About the presenter: Kristin Pelczarski, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh where she works with preschool, school-age, and adolescent children who stutter. Kristin is working toward her Specialty Recognition in Fluency Disorders and is also near completion of her doctoral program at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests include phonological encoding and other linguistic factors involved in stuttering.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2008.

What Does a Grapefruit Have To Do With Stuttering? An Analogy for Understanding the Experience of Covert Stuttering

by Kristin Pelczarski
from Pennsylvania, USA

Analogies can be a useful therapy tool to illustrate difficult concepts or to help individuals see familiar things from a different perspective. The following analogy can be modified to help convey to parents and individuals who stutter that there can sometimes be a "hidden cost" to hiding from and avoiding stuttering.

The individual is asked to consider what it would feel like to hold a grapefruit in his hand - to imagine its weight and size. Grapefruit is a larger-sized fruit, but is sill one that can be held in an open hand. This is easy enough to accomplish and the individual will often agree that it would be no big deal to hold the grapefruit for a minute or two.

The individual is then asked to consider what it would be like to hold that grapefruit all day long and carry it with him wherever he goes. Although it is not a highly-desired activity, he will generally acknowledge that even though it would not be his first choice (it makes him different), he certainly could. This can be similar to some people's experience of stuttering - most people will admit they wished they didn't stutter, but many are still able to lead happy, productive lives whether they go through life stuttering (or holding a grapefruit).

After having gotten used to the grapefruit being around, the individual is now given an additional set of instructions: he must continue to hold the grapefruit without letting anyone else see it. This would then require the client to complete two additional tasks beyond the original task of just holding the grapefruit: 1) He would now need to become aware of where everyone is in a room so the fruit could remain hidden, and 2) he would now be required to move and contort his body in many ways in an attempt to hide the grapefruit. Sometimes the attempts to keep the fruit hidden may seem stranger than just acknowledging that yes; he is in fact, holding a grapefruit. Yet, some people who stutter choose to do just that.

This example does not attempt to suggest there is a "right" or a "wrong" way to react to stuttering. Each individual responds to his stuttering in his own unique way. Still, this example can help others who do not stutter (parents, friends, family members) understand some of what a person who is attempting to hide his stutter might be going experiencing. This activity illustrates that many "covert" stutterers experience not only the stress of stuttering, but also take on additional stress and worry in an attempt to avoid being revealed as a person who stutters (or who holds a grapefruit). Alternatively, it can be used to help a person who actively engages in covert stuttering behaviors better understand the choices he makes. Speaking about stuttering can sometimes be difficult due to the emotions and experiences associated with stuttering. Use of a non-speech related object allows an individual to look at his choices from a less emotionally-charged standpoint, while providing many opportunities to begin a dialog about an individual's own experience with stuttering.

Adapted from Debbie Ford

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2008.

SUBMITTED: September 1, 2008
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