Friday, June 21, 1996

Stuttering "because" of (unneeded) conscious control?

The question was posed as to "why people don't stutter when alone or with pets"

(My answer) I have stuttered talking to my dog during a nightly walk.. (and I consider myself "RECOVERED"!)

Barbara Dahm's answer was that "people stutter because they try to consciously control the way they speak".

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've tried to question this theory. We pay attention to our speech BECAUSE we have problems with it, we DON't have problems because we pay attention. It is certainly true that "paying attention" can in fact make things worse, on the other hand isn't much therapy about finding "appropriate ways" to pay attention?

Why don't we have 2% of the population falling all over the place because they somehow developed the bad habit of looking at their feet?

The (fortunately) rare times when I am still caught by a block, invariably come as a complete surprise. I absolutely do not pay attention to my speech and do not "fear" the word I block on (I did have such fears early on).

(Barbara:) "some possibilites are that this is learned behavior"

Some behavior is certainly learned and can add to the original problem

" a reaction to an inherited weakness in the speech system"

This is my belief (with inheritance and other factors playing varying roles)

"a reaction to the belief that speaking is a difficult task and must therefore require more than automatic processing"

I very much doubt this. Look at children... they just simply "do it". If they stumble it's because, for them, it is in fact difficult sometimes, not because they "think" it is difficult. Stutterers become frustrated precisely because they know it "isn't" difficult, as shown in their wonderful moments of fluency... yet they have problems. We PUSH and think "why isn't the damn word coming out???". Our problem is not in believing that speaking is difficult, it is in believing that stuttering is difficult (please forgive the slight paraphrasing of Van Riper - correct attribution? -).

" just to name a few. Maybe some of the PWS's on the list can come up with some other reasons."

well Barbara... one good reason is better that lots of bad ones, and you did have it. To answer specifically about the alone vs not alone business one simply has to understand that stuttering is not a "speech" disorder, it is a "communication" disorder that affects speech. The process of communicating original thoughts sets up the brain in a state that is different from that of the brain "at rest" or singing or reciting etc. Apparently it is in this state that our "breakdown" is most likely to occur.

Of course all of the above are merely opinions strongly held by me and many others. It would be great if they could be definitely proven right or wrong.

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