Wednesday, February 14, 1996

The psychological dimension of stuttering

Marty Jezer pointed out that stutterers can benefit from psychological counseling, but not because there is something "abnormal" in the psychology of stutterers, rather because such a handicap will typically bring up issues that can be aided by psychological intervention. In summation he said "stuttering has a psychological dimension, but psychology isn't the cause"

Having been clearly a proponent of this view, I want to re-emphasize a major
caveat. There could be a psychological component, while language is developing, which, in concert with some inherent weakness, could help precipitate the formation of the first "organic" core. In this view, psychology could contribute to the cause, but psychological intervention could not reach down to this level and undo the problem. The reason is simply that the psychology here wasn't anything particularly abnormal, just basic survival, as Woody put it, and the organic pattern it helped form will now persist even if the psychological reactions change. Here is where there can be no sharp distinction between psychological and organic.

I know, too many "coulds" and I have beaten this horse to death lately. I will
also follow John H,'s suggestion and refrain for a while until I get to read
Perkin's book. But, even as a believer in a fundamental organic cause, I think
it is extremely important that we do not interpret this in a fatalistic manner
and simply assume that we just have to wait for a "pill". I wholeheartedly
support the work of Woody and others who feel that early intervention in
children can prevent stuttering. I've tried to show that this is not in
contradiction with an organic view. I hope I made sense. In this context I'd
like to pose a few questions.

1. What other examples are there where psychology/environment contributes to permanent physiological changes during early development? We certainly know how the *absence* of appropriate stimuli can stunt brain development.

2. Am I correct in assuming that indeed such changes could remain beyond the
reach of psychological therapy?

3. Are there any cases where such a physiological core changes in time, due,
perhaps, to aging or other factors?

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