Farah Al Qaissea’s support group, Stutter UAE, currently has 500 members. Image Credit: Supplied

ABU DHABI: An Emirati woman with a severe stuttering problem has launched a survey to compile data of UAE residents with a similar speech disorder.

Farah Al Qaissea, 28, said she is conducting the survey after learning that no such data currently exists in the UAE.

“One per cent of the world’s population stutters. There are movements worldwide to raise awareness of the matter, but nothing has been done about it in the UAE so far,” Farah told XPRESS in a clear and confident manner without showing any signs of being a stutterer.

“The reason for this is that people hesitate to talk about the issue and how to deal with it. They do not like to talk or communicate with others as they are afraid they will be mocked. Besides, there is a huge stigma attached to it, which is why it is going to be a massive challenge putting the survey together,” said Farah who has been running a support group, Stutter UAE, for four years.

The survey collects information such as a person’s age, nationality and history of speech disorder. The survey also takes into account the emotional impact speech impediment has had on the person.

About Stutter UAE

“My younger brother stuttered like me. We both were humiliated and bullied in school. It made us feel small and we became introverts. But when I joined college at Zayed University, I decided to make a change. I had to give a lot of presentations and give speeches in front of people. So I would start by saying, I am Farah and I stutter. By doing so, I was admitting my problem and embracing it whole-heartedly,” said Farah.

“Seeing how it helped me and made me feel better, I decided to start a support group to reach out to people with similar problems in the UAE and help them out of their inhibitions and fears.” She said the group has 500 members and some of them meet every month to share their concerns. “I tell everyone to embrace their impediment. In fact, it is not a problem, it is just another accent we put on. An Indian expat who was shy to talk is now a stand-up comedian (Rueben Kaduskar) back home in India. He was part of our group when we started it and gradually I helped him get out of his fears. I am so happy the way he has grown personally,” she said.

Last year, Farah featured in a 15-minute documentary called Just Another Accent, on the challenges of stuttering. The documentary was screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and more recently the Malmo Film Festival in Sweden.

Emirati Beshara Saaed Al Amri, 32, who features in the documentary said she owes a lot of her confidence today to Stutter UAE.

“I was lonely as a child. After graduation, I got a job but was not successful in it. However, after I joined the group, my interactions with people grew. I am doing well in my job now,” she said.

American expat Aliya Paula Sardar, 46, a speech-language pathologist, said: “There is no cure for stuttering. What we do is work around words which people struggle to speak so that their fluency improves. Stuttering should not hinder one’s personal development. Many celebrities including Bruce Willis stutter. Winston Churchill was a stutterer.”