About the presenter: Judy Kuster, M.S. in speech-language pathology and M.S. in counseling, is an ASHA Fellow and emertius professor of Communication Disorders at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She is the webmaster for the Stuttering Home Page as well as the coordinator of this online conference. She holds Specialty Recognition in Stuttering and is a member of the Division #4: Fluency and Fluency Disorders. She is the recipient of the ASHF DiCarlo Award for Outstanding Clinical Achievement, the 2003 Distinguished Contributor Award from the International Fluency Association. a 2007 Outstanding Contribution Award from the International Stuttering Association, the 2008 ASHA Distinguished Contributor Award, and in 2009 named to the National Stuttering Association's Hall of Fame.

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2010.

The "R" Avoider

by Judy Kuster
from Minnesota, USA

This clinical nugget is more for clinicians, parents, teachers, and friends who don't stutter.

A high school student who came to our clinic over 15 years ago was the inspiration for this "clinical nugget." He did not stutter, but had difficulty with the /r/ sound and had decided never to say any word that had the r-sound in it. He refused to read in class since he could not substitute words. Can you imagine not applying to "univeRsities", only colleges" or being restricted to two positions on your baseball team (second base and left field) in case anyone asked you where you were going to school or what position you played?

I did four things:

  1. I signed onto Don Mower's mailing list on stuttering (Stutt-X) and discovered a group of professionals willing to share ideas about avoidance behavior and even heard from one individual who had witnessed the same behavior in an articulation case.
  2. I tried to think of times that I avoid words. I do - not in speaking, but in writing. When I don't know how to spell a word, I substitute a synonym that I can spell. I explored this on the internet and discovered a "classic" (literally) of written avoidance. In 1939, Ernest Vincent Wright wrote Gadsby a story of over 50,000 words with no letter "e" in the entire book! No regular past-tense verbs (they end in "ed"), no "the"! (The book is online if you care to take a look - http://www.spinelessbooks.com/gadsby/). Try re-writing "Mary had a Little Lamb" avoiding all words with an "e"! Feel free to post your attempts in the threaded discussion attached to this paper!
  3. I tried to talk without saying any r-words for 3 minutes.
  4. And finally, I puzzled how to work on a long-standing articulation problem with someone who refused to attempt the sound in any context!

Many people who stutter talk about their sound/word avoidances. I know people who have changed their name. In his 1982 classic, The Nature of Stuttering on p. 132 Van Riper reported about a man trying to place a telegram (do they even have telegrams anymore!!??).

One of our cases told us of a telegram he had to send by phone. He wanted to say "Returning noon Friday by plane. Please meet me." This is what the wire finally read: "I'll be on airplane coming home day after tomorrow about lunchtime. Hope you will be able to have car for me there." The message cost him three times as much, and despite all this avoidance he said he stuttered on more words and more severely than he would have it he had kept to the essential information.

In a old Sheehan film on stuttering, there was a young man who was from La Jolla who, when people asked where he was from, described how to get there until someone filled in the city for him, saying, "You mean La Jolla?"

Although it is impossible for a person who does not stutter to fully understand the "avoidance behaviors" that are characteristic of stuttering, the exercise of attempting to visit with a friend for 3 minutes without saying ANY words with an "r" may give you an idea of the mental gymnastics involved in sound/word avoidance, and perhaps an insight into what I often observe in many people who stutter - a tremendous vocabulary! I wonder who would win a Scrabble Tournament!

Alan Badmington shared a delightful short story about "avoidance," "Changing the Words Around," (illustrated by Chris Badgett-Richards) for the 2004 ISAD online conference. It is worth featuring again and is linked below with permission of the author. It provides a good message! Click on the picture below or if you prefer, you can hear Alan reading the story at http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad7/papers/badmington7/badmington17.html/.

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2010.

September 5, 2010
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