Thursday, March 29, 2007

Defining Stuttering Terms For Clarity's Sake

Recently, another blogger and I have had a really enjoyable "debate" or discussion about stuttering. To see Jerome's full responses, click on the "Shame on the Stuttering Foundation" entry and read the remarks. But, to address one point that I thought was worth a separate blog entry:

Jerome said: "I guess that's a matter of definition. If somebody continuously uses a technique, or even mental state, that allows him not to stutter then I'd say that he has more or less reached the goal."


Yes, I agree...and I highly praise those individuals. I suppose we needed to define our terms because I was more talking about an authentic "cure"...some kind of treatment that would remove any more necessity to even be aware of ones speech as stutterers must constantly be.

For myself, I am mostly fluent, because I have learned since childhood to use techniques to hide my stutter. I have been called a "closet" stutterer...or a "covert" stutterer. For example, if I am meeting someone for the first time, I employ a method of forcing all of the air out of my lungs and pressing my diaphragm upward on every sentence in order to force words out, making me fluent...though the listener cannot tell how taxing this is on me. Often, I go away from these conversations very worn out, mentally & emotionally...with my stomach in knots.

Another method...I feign introspection when I'm at a word I cannot say. Instead of audibly blocking...I internally block until I can get past or I can find an alternative word. The listener is none the wiser...unless they know me and know of my method. For example, I try this trick with my son and he knows what I'm doing. When I act like I'm thinking about my response, he'll often say, "Just spell it if you can't say it." This actually gets annoying if I'm actually thinking and not using the trick. :)

To most people, they would relate to others that I am fluent...that I've probably overcome my stutter...and that I'm a success. I do acknowledge that I am a success at communicating...but I do not feel good about my speech because I get frustrated that I can't say what I want to say when I want to say it...and I can't say it STRESS FREE.

This is the sort of success I'm looking for. I don't want a prosthetic leg so that I appear to walk like everybody else. I want the REAL LEG. Understand, I'm not really expecting this kind of goal...I'm simply defining my terms....I'm defining what I mean by an authentic "cure".

And this is why I don't think that traditional speech therapy will provide one. Traditional therapy will help the adherent find ways to get around a stutter...find ways to feel better about a stutter...help the adherent COPE with the stutter and the emotional baggage that comes with it...but at the end of the day, it will not make the stutterer like everyone else.

Perhaps what I'm looking for is unrealistic. Perhaps it's akin to "re-growing" that missing leg. Maybe it will never happen. But...one can certainly hope.

The delayed audio feedback device makes me almost 100% fluent and when I use a similar device on my computer, I do not have to think about talking. Somehow, this device tricks my brain into being fluent. I believe that it's somehow bypassing some chemical imbalance or physical abnormality in my hearing/brain/whatever. It accomplishes what over 10 years of traditional speech therapy could not...and it does it immediately.

I don't pretend to be an expert on stuttering...I'm on a learning journey as are most stutterers. These are all just my opinions based upon my own subjective experiences. And I welcome the perspectives of those who disagree.

2 comments:

Jerome said...

Hi Lawstudent (do you have a first name by the way? ;)),

"I suppose we needed to define our terms because I was more talking about an authentic "cure"...some kind of treatment that would remove any more necessity to even be aware of ones speech as stutterers must constantly be."

I think that over time, and with growing success and confidence, one can become less and less aware of the need to control yourself in order not to stutter. Will it be totally automatic one day? I don't know. But why exclude the possibility? ;)

"To most people, they would relate to others that I am fluent...that I've probably overcome my stutter...and that I'm a success. I do acknowledge that I am a success at communicating...but I do not feel good about my speech because I get frustrated that I can't say what I want to say when I want to say it...and I can't say it STRESS FREE."

Ok, I can relate to this. Especially since I was (since there was no alternative) an overt, strong stutterer. So people that knew me then are always amazed at my fluency today (even though I think it's still not perfect) and they too think I've totally overcome it. Which is of course not true since there are still situations that bother me and that are more difficult than others. But they rarely see me in these situations, so they cannot really judge it. But I don't blame them. In fact I'm trying to solve these other situations as well, because, as you probably know by now, I'm convinced that most, if not all, is in the head/brain!

"This is the sort of success I'm looking for. I don't want a prosthetic leg so that I appear to walk like everybody else. I want the REAL LEG. Understand, I'm not really expecting this kind of goal...I'm simply defining my terms....I'm defining what I mean by an authentic "cure"."

You are aiming to high perhaps or want the impossible. Let's say you lost one leg, it got replaced by a prosthetic and you're able to participate in trekkings or even marathons. Would you be glad or still want your 'real' leg back? But that's not possible and it's also irrelevant. So why want this? It's counterproductive. Why not get at ease with the crutch and get relaxed? Because it all comes down to feeling well and relaxing imho. It's the mental state that's the problem. And that's what always made me furious: I could speak perfectly in some situations but not in others! Why? Technically my 'speaking apparatus' was working or it would have been impossible to EVER speak fluently.

"And this is why I don't think that traditional speech therapy will provide one."

I agree. Therapy has to focus on the mindset (combined with correct breathing). I'm more and more convinced that it's the brain that tricks us into a bad reaction when we have to speak in a situation that we (wrongly) consider as 'dangerous' (for whatever reason).

"The delayed audio feedback device makes me almost 100% fluent and when I use a similar device on my computer, I do not have to think about talking."

I don't see how I could use this on the PC? I don't stutter at all when I'm alone. But it could be tested during a phone call in front of the PC I guess.

"I believe that it's somehow bypassing some chemical imbalance or physical abnormality in my hearing/brain/whatever. It accomplishes what over 10 years of traditional speech therapy could not...and it does it immediately."

It recreates the phenomenon of that we don't stutter when we speak/sing together with a group of other people. Which, imho, again simply gives the brain the impression that the situation is not dangerous (because we're not individually judged). But I'm also sure, even though it's not easy, that we can convince our brains ourselves into not feeling threatening.

For example: I've got situations today where I'm really asking myself why I was afraid of them in the past!? Or there are fluent situations where the thought creeps up: Oops, am I not *supposed* to stutter in such a situation???

Don't get me wrong. I've still got my difficult situations, but they get fewer and fewer. Because I (slowly) realize that I don't really have to be anxious. And that being anxious is what sabotages my speech.

Law Student said...

Jerome: "Which, imho, again simply gives the brain the impression that the situation is not dangerous"

I really don't think it's that. I don't think it's accomplishing some emotional remedy...I believe it's accomplishing a physical one.

I have always believed that the emotional aspect of stuttering is in reaction to it...rather than being to blame for it. I believe this because there are times when I am not tense at all...not fearful at all...I am completely at ease...yet I stutter.

Jerome: "Why not get at ease with the crutch and get relaxed? Because it all comes down to feeling well and relaxing imho."

I think the leg/prosthetic scenario is probably not the best analogy since I believe that a cure for stuttering is far more possible than re-growing a leg. *laugh*

I think that a cure for stuttering is possible through drug therapy...eventually, that is. That's why I won't simply settle for a crutch.