Wednesday, March 22, 1995

Control and stuttering variability

In response to the point that there is great variability in stuttering behavior

It's hard not to agree with that statement, but what does it REALLY tell
us? Not much unfortunately. Most of all it does NOT tell us that there
are different CAUSES for each individual, but only that there are
different ways of coping, and this is really not surprising. If you
catch a cold your body's immune system reacts, you sneeze, maybe have
a fever. None of these things are under conscious control so all human
bodies tent to react in similar ways.

Speech, on the other hand, is, at least in part, under conscious control
and is learned. It is not surprising then, creative as we are, we'll find
extremely individual ways to cope. If we had conscious control over the
symptoms of cold (or even if we thought we did..) and found that by
hopping on one leg or flapping one arm you could prevent some of its
symptoms, you'd find a lot of people adopting the strangest behaviors
during flu season and you'd say that colds too are as individual as people!

While this variability certainly calls for (and explains the relative
success of) individualized forms of therapy, it is important to try and find
the commonality of what is happening. Even the "argument" between John
and myself, I think, ended in what I perceive as a deep agreement in
how we both have dealt with blocks (i.e. dimistify the individual block
and look at the whole "speaking picture").

Even control vs. non-control is, in my opinion, a non-issue. This is
in part because we don't agree on what we mean by "control". Some people
think of "easy stuttering" as non-control. I think any injection of
consciousness in the mechanics of speech is "control". Again, it is
not surprising to me, given different mind sets and different learned
behaviors, that different stutterers may feel helped by fluency shaping
while others prefer easy stuttering. Still, the common goal is to produce
acceptably fluent speech WITHOUT having to think of the mechanics of it, and
many of us have learned that, in time, this can happen more and more.

I find it interesting that the closer stutterers get to fluency, the
more similar their stuttering "style" gets. Is this so "by definition"
since they are close to fluency?... I don't think so. I think that, as we
throw away much of the learned useless baggage, stuttering becomes quite
uniform. Do any SLPs agree with me on this point?

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