If I ruled the world, this essay would not be necessary. That's because recovery from stuttering would be far easier than it is today. Of this, I would make certain. How? Well, I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I would begin by enacting the following laws.
- Those who offer pedestrian advice such as "Slow down," "Think before you speak," and "Take your time" would be subjected to one full day with a really obnoxious person following them around and shouting out simplistic instructions. ("Hey Joe! Having trouble with that budget report? Just write down what you want to say! Then print it!")
- Those who bully, tease, interrupt, or finish the sentences of people who stutter would be dressed in Cleveland Browns' colors, flown to Pittsburgh, and dropped off at the nearest Steelers bar. The interpretation of this law would be broad enough to include those who mimic stuttering in private, waiters who audibly sigh to let stuttering individuals know they are taking too long, and people who grunt while listening, so breathless with anticipation are they to begin talking at the first inkling of a pause.
- Therapists offering quick-fix solutions would be forced to enroll their own children in expensive private schools where teachers claim to impart all the necessary knowledge in two convenient 60-minute sessions, then spend the remainder of the kids' educational years lambasting them for not implementing the knowledge properly.
- Support group attendees who hijack meetings to push their personal cures would be sentenced to spend 48 hours in an elevator with a car salesman needing just one more deal to make quota.
- Condescending listeners would be required to continue nodding their heads and smiling until such time as they are sold as bobbleheads.
- Employers who don't hire the stuttering applicant because he or she makes them uncomfortable would be immediately placed under the supervision of an Alaskan wolverine and forced to spend their workdays eating ferns and avoiding bite wounds. In cases where a wolverine is not available, an '80s hair band will serve as an adequate replacement.
- Those who question or blame the parents of stuttering children would serve lengthy sentences for unsolved crimes they clearly had nothing to do with.
- Stuttering individuals who claim to be "cured," "fearless," "covert," or whatever the next flavor-of-the-month designation is would be forced to watch themselves on videotape until such time as they figure out what these terms do and do not mean, or until they willingly hire someone to spray paint the word Denial on their scalps, whichever comes first.
- And finally, any pediatrician who cites an 80% spontaneous recovery rate as evidence that worried parents need not seek help for their disfluent child would be greeted with the following scenario at the end of the workday.
"There are five cars remaining in the parking lot--yours and four others.
"One of the five cars you see has been wired to explode upon ignition.
"You must either a) take your chances and drive home or b) turn around, go back inside, call every mother in town, and admit that maybe a 20% likelihood is not one to mess around with."
The preceding makes up the introduction to my book on stuttering recovery (Williams, 2005) (except that, in the first line, the word essay reads book.) Since writing that, the topic of new laws for people who stutter is one I have brought up in a variety of contexts. I've found this to be not only a good way to hear people's insights into the disorder, but also an effective means of coming up with ideas for an ISAD paper without actually having to work very hard. With that in mind, allow me to offer a few more needed laws.
- People who say they "sometimes stutter" and who, in fact, understand actual stuttering about as well as my dog understands physics, would be forced to have their taxes done by an accountant who can sometimes add "them big 2-digit nummers."
- Bullies who pick on stuttering children would be enrolled in sensitivity training, where they would learn that stuttering is not the speaker's fault and that teasing can do long term harm to its victims. On second thought, let's just put lunchmeat in their pants and release the hyenas.
- Anyone who gives advice about stuttering that is simultaneously authoritative and ridiculous would become the subject of an ISAD essay by Bob Quesal.
- Those who assume that all people who stutter are shy, introverted, passive, and dim would be forced to spend five nights a week reading an on-line college football "smack" board. Admittedly, this wouldn't help any with shy, introverted, or passive, but they'd sure gain a better understanding of dim.
- Those who believe that stuttering is nothing more than a bad habit would spend a Miami to Singapore flight seated beside a chronic nose picker.
- Mothers who blame themselves for their children's stuttering would...never mind--they've suffered enough.
- Those who believe that stuttering consists solely of occasional one-second speech breaks would be forced to study every aspect of the iceberg until they understand it completely. Not the iceberg analogy, mind you, but an actual iceberg.
- As a means of turning the tables on radio talk show hosts who hang up on disfluent callers, these stiffs would be forced into situations where they are at a distinct disadvantage because of something they can't help. An IQ test, for example.
- Those who assume that their theories about stuttering are valid because they are simplistic and anti-intellectual would receive their next physical from a doctor whose personal and untested theory is that dried sea urchins are interchangeable with rubber gloves.
- Listeners who cut off the stuttering speaker in order to demonstrate that they're oh-so busy would be forced to spend a day with a 3-year old and actually formulate answers to each and every "Why?" question they are asked. If that doesn't teach them patience, they would be required to listen to the entirety of my lecture on How outcome measures necessitate empirical support rubrics demonstrating multidisciplinary pedagogy relevant to the de rigueur substructure inherent within organizational strategic imperatives.
- On the other hand, people who listen patiently and take the time to respond to the content of each stuttered utterance would be given convenient parking spaces heretofore reserved only for CEOs and movie characters.
- Those who continue to profess repressed needs theories to explain stuttering would receive an application of habanera salsa. The exact location of said application would depend upon the "origination" of the proposed need in their particular theory.
- And finally (for real this time), anyone who posts a critical message about this essay risks feeling my wrath in the form of a witty and cutting retort. Fortunately for you, I'm unlikely to think of said retort until several months after this conference has ended.
Williams, D. F. (2005 [scheduled November release]). Stuttering Recovery: Personal and Empirical Perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2005.
August 2, 2005