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Archive for May, 2009

Is keeping eye contact really such a great success?

(Note: This is a work in progress…  Updated 2009/6/1)

I ran across an interesting threat at the stuttering forum entitled Is keeping eye contact really such a great success? And I’d like to suggest that it categorically is. But there’s a couple of issues here:

(1a) Let’s define success.  Reading 7 Habits has (in many ways) changed the way I view the concept of success or effectiveness.  Success isn’t an end-product.  (That’s achieving an objective or meeting a goal.)  Success is a process; it’s a chronic state; it’s a way of life.  People live successful lives; they live in a state of success.  How we live contains 4 basic tenets, which include: (a) personal principles that (b) dictate personal values that (c) dictate behavior that (d) dictate (effective vs. ineffective) results.  In other words, it’s a transitive mathematical statement: our core principles ultimately impact how successful and effective we are in life.

[Side note:  Now–maybe I’m onto something here.  If someone is chasing the fluency god, they are seeking a (permanently fluent) result by trying to manage their behavior.  They are (trying) to manage their behavior because they value the idea of fluency over stuttering, because (in principle) they see stuttering as an unacceptable characteristic for life and living.  Maybe, at some point in the future, I’ll rebut this little thought-train and explain how it’s both flawed and counter-productive to one’s quality of life.]

(1b) In other words, success is not achieving a goal–because it will not ‘feel’ like success and will may result in happiness. (True) Success (resulting in tangible improvements to one’s quality of life) is a lifestyle (or personal culture) of living successfully.  (Remember: results dictated by behavior dictated by values dictated by principles.)

(1c) If success is a process (or personal culture) of living, is it possible to skip to the end?  (No–because there is no end!  The process of living successfully is only ended by loss of consciousness or death.  And I can see merit to the idea that a person’s success can live on, after their death.)

(2a) So let’s take another look at eye contact.  *But* let’s look at eye contact through the perspective of another rabbit trail: Dave Ramsey says that success in personal finances is 20% math and 80% behavior.  (And remember, behavior is ultimately dictated by personal values.)  And I think he’s hit a huge nugget of reality here: The way toward the result of financial peace is to live in accordance with the principles and values of financial peace.  So let’s extrapolate this to stuttering.  Regardless of if your goal is effective communication or the great white whale of ‘permanently fluent speech’, proper eye contact is a stepping stone toward either objective.

(2b) Another Dave Ramsey-ism is to hit the small challenges (i.e, debts) first.  Now–this makes no sense from a fiscal perspective; you’d want to take out the high-interest debt first, right?  But if financial peace is a behavior, it makes all kinds of sense.  If success is living successfully, then it makes every bit of sense to knock out the little annoying challenges (i.e., behaviors) that continue to nag and drag the soul.  And all these little “successes” reinforces the new lifestyle of living successfully.  It’s a snowball that gains inertia and size with every revolution.  Pretty soon, you’re knocking out debt like Mike Tyson in his prime.  For stutterers:  Today, eye contact; tomorrow, the word!

(3a) Now, let’s look at what eye contact can do for you.  First, losing eye contact reinforces personal shame, guilt and fear; that is *not* a win.  Turning your back on the ti-ger results in an ass-kicking.  We’ve got to stare that ti-ger down, whatever that ti-ger may be.  (And for us, it’s likely the societal ramifications of stuttered speech.)  Every client that I have known that veraciously stared down their ti-ger and by focusing on eye contact has resulted in reduced shame, reduced guilt, reduced fear, and a renewed ‘go-get-em’ attitude.  It seems to revive the soul via proactive personal empowerment.  The snowball has been formed and it’s beginning to roll down hill (gaining size and inertia).

(3b) And once this little “success” is reached, proper eye contact has other functions as well–it keeps us in the communicative moment.  It allows us (if not empowers us) through body language to complete communicative moments.  (In other words, people will dismiss us less.)  And after this little ‘success’ is reached, assertive (if not aggressive) eye contact can be used to draw personal boundaries and afford us our freedom and liberty to speak even with those who would otherwise try to disallow us to do so. (In other words, the stutterer (through proactive eye contact) dictates the rules of the communicative exchange with the listener.  We refuse to be refused.  We take our pet ti-ger out for a walk and show him with pride.)

In short (and nothing about this post has been short), eye contact is a pivotal step towards successfully living with stuttering.  Success begins with staring down your unkept ti-ger, and much of this is founded on eye-contact.  It helps thwart shame, fear, and guilt; it helps us face our ti-ger; it helps with desensitization; it helps with effective communication regardless of overt severity or speech-treatment goal/objective… I could go on and on, but this diatribe needs to stop somewhere.

Yes, eye contact is a great success–because it a cornerstone of living successfully with stuttering.

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He also was a stutterer. He didn’t have the problem of stuttering, he was just a stutterer.

I absolutely love this story; and in my little world, it’s what we all ought aspire to be.

“Back in my sales manager days with the insurance company I worked for, we attended a management development seminar in Chicago. This was a team building type of seminar in the early 1980’s. I remember this seminar vividly, as I was so influenced by the last person who spoke to our group. This man was a long term employee with our company. He was the Vice-President of Sales & Marketing. He had also been a vice-president in five other departments of our company. This man was a truly “down-to-earth” individual with tremendous people skills. He had developed self-awareness at its highest form, and had such a positive attitude about life in general. He also was a stutterer. He didn’t have the problem of stuttering, he was just a stutterer.”

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Renewed buzz on the not-so-new “new hypothesis” on stuttering

I had a number of people email or tweet this link to me over the past day, so it must have been posted on Stutt-L or the StutteringForum, etc.  In short, this is (part of) Conture‘s hypothesis on stuttering.

First off–this isn’t “new”.  The data is (at least) a number of years old.  Second off, even if it was “new”–it’s not really all that new because it’s an evolutionary spin-off of the psychological stuttering perspective.  In short, Conture is making the correlation between persistent developmental stuttering and emotional reactivity.  (To be honest, I’ve not read enough of their work to know if they try and deductively state that this emotional reactivity is causal to stuttering or not.  I certainly hope they didn’t though–as that would be an utterly irresponsible statement to make.)

Further, I’m not really impressed by the statistics.  Approximately 1/4 of stuttering kids are more emotionally reactive.  (What percentage of *all* kids are emotionally reactive?  I’ve spent some time w/ 3 year olds; it’s not hard to find emotional reactivity there!)  25% of anything doesn’t impress me much.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find that 25% of stuttering kids had delays in potty training, thereby supporting Sigmund Freud.  (Point being, 25% of any population is bound to have some common characteristic.)  (Example: let’s say that 25% of alcoholics prefer bourbon.  Any magic behind that statistic?  And what if I prefer bourbon?  Does that increase the likelihood of pending alcoholism?)

Now–let’s look at the origin of this ‘new hypothesis’.  First, the field of SLP has been blaming stuttering on the stutterer since (at least) the mid 1930s.  Wendell Johnson essentially bought into the fundamental attribution error, and makes the causal statement that stuttering is behaviorally conditioned response to speech-related anxiety.  (In other words, stutterers are weak people, can’t handle the normal pressures of life, and are more easily conditioned into stuttering than normal people.)

Since then, there’s been some data that try and support the assertion (above) by looking at how bad the parents are.  (In other words, bad parenting creates stuttering kids.)  And (if I recall correctly), a few studies found that parents of stuttering kids were indeed more “intense” (or whatever).  This is an interesting evolution of crap-science; when in doubt–blame mom.  (Much like Autism or even Tourette’s.)

Thus–to blame (either direclty or indirectly) stuttering on a kid’s emotional reacitvity is nothing “new”.  It’s definately not “new” to realize that emotionaly reactive kids/adults tend to be less-responsive to behavioral therapy.

But here’s my take.  This entire “new hypothesis” perspective is based on the same poor foundational understanding of what stuttering is.  This perspective assumes that stuttering is a behavior.  Stated differently, the concept of stuttering IS THE behavior.  So if kids are on the more emotionally reactive side of the spectrum, they are more likely to develop this speaking behavior.  And as long as we continue to limit ourselves with this perspective, we’re going to make the same mistakes that have always been made.

Instead, let’s look at it from a fresh perspective.  Perhaps the stuttering phenomenon INCLUDES this tendency toward emotional reactivity.  Stuttering (the phenomenon) includes physiological differences/abnormalities, a speech-related functional neurological signature, *and* other undetected neuro differences that *result* in behaviors such as emotional reactivity and overt stuttered speaking behaviors.  Stated differently, emotional reactivity and overt stuttering speaking behaviors are both symptoms of a common etiology.

As such, I’m not too impressed.  But I’ve not read tons of their research, so I could be wrong…

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A decent, quick read entitled “The tricks of stammering”

Pam sent me this article the other day.  Not too much to respond to, other than to suggest that citing “research” without any sources is a bad journalistic practice.  In any event, if you’ve got 2 minutes–it’s a decent, quick read.

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Is traditional stuttering therapy really *that* important?

I ran across an interesting post from the Thinking Cities blog, and it’s always interesting to read how others arrived at their (life) conclusions.  As a researcher, I’m not 100% buying into this view of the stuttering phenomenon, but I think the poster most certainly has the essence.  And as such, I’m confident that our perspectives (along with many of Stutteirng.Me’s readers) are in alignment.  Truth has a tendency of revealing itself that way…

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Pagoclone experiences continue to trickle on to the web…

Ran across a post by the Helm’s Family Blog regarding someone that is in the Phase IIb Pagoclone trial.  The poster recognizes that it’s a double-blind study, and cites that his severity is mild enough such that an effect may or may not reveal itself.  (Which is exactly what we want–we want all parties to be skeptical of the treatment effect, so that if/when it happens, it’s real and not a placebo; this is a massive problem in pretty much all stuttering treatment.)  I hope he posts updates w/ future experiences…

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ReTweet: Bullying (and Stuttering)

Pam has a terrific post on Bullying, where she links to some other great articles and resources.  Little to add that she has not already said better than I could have.

To be honest, I’ve not spent a lot of time thinking about the subject.  My gut suggests that what makes bullying so hard to live under is that the bullied is under the perception that they are powerless and have no other choice but to live under it and endure it.  (Looking back at my own life, there were times that school teachers would say and do wholly inappropriate things that I tolerated, because I felt like I deserved it.  Perhaps a variant on bullying?)

And to the next point; what bothers me is how society looks down upon physical self-defense.  I’ve got no problem if the victim of repeated psychological abuse takes matters into their own hands.  Clearly nothing like a Columbine, where life (especially innocent life) is taken; nothing to “get back” at the bullies.  But at times it feels like very few people really understand how to deal with bullies.  *Stand*Up*To*Them* and stop the bullying before (or during) the event.

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The relationship between stuttering, isolation, forgiveness & community

I read a great post at Pam’s site entitled “Social Acceptance and Stuttering.”  And it led me to think a little bit–regardless of how you cut it, stuttering can result in some fashion of personal isolation.  If we chase the fluency god in hopes of gaining better acceptance into fluent society, we’ll fail on both accounts and subsequently feel isolated.  (And largely, I maintain, because of a hope/myth that if stuttering stopped–all of life’s problems will dissipate.)  So if we cease to chase the fluency gods, we can certainly improve our quality of life.  But–will this change societal acceptance?  No–it doesn’t.  Even in the groups (such as family) that often seem to matter the most.  Subsequently, we can feel isolated.  Either way, isolation may be a part of living with stuttering.

So how to deal with this sense of isolation?  I’d like to hear some thoughts!  With me, it has been through forgiveness (of self and others) and prioritizing personal relationships (such as a greater emphasis within the stuttering self-help community).

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The Peer Attitudes Toward Children Who Stutter Scale

New reseach reveals that (fluent) kids have negative attitudes towards stuttering kids.  And now, thanks to science, we have a survey that can reliabily document this discovery with validity.

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The monster study gets a little attention

Here’s a quick blog post about the monster study; it seems pretty accurate, although I’ve never read credible support stating that kids were truly turned into “stutterers”, but rather that these kids gained a nice healthy fear of repeated unjust social punishment.  (Unfortunately, Johnson wasn’t a real scientist, and likely saw what he wanted to see.)  My other comment is to really question if Johnson *did* indeed help his stuttering people.  His “seminal” work took us on a really bad detour for decades, and his flawed perspective continues to haunt the entire field of SLP even today.

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