How Bad Do You Stutter?

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Re: How Bad Do You Stutter?

From: Russ Hicks
Date: 16 Oct 2007
Time: 01:09:21 -0500
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Hi Sabrina, You're in a wonderful program at the College of Saint Rose. I know quite a few people up there. I've got to come up there myself one of these days... ..... Actually your Catch 22 is the real conundrum of stuttering. The really bad part, however, is that you never really know you're in it. You know that an eyeblink (or whatever) worked at least once, so why not give it another shot... or two or three or a million...? Back in my ancient therapy days - when dinosaurs roamed the earth - we really did NOT know what was good for the long term. We just assumed that the "speech controls" they gave us which worked up there at speech camp would work for the rest of our lives. As a stutterer, I knew what worked - sometime - in the very short term (eye blinks, etc.) but we were all clueless about what would work in the LONG term. The "speech controls" worked for a month or so, yes, a good improvement on our secondaries, but we missed the boat completely on the long term effects. It took the understanding of the iceberg analogy of stuttering (see my 2003 ISAD paper called 'The Iceberg Analogy of Stuttering' at ) to give us a clue about the long term. And that Iceberg wasn't even introduced until about 1970, about 15 years too late for me! .... There was really no "habit" to break. Stuttering, or even trying to fight it, is not a habit. You break habits with a million repetitions of something and that goes back to those speech "controls." It just doesn't work. The more you fight it, the worse it gets. The more you try to CONTROL it, the less control you have. Now THAT'S a Catch 22! ..... Ha, ha, ha! I decided - "absolutely THIS time I'm serious!" - to CONTROL it so many times you can't believe it! But it worked only for a short time. Eventually I just gave up and said to hell with it. It ain't NEVER gonna work! ..... Then one magic day I was dragged into the National Stuttering Association - totally and absolutely against my will, lemme tell ya - and we began to talk about emotions and feelings and attitudes. What did those touchy-feely things have to do with stuttering? They were NEVER mentioned in "control it till you die" days. It was a totally new concept to me. It was just other people who stuttered and me talking about the struggles we had with life. Almost no SLPs knew anything about those psychological issues at that time, in the 1980's. The iceberg was just emerging. And we didn't know about it either, but we knew something was happening as we talked among ourselves... and laughed and cried and shared our lives together. ..... At that time, the self-help movement and the speech pathology profession were kind of at odds with one another. Thank God that's no longer the case! As we began to understand the iceberg, we realized that the CONTROL freaks were missing 90% of the problem! No wonder controls don't work! If you blast off only the top of an iceberg, what happens? It floats up to the surface again. Simple laws of high school physics! You've GOT to attack those emotional issues beneath the waterline of the iceberg in order to get any long term effects! Once I realized that it hit me like a ton of bricks! THAT'S why those emotions and feelings and attitudes are sooooo important in good speech therapy! I don't know how I could have missed that concept all those years... Just not very smart, I guess. <grin> ..... Another magic moment was when I was forced - almost at gunpoint - to join Toastmasters. You gotta be kidding! I stutter! I can't do that! They'll laugh me out of the house! .... Well guess what? I was forced to face my greatest fear - public speaking - head on. Look at that fear (an emotion!) straight in the face and LAUGH! My God, that was scary! But amazingly enough I didn't die. Matter of fact the people there - all fluent people by the way - were very supportive of me and encouraged me to develop my communication skills. They didn't care about FLUENCY, but they did care of about COMMUNICATION! They told me how courageous I was and how much they enjoyed hearing me speak. You LIE, I thought! But I kept at it and pretty soon I realized I COULD do public speaking and I was pretty good at it. Imagine that! My life began to change as I began to LET GO of the continual chasing of the Fluency God, and learned how to communicate effectively. It was an amazing transformation. ..... By letting go of CONTROLS and concentrating on good communication skills (smiling, good eye contact, firm handshakes, humor - all skills totally unrelated to fluency) my life began to change every day. My fluency didn't improve that much, but my secondaries began to melt away. I've been a member of Toastmasters for almost 20 years now and it's been a joyous journey. I still stutter, but who cares? If other people don't care, who am I to dispute them? I absolutely LOVE public speaking now. Who'da thunk? As I said it's been an amazing journey. <smile> Had enough Sabrina? Sorry this is so long, but you did ask... <grin> ..... Please say hi to my friends at the College of Saint Rose. Do you know Joe Klein? He's one of my best friends. A majorly cool guy! ..... I wish you the very best in school and in your journey through life. You're going to make a wonderful SLP one day! ..... Russ

Last changed: 10/22/07