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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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