Iceberg of Stuttering

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Re: Article 130

From: Russ Hicks
Date: 10/21/03
Time: 11:18:58 PM
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Hi Cortney,

You said...

"One thing I didn't realize is that covert stuttering is considered to be categorized under "Heavy density". It sounds like they have more emotional baggage than an overt stutterer."

Bingo! You got it! That's EXACTLY correct. Actually I was studying covert stuttering when I realized that I needed a better tool to understand all of stuttering, so I enhanced Joe Sheehan's iceberg analogy. That's how this paper came into being in the first place.

Yes indeed, a covert stutterer has a VERY dense iceberg by definition. A 99% density is pretty common, where the 1% above the waterline can be almost totally overlooked by an unknowing SLP. If the density is 99.9%, what's above the waterline is virtually invisible! A covert stutterer is an "interiorized" stutterer who typically has an ENORMOUS mass of ice under the water. And typically these people are eaten alive by fear, guilt, shame, etc. to the point that their lives can be real train wrecks. The frustrating thing is that NOBODY even knows they stutter - except them, of course! They are truly the forgotten mass of stutterers.

Then you asked...

"I'm wondering if it is typically more difficult to treat covert stutterers than it is to treat overt stutterers."

My belief is that yes it is, in general. Because SOOO MUCH of the work has to be done below the waterline. Woody Starkweather suggested that future SLPs need to become SCUBA divers! Ha, ha, ha! But yes, he's right. Traditional fluency shaping techniques like easy onset, slow speech, continuous phonation, etc. can be worthless for a covert stutterer. Working above the waterline is relatively easy. Working underneath is where the real challenges are. But don't be afraid of it! You can do it! Now that you know it's there, you just need to get on your SCUBA tank and get to work! Listen, counsel, prod, encourage, cheerlead, even push if you have to. It's hard work, but you can do it!

And finally you asked...

"... which is more difficult to treat, or should I say, which is more difficult to overcome?"

Overcoming either form is not easy. As you said, we're all so different. But that's why we are going to depend on you to guide us though all this. I have faith in you. You can do it!

Thanks for stopping by. Great question!

Good luck!


Last changed: September 12, 2005