in Chandigarh. It was a totally mind blowing experience to see people from different cities and fields of work coming together for one purpose. The purpose was to feel accepted and stammer, freely. Dr Sachin had planned activities that literally forced us to come out of our arena of shame and fear. Change comes slowly and steadily and with enough practice, every barrier to growth can be successfully surpassed. This is the belief I build in the Chandigarh workshop.
Stammering is some parts biological and other parts psychological. When a child stammers people advice the child’s parents nonsensical things to do, eat and follow which don’t actually work. Stammering is an internal problem and prayers can’t really help PWS. Stutterers often spend money on speech therapist and doctors when they are unaware of the fact that stuttering is not a disease. Hence, there exists no cure for stammering. What has worked for PWS is the exercises and techniques they have learned at TISA and the different people they have met who fully accept each other. Stutters have experienced change after regular weekly meetings, phone conversations, workshops and National Conferences (NC). People in SHGs and workshops come from diverse backgrounds in terms of their occupation, dialects, place of living but despite that they empathetically bond over stammering. This is what makes TISA an organisation with a soul that feeds on the emotional understanding that exists between fellow stutterers.
There is one thing that makes people in TISA come together again and again, and that thing is connection. TISA is a family. A family where you are not judged. Nobody makes fun of your speech disorder at TISA. TISA’s foundation is based on self acceptance and that is what leads to progress in speech and communication for PWS. Mr. Kathuria’s son stammers. And to witness the world that his son experiences daily, he came to TISA. Families that accept stammering are families that show a ray of hope to PWS.
To make the people around us more accepting of stammering, TISA, Delhi does awareness activities once every three months. SHG members of TISA, Delhi go to cafes, malls and metro trains to bridge the gap between ignorance and acceptance among people who are not very aware of stammering. By this small step they inspired a stutterer who now travels from Aligarh to Delhi for weekly Sunday workshops. In the last quarter of 2017, this SHG is going to launch a women’s only workshop to bring together the women who stutter.
Presently SHGs of TISA are active in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, Indore, Chandigarh, Dehradun and Lucknow. Every year, about 6 workshops are conducted to bring together fellow PWS and to spread awareness among those people who haven’t come across people who stutter. Many people are ignorant towards stammering and the first thing is to let this issue be out in the open. In the coming few months SHGs of TISA are to be initiated in Mangalore, Mysore, Guwahati, IIT - Dhanbad and Kerala.
The next TISA workshop is going to happen in Chandigarh from 30th September to 2nd October, 2017. This will be the
7th National Conference of TISA. During these three days about 150 PWS from all over the country will get together to share their stories. This enormous gathering will be lead and managed by PWS. In movies, stutterers are often mocked and ridiculed, but in TISA there are a lot of stutterers who beautifully recite poems and sing songs. We all have a gift to share. The Chandigarh workshop will be a small step that will allow PWS to come out of their shells and share the skills and talents that they have.
There is nothing that is not possible. What started as group of nine PWS coming together to share their stories and develop a simple yet structural website that later led to the formation of an organisation, now that organisation TISA is helping stutters all over India in overcoming their barriers to better communication. I witnessed a lot of PWS in TISA SHG meeting and in 2016 Chandigarh workshop. After spending time with stutterers among whom there is a manager in BSNL, a startup founder, an engineer from IIT, a civil servant under training, a soldier, a stand-up comedian and more, I realised that the only limits we have are the limits we place on ourselves. It all starts with acceptance as Dr. Sachin says and once acceptance comes into existence, there lies hope for progress. And with time progress happens just like it happened in the lives of hundreds of stutterers.
Edited by Diya Mathew