Archive for April, 2009

An example of the elusive nature of the stuttering phenomenon

Here’s a great example of the elusive nature of stuttering phenomenon.  And it basically resides in the conflation (i.e., failing to differentiate between two distinct concepts) of the stuttering phenomenon and overt stuttering behaviors.  The poster has the assumption that stuttering is a speech pathology; that it only exists as a behavior.  (As opposed recognizing that stuttering is a neurological condition; a neurological state.)  So this conflation (or merging) of two distinctly different ideas (the stuttering phenomenon, which is a neurological state–and overt stuttering behaviors, which is the consequence of the stuttered neural state) leads us down a road of cargo cult science.  The fundamental error is confusing the core pathology (i.e., the phenomenon) with the behavioral symptoms (i.e., consequences).  And this mistake is made by nearly all in the field of SLP and stuttering research.  My head has been flattened by my repeated attempts to advertise this reality to the world.  But you can help!  Help me reduce my number of self-inflicted concussions by proselytizing the word.  K. Thanx. Bai.

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Freedom from stuttering, freedom to stutter, freedom to live life to its fullest

April 27th, 2009 3 comments

Slow (stuttering) news day today, but I would like to mention Danny’s great find on Daniel’s opening speech at the Special Olympics.  Should be required listening for all of mankind, as far as I’m concerned.  “Intelligence” is most definitely an under-defined (and subsequently misused) term; this speech had an amount of emotional intelligence that is rarely heard.  It’s defiantly worth your time.  Again–it is most definitely worth your time.

Secondly, I would like to just reiterate the concept on the power of personal freedom.  We have the freedom to determine our personal attitude, which gives us the freedom of personal choice, which leads us to the freedom of personal behavior.  Regardless of the stimulation, even in a most evil form, we have the power to choose our response.  Humanity is greater than an automated Stimulus>Response relationship relative to life and living.  However, we have to empower ourselves to believe in ourselves (and reject negative societal messages) to recognize and take advantage of our personal freedom of choosing what to believe and how we respond.  Suffice it to say that this process of self-becoming is neither short nor easy, but it is perhaps single greatest and most powerful aspect of living.

While some people may be able to exercise this personal freedom of choice/response solely on their own, this is where the self-help movement (and the subsequent mentorship therein) excels.  When people (such as stutterers) become a part of a group (such as Friends or the NSA), they become connected with others (refer to the linked podcast above), self-empower each other, and take advantage of the personal freedoms of attitude, choice, and behavior to live life to it’s fullest.  This stuttering forum thread is one such example…

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The incomprehensibility of stuttering pseudoscience

April 24th, 2009 2 comments

The misunderstood variable nature of stuttering, coupled with the hope of the stuttering people, makes stuttering an easy target for the snake oil vendors.  Exhibit A is “Neuro-Semantics”.  This perspective fits the distinguishing characteristics of pseudoscience to a “T”.  (Seriously, take the time to read up on pseudoscience and see for yourself!)  They oversimplify the condition, reject true scientific data, and appeal to one’s emotions.  (And in so doing, blame the stutterer for stuttering–yet again.  It’s the same template that we’ve seen for decades, just with new jazzy words that don’t mean anything–which,  by the way, is another hallmark sign of pseudoscience!)

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On living with stuttering and quality of life

April 24th, 2009 4 comments

Steven on Stuttering has another great post–and on a topic that I’ve been trying to teach and preach for years now.  The premise is simple: living with stuttering exposes us to more than a fair share of societal evil.  This is a reality that is beyond our control.  But what is *in* our control is how we respond to it.  And clinging to bitterness and anger–feeding it as if it was a pet–ultimately punishes us, not the world.  The world does not care; it doesn’t even give us a second thought.  So why should we rent them space in our heads?  Why should we allow them (i.e., non-stuttering-friendly-society) to have power over us and our happiness.  Ultimately, the path towards our peace is forgiveness.  Forgiveness of stuttering, self, and others.

And on a related note, Make Room For The Stuttering makes the terrific post on how acceptance is the first step toward resolution.  And as a complete and random aside, some research suggests that the single biggest contributing factor of Quality of Life in western cultures is… personal/self acceptance!  Seeing a trend here?

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Making a stuttering self-help group an official college student organization

April 23rd, 2009 2 comments

Now this is what I like to see!  Students at New Mexico State University are trying to get their local National Stuttering Association chapter to be officially recognized as a student organzation (at New Mexico State University).  Very cool indeed!  If the field of SLP will not effectively advocate on our behalf, we will advocate for ourselves.  Well done!

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Ok–so this isn’t a good thing for our people…

We’ve got enough negative (unfounded) social stereotypes as it is; let’s not add one more.  Thanks in advance…

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Yes, we continue to fool ourselves into thinking we are identifying stuttering

Today’s stuttering research update is a little frustrating for me, because it’s the continuation of existing ideas within the existing paradigm. And how far as the existing stuttering theory/science paradigm gotten us?

First on the chopping block is Characteristics of stuttering in Dutch-speaking individuals, which essentially looks at how well we can differentiate stuttering kids from fluent kids via a behavioral/speech analysis. Apparently, we can differentiate stuttering kids from non-stuttering kids pretty easily.

Second up is Does language influence the accuracy of judgments of stuttering in children? This article asks if stuttering can be detected in other languages. As it turns out, people know abnormal when they see it; linguistic context need not apply. (When kids demonstrate secondaries like rolling their eyes way back in their head with facial tension and grimacing, it’s safe to assume that’s not a part of the linguistic speaking gesture.)

So why do these studies disappoint?  First off–it’s nothing that we didn’t already know.  Second off, it’s assuming the beliefs of the status-quo.  That stuttering is a speech disorder.  That stuttering only exists when its being manifested behaviorally.  That stuttering IS a behavior.  That if a person “sounds fluent”, then stuttering did not exist.  In essence, the critical flaw in these studies is that they continue to look at stuttering as a behavior that is detected audibly.

Neither is accurate.  Stuttering is a neural state, and should be assessed (i.e., quantified/qualified) neurologically.  While the manifestations (or symptoms) of stuttering are detected visuall / audibly / physiologically,  these are all secondary to the stuttered neurological condition.  Take-home point being that the pathology and the effects of the pathology continue to be confused by the stuttering research paradigm.  They still see these two concepts as one.  In reality–even if a stutterer is talking “fluently”, the stuttered neural state is still in existence; let us not confuse pathology from symptoms.  Stuttering isn’t a speech disorder; it’s likely a chronic neural state second to structural and/or genetic differences.  Behavioral symptoms simply reveals how the body is responding with the chronic neural state.  So to all the stuttering researchers out there–this is said with love: Let’s. Up. Our. Game.

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Yet another neuroimaging paper (on stuttering) coming out of China

April 21st, 2009 2 comments

At this point, even I have to admit it.  The USA seems to be falling behind relative to new and fresh ideas as they pertain to stuttering theory and science.  Yet another neuroimaging paper is coming out, this one from State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China.  The paper doesn’t appear to be a quick nor easy read, but the findings seem to (again) support existing data.  (And support it very well.)  Similar to another recent paper, this article doesn’t provide tons of new information; although it does effectively bring together the known data into a single article.  (There’s well over a decade worth of data in this one article alone, for example.)  If you want to know what’s the state of the art in stuttered neurology read these papers.

In essence, they used functional neuroimaging to compare the brains of stutterers and fluents,  but this time they looked at differences in functioning from the basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuit (BGTC).  Not only that, but the method of analysis provides a big-picutre way of interpretting the data.  This is key, so you can try to put neurofunctional differences into a larger context.  And while they were there, they also looked at structural differences as well.  In short, these guys seem like pros.  In my eyes, they’re asking the right questions, and coming up with new ways to research them.

Results suggest that differences do exist (obviously).  Both functionally and structurally.  But let’s see how clever they are at interpretting them…  Just because we find differences in neural functioning does not mean that we’ve found the causal elements.  The brain is great at adapting, so it’s impossible to know if the differences found represent a truly causal element of stuttering, or if it’s merely reflecting how the brain has adapted *to* the stuttering and tried to best manage it.  My honest guess is that it’s of the latter.  It’s tough to know how much to go into detail–so I’ll jsut stop here.  If there are requests for a more detailed review, I’ll provide one.

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The Insidious Consequences of Covertness: Relating Emotional & Fiscal Debt

April 20th, 2009 4 comments

Read an interesting thread on ‘How far people have gone to avoid public speaking‘, which is a great segue for people’s ‘Deepest fear‘.  I used to (try and) covertly stutter myself, and I continue to see other stutterers (try and) stutter covertly (with varying degrees of “success”–however that’s measured).

The ultimate issue is this: The act of covert stuttering may (possibly) avoid immediate social punishment.  (Feels like a win, right?)  But by trying to avoid immediate social punishment, we begin to live life on borrowed time.  We try to live life in emotional debt.  And as time marches on, emotional debt builds up to the extent that it kills personal liberties and robs freedom of choice.  We keep feeding the fear with emotional debt, which ultimately kills the soul.

Which is why so much of stuttering is 100% antithetical.  Put yourself in a position to receive immediate social punishment.  Actively seek it out!  And in-so doing, you have a better shot at retaining your personal liberties, freedom of choice, and one’s self of dignity and self worth.  We can only live life by one set of rules–and it’s our choice to determine who authors these rules: stuttering or ourselves.

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Self-disclosure of stuttering at the beginning of interactions may improve listeners’ perceptions of people who stutter

April 17th, 2009 3 comments

Self-disclosure of stuttering at the beginning of interactions may (?) improve listeners’ perceptions of people who stutter. A simple lit review will reveal that this kind of study has been done before.  Numerous times.  And they all say the same thing.  Disclosing stuttering (which is a self-disclosing pathology anyway) improves society’s perception of the stutterer.  And I’m going out on a limb here… not “may” improve, but “will” improve (for the vast majority of the time).  Again, stuttering is a self-revealing asset; so how do we benefit from trying to pretend that it doesn’t exist?

So to my stuttering peeps out there… the data is clear.  And while it may initially feel antithetical to purpsefully disclose stuttering to listeners, it certainly seems to be in our best interest.

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