JEDDAH: Officials behind an award-winning Saudi health project to help stutterers overcome the debilitating speech disorder are aiming to offer the treatment globally.
As part of the Smart Stuttering Community scheme, more than 400 people in the Kingdom have successfully completed five-day therapy sessions designed to bring their disfluency conditions under control.
And with an estimated 80 million sufferers around the world, SSC organizers are aiming to link up with Saudi, Middle East, and international health bodies to promote the drug-free treatment.
The SSC was recently presented with the Jeddah Prize for Community Creativity during a ceremony on the sidelines of the fifth edition of the Makkah “How to Set an Example” initiative, an event held under the patronage of Makkah Deputy Gov. Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz.
Dr. Abdullah Kreshan, general supervisor of the SSC project, said the organization hoped the accolade would pave the way for more regional and international awards and recognition.
He pointed out that the scheme was the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, positively changing the lives of stutterers by helping them to speak more fluently and coherently within days, adding that an estimated 350,000 people in the Kingdom had the disorder.
“We offer specialized workshops with a number of experts who work on the main cause of the problem, breathing. Stuttering is caused by a disturbance in the human respiratory system,” Kreshan said.
“When academicians from King Abdulaziz University, the University of Jeddah, and Effat University looked into our research they, along with KAU President Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Youbi, showed great interest in our project and suggested a higher coordination with the Ministry of Education once our academic research was over,” he added.
He noted that a KAU research team had been assigned to monitor the project and that when the treatment methodology had been officially registered their research could be published globally. The SSC was also working alongside a scientific team from the same university on a scholarly work.
Kreshan said video-recorded interviews had been carried out with the 400 people in Saudi Arabia who had already been helped to overcome the speech disorder.
“We interviewed these people before and after receiving the therapy, as we want those joining our programs to help us spread awareness through the videos. We also have certificates from guardians, proving we have succeeded in assisting their relatives to become normal speakers.”
Stuttering, he added, was a physiological disorder of the respiratory system that could be caused by either a genetic factor or the shock of a traumatic experience, such as being chased by a dog.
Kreshan pointed out that a normally functioning respiratory system was important to forming words and sounds.
“It starts between the ages of one and six. We all learn to speak when we are young, and this is called the sub-conscience mindset. During these early years, we usually do not teach our children in a conscious way,” he said.
But in later life, experiences such as parental divorce, a car accident, strict teacher, or being trapped in an elevator, could disrupt breathing and trigger a stutter.
“After that, another problem arises. The brain begins to get used to the new way of speaking, and as there is no other alternative in communicating with people, stuttering becomes a habit,” he added.
“We host stutterers in five-star hotels and subject them to a five-day training camp in which they receive intensive scientific, psychological programs to help them get rid of producing unnecessary repetitive sounds,” Kreshan said.
The SSC was now only admitting applicants aged 15 or over. “As for stutterers aged from seven to 14, no institute or organization in the world is dealing with their cases,” he added.
He noted that around 70 to 80 percent of stutterers in the world were male, and that the condition usually developed in people aged between five and 20. With help, it often disappeared over time, and in rare cases went of its own accord, he said.