Delhi-based change-maker & visionary Puneet Singh Singhal has been trying to vanquish the fear among children who are struggling with communication disorders. Be it stammering, stuttering, or any other asymptomatic articulatory speech condition, Puneet helps them to break free of the shackles that bind themfrom expressing themselves clearly.
Not all wars are fought with guns & swords, some are fought and won with the help some good old laughter. Puneet uses comedy as a tool to hold the mirror in front of society, showing them the horrors that are meted out to people with disabilities and the way they are treated and looked down upon sometimes as objects of pity& sympathy. “Non-verbal interaction is one of the most important forms of interaction. Eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and posture are all part of what we call ‘body language’. Another important aspect of speech disorder is that one has to develop their active listening skills.” says Puneet.
His organization ssstart, which presently boasts 30 students assists stammerers, lispers and people with other speech& articulatory disabilitiesby arming them with techniques, helping them to cope with the differentchallenges that life throws at them and move on in life.
Public speaking is a common fear among people worldwide. “We help our participants overcome stage fright through ice-breaking activities, vocal exercises, and by creating opportunities to face the public without being frightened. We aim to make the stage their comfort zone and liberate them from this fear.”
Childhood trauma may also result in one developing communication disorders. Talking about his ssstart and how it came into existence, Puneet recalls, “An unfortunate incident changed everything when I witnessed violence among adults for the first time. Somehow, I started losing my thoughts. In time my mind became blank, and I completely lost the power of communicating. I stopped reading out Mathematics tables in class and faltered while singing the National Anthem. Life changed drastically and school which was my area of solace soon turned into a battlefield. I was always the punchline of every joke, facing constanthumiliation and mockery from my fellow classmates making me lose the remaining smidgen of confidence and I had left. This alienated me further with no helping hand to pull me from my abyss. This motivated me further to come up with a solution, and in time I conceived the idea of ssstart,” said the young entrepreneur.
Often stereotyped as a land of snake-charmers, Indians forget to rely on scientific solutions in case of a crisis or a problem. Suggestions like licking ashes of cremated bodies or rubbing alum on the tongue made Puneet’s situation worse. After years of suffering, back in 2018, Puneet attended The Indian Stammering Association’s annual conference (TISA), where he found himself at home with his tribe. “When I listened to the speakers, I was amazed by how confident and comfortable they were while speaking in public. Now we were the ones who made fun of our special style of communication!”
“The next day, we got a task to talk to passengers in the Delhi metro where we explained our challenges and how we felt being ridiculed. People listened to us and signed a pledge to be considerate towards anyone facing a communication problem. All this helped me to attain a state of harmony with myself and to accept that I was a stammerer. I realized I was not alone, and it helped me to take control of my life.”
Be it fear of failing or fear of exposure of his/her shortcomings, Puneet’s budding organization helps fight the societal taboo surrounding communication disorders & speech problems, as we know them by categorizing them, defining them, and finding a solution for each. The individual knows what to say but has trouble producing a normal flow of speech. Be it America’s 46th President Joe Biden or singer Elvis Presley, Novelist Lewis Caroll, or actor Marilyn Monroe, these famous personalities have also suffered from a similar condition, but that did not stop them from achieving historic feats.
“Puneet Sir helps us get our confidence back in every step of our life. He discusses trending and current topics with us like the importance of e-commerce, political issues, how the pandemic affected the world and government’s action, etc,” said Laxman, one of the members at ssstart and a student of Government Boys’ Senior Secondary School, Saket.
The organization also helps older people, but they prefer communicating in different batches. as they are reluctant to join with teenagers.
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