Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Stop Blaming The Stutterer

I found a stuttering link today, advertising a workshop and some articles about stuttering:

From the website, under the "What we believe" link, I found this information:

1. Blocking and stuttering are learned behaviors.

2. Learned behaviors can be unlearned.

3. If you can speak fluently in even one context, you can speak fluently in any context.

I wanted to address these because the website claims that stuttering is a learned habit, thus, "As you can probably already tell, we believe it is one’s thinking that creates the blocking and stuttering. We do not believe that if a person is fluent consistently in certain situations and blocks in others that the problem is physical and certainly not genetic. It is a very well learned behavior come from childhood hurts and reinforced through years of practice."

I disagree with most of this, simply because peer-reviewed research shows these conclusions above to simply not be entirely accurate. It's much too simplistic an approach.

While I believe that there is a "learned" component to our blocks and stutters, I believe most of those components are simply emotional reactions TO our stutter...not the other way around. The first time I blocked, it wasn't because of a wasn't because I was wasn't because I was put in a difficult situation. Nobody knows why one first stutters.

My reaction to my first block, however, caused me to become stressed, anxious, upset, etc. And because I blocked, I began to attempt to push past the block, physically...and eventually I found could speak. I taught myself my first lesson that day:

1. You will block. 2. Physical, exerted effort is the way out.

This lesson was repeated over and over and over throughout my childhood until I eventually carried it over into adulthood, where it was pretty much solidified and a natural part of my thinking, harmful as it may be.

Where is the habit? What is the learned aspect of this? The learned portion is my REACTION TO my blocks and stutter. That is the habit. And this also began to bleed over into my reaction towards stuttering situations where I might potentially stutter. This created a cycle, a pattern of having a certain emotional reaction to speaking situations.

However, there are times when I have zero stress. I feel totally at ease. I'm completely comfortable. Yet, I block and stutter. For seemingly no reason at all.

Further, I can go months and months with no problem saying words that begin with the letter F...and then suddenly, I begin having problems with just that letter. Or maybe two letters.

I believe that if that site were correct...there would be consistency in one's stutter. In fact, we would see consistency in most people's stuttering. But, that is hardly the case. People sometimes stutter when they are completely at ease and then they might all of sudden find they are fluent in the exact same situation...with no discernible change in how they felt or how they approached the situation.

Placing the blame onto the saying "you stutter because of the way you think"...unduly burdens the stutterer with guilt he/she should not be carrying. And you certainly wouldn't want to blame a young child in that manner.

Most of us went through years of wrongheaded thinking in our childhood because of some adult influence who continually told you that you wouldn't stutter if you'd only: slow down...think before you talk...calm down...etc.

For my childhood experience, I spent most of my formative years thinking that I was a jittery, shaky, nervous, hyperactive, stuttering moron...because of scoldings like that from wrong-headed, but well-meaning adults.

I believe, based upon my current research, that stuttering is partly genetic and partly chemical. In the brain. I believe that the brain of a stutterer functions differently, based upon scientific findings that show that stutterers often access the right side of the brain when approaching speech...rather than the left, which is what non-stutterers do. I think it's related to dopamine levels...and I believe that if there ever is a cure, it will be through medicine.

Meanwhile, I'll keep reading and researching.


Bud said...

If stuttering were "learned" as some people think, there wouldn't be families where there are several stutterers but one who doesn't stutter. And then, in another generation, why would an only child stutter? There has to be a genetic component. You also see children from different types of households who stutter. Parents are often told that they caused their child to stutter because of their lifestyle, but you see parents with another lifestyle and home environment with a child who stutters, too. It may help to have a slow paced, relaxed, patient atmosphere at home, but a hectic household is not the cause. People should neither blame the stutterer nor the parent.

Law Student said...

You've nailed exactly why I find this sort of "advice" to be irresponsible on its face. There are simply too many factors to attempt to narrow it down to one think like "learned behavior" or environment. Too many different kinds of stutterers come from too many different kinds of environments to make a simplistic determination of why one stutters.

Nikhil said...

Hey I agree with you saying that cause of sttg can not be "learned behavior" ONLY. There are various causes of sttg. In one person, you get to see because of genetic predisposition, in another it can be due to learned behavior. Try this out... If you imitate a stutter for a long then you have maximum probability of getting it... I have seen kids who imitated their best friends and have got this problem

The reason behind this is that "Speech is a "Learned Behavior". I come from India and I speak Hindi language. If you want to speak in Hindi which is my mother tongue, you have to learn it. As you mentioned in your last lines medicine only can treat stuttering, that's completely wrong notion of yours. As i said before "Speech is a "Learned Behaviour", stuttering is a characteristic of speech which is abnormal. Here I explain to you in simple words. Now if you want to speak Hindi or any other novice language, you have to learn it and not just by taking medicines. If the later would have been true then in this world there would not have been any Language Barrier.

Thus, if any stutter wants to get his speech corrected then he has to modify his speech. This will take a long time.. its not a matter of 6 -9 months... This depends on how consistently the person uses the prescribed technique.

Parents do generally pressurize children that results in increase in problem. There are many factors which worse the things and one of them is learned behavior..