How Bad Do You Stutter?

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Re: inquiry

From: Russ Hicks
Date: 02 Oct 2007
Time: 11:15:23 -0500
Remote Name:


Hi Julie, Thanks for reading my paper. You said, "you seemed very determined to become fluent." Oh yes, definitely! I figured that all my problems would instantly disappear if ONLY I could become fluent. Ha! The follies of youth! Fortunately that was decades ago in my teenage years. But the amazing thing is that nearly everyone believed that back then too, not only me, but my parents, teachers and SLPs ("speech correctionists" were what they were called back then). To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, "Fluency is not the most important thing, it's the ONLY thing!" My early life was devoted to becoming fluent above all else. ..... My folks sent me to a "speech correction" camp for a several years in my teenage years - in the 1950's. They taught a primitive form of what is now known as fluency shaping. The emphasis was on ELIMINATING your stuttering altogether. Fluency good, stuttering bad. And amazingly enough it worked - for a relatively short time at the end of each camp session. If I talked s-l-o-w-l-y like a robot, and used all of my fluency techniques, I could become 100% fluent. The only problem is that fluency wore off after about a month each time and I was back where I started, actually WORSE than I was each time. It was a terrible realization that after all that work, I still stuttered. And with each failure, my own self image got worse and worse. I didn't work hard enough. I wasn't smart enough. I didn't care enough. Man, that hurt! ..... The painful realization was made even worse by the fact that EVERYONE knew that what I had learned at speech camp WORKED! My parents believed it. The speech correctionists believed it. My teachers at school believed it. And even I believed it. So my failure MUST have been all MY FAULT. What NOBODY knew at that time was the effect of Stuttering Iceberg - and why working on fluency alone virtually guarantees relapse. (See my 2003 ISAD paper at for more details of this.) By the time I was 20 I had all but given up on any form of speech therapy. It just didn't work for me. ..... Back in the 1950's and 60's it was a vastly different world than it is today. There were no support groups for anything, much less stuttering. We all had to struggle with things alone. Even the "experts" were really not much help. ..... It wasn't until the emergence of Alcoholics Anonymous in about the late 60's that things began to change. Support groups of people with all kinds of problems began to emerge. I discovered the National Stuttering Association in 1984 and have been extremely active in the NSA ever since then. And it's made a WORLD of difference in my life! We began to realize that we were NOT alone in our stuttering. And it helps sooooo much to accept the fact that you stutter and to get on with your life, stuttering and all. That was a totally foreign concept to me back in the 1950's. Now in 2007 it's absolutely a MAJOR part of my life. I can't conceive of living life without the help of my NSA friends. They are family to me. ..... Thanks for your excellent question, Julie. Sorry for the length of my response, but you DID ask... <grin> Good luck in school and in your future. You're going to make a wonderful SLP! ..... My very best to you! ..... Russ

Last changed: 10/22/07