Tuesday, April 30, 1996

Fluency: When is enough enough?

I often participate on this list as someone "who has overcome stuttering"... Then I qualify it by saying "to a large extent", or I say something like "it's no longer a problem". The fact is that I have a very hard time labeling myself at this point.

The fact is that I continue to call myself a stutterer both for philosophical and practical reasons. My philosophical reason is that I believe in an organic component to this affliction, and I believe that my efforts MAY have helped me compensate for it. It is also possible that it would have followed that natural course for me in any case. Still, if it were possible at this point to go into the brain and know exactly WHAT made me prone to stuttering in the first place (yes, John I mean blocks too)... it would probably still be there. In this sense I call myself a stutterer.

My practical reason is the very well known positive effect of "acceptance". If I do accept that once in a blue moon I can still get caught by a surprise block, I won't make a big deal out of it, and panic, and think "OhmyGod it's back...!"

The fact is I now NEVER enter any situation, be it phone, meeting, public speaking, argument, whatever, with even the slightest concern that I might stutter, and I usually don't. When I do it's most often only noticed by me or it's quickly brought under "control". I had major problems in these areas as a teen and beyond (I'm now 50).

So, am I fluent "enough"? Yes, I am fluent enough to give priority to just about every other aspect of my life. No, I am not fluent enough to think that I can't improve any further or that I can't learn something from this list.

Friday, April 26, 1996

Rewiring neurological pathways

Marty Jezer stated: "We must learn to neutralize the stressors that incite our disfluencies and, also, in that learning process, rewire the neurological circuitry that creates, not an addiction, but the predisposition to stutter"

Marty, I think this is a very good analogy. By the way, I haven't had time to participate lately (and I shouldn't even now) but I find you have been doing a great job representing just about exactly what I consider to be my position (assuming anybody cares). The "rewiring" business reminded me of a recent experience I've been meaning to share.

I was lucky to be able to participate in an experiment conducted my Mark Lytle for his thesis (I've had permission to talk about it). This consisted in reading materials while attempting voluntary stuttering. He asked a range of people from severe stutterers to people like myself who claim that stuttering is no longer a "problem". I won't go into what he was trying to show (we were being monitored for physiological responses). My only point is that I was first asked to read a passage with my "normal" speech, which in this case was completely fluent, then with voluntary stuttering.

I've always thought that voluntary stuttering is a great therapeutic tool, and I still do, but what I found interesting in my case, is that my voluntary stuttering had a definite tendency to become involuntary! I could feel "faked" blocks suddenly become "real", while my body was tensing up and it all started seeming too much like bad old times...

I've often asked myself if the process of overcoming stuttering involved "re-tuning" our appropriate neural pathways or essentially creating new ones. This experience, subjectively, made me feel like the old pathways were definetly still there... ready for me jump right back into them.

I'm not making and scientific claim here... just a very subjective observation that might stimulate some thoughts.

Monday, April 01, 1996

"Conquering" stuttering (and fear of the phone)

A list reader asks how any of us "conquered" stuttering..

Like probably everyone else, I've been waiting for someone else to answer you... The problem is that you are asking THE question everyone wishes they had the definitive answer to! If you lurk a while longer you'll see that we have varied opinions and heated discussions on this matter. Some of us also feel that they have indeed "conquered" stuttering, but this has not ended our discussions: how did you do it? Does "conquering" mean the same to you as it does to me? Would it have happened anyhow in time? Do MY stuttering and YOUR stuttering actually have the same cause? ... and it goes on and on, and it will go on and on until someone comes up with THE answer, THE drug, or whatever... that works for everybody...

You might want to gain access to some of the past discussions stored in
various repositories (an update anyone?). In any case, in time, you'll
find ample food for thought and good suggestions on this list. Just
a short while ago there were numerous suggestions circulated on the
phone problem. If someone collected them s/he could send them to you
(hopefully somebody has already done it privately)