I’ve been offline a bit over the summer, and haven’t been able to read up and reply to others as much as I’d like. Recently, I got a comment by Pam, discussing the personal evolution of stuttering. In essence (and I hope I’m getting this right), she feels as if her stuttering behaviors have changed, and that she is showing more stoppages (blocking / postural fixations) then ever before. So what to make of it?
Well–I’ll state my safety disclaimer and say, “we’ve got no idea.” But with that said, I think I may have an idea…
First off–our stuttering behaviors are only symptomatic of the pathology. Our behaviors are not the pathology, but rather how the body tries to deal with the pathology (that is occuring at the neural level). Stated differently, stuttering behaviors are symptoms; they are how the body is trying to behaviorally overcome neurological processing errors (which is the core pathology). It’s my belief that the act of stuttering is the body trying to “jump-start” or “kick-start” the (stuck) system. There’s a stop at the neurological level, and the body’s trying to force through it by priming itself with (motor) initiation behaviors.
That means that stuttering isn’t the pathology, but the body’s answer to the pathology. And since it’s the body’s answer to the pathology, and it’s not a very efficient answer, these behaviors will evolve over time. Older stuttering behaviors stop serving as effective primes out of the (neurological) stuttering moment, and the body hunts for newer/better behaviors. As a result, the way we stuttered 5 years ago isn’t the way we stutter now, and it won’t be the way that we stutter in 5 years.
In any event, we’ve discussed (a theory on) why stuttering behaviors evolve. But what do we do when our overt stuttered speaking behaviors evolve? Well–we have to adapt.
Counter-intuitively, it could very well be that this sudden evolution in stuttering behaviors is a net positive. First, the fact that we can tell there has been a change in stuttering behaviors indicates that we’re sensitive to it. (In other words, we have desensitized ourselves to stuttering to some degree.) Second, we may have our ti-ger on the run. (Please read the ti-ger analogy if you haven’t already done so.) Regarding our old stuttering behaviors, we’re either not doing them anymore or they have ceased to be effective. At this point, the ti-ger is forced to show us a new trick; it’s behaving differently–and this can freak us out just a bit at first, because it feels like an adidtional loss of control So what to do? In essence, we’ve got to retrain the ti-ger. He’s a wilily one, and isn’t easily domesticated. Right now, the ti-ger is walking wherever he wants to go, and that’s not an acceptable way to live with it. When we lose control, the ti-ger takes a swipe at us. So pull out the choke chain and get to work. There are any number of ways to try and tame this ti-ger, but my preferred method at this point is via volitional stuttering. When we volitionally stutter, we’re tugging on the choke chain and directing the beast where to go, how to go, and when to go. And we train this ti-ger to do what we want, when we want, how we want. We’re not trying to make him go away, because I’m not sure that’s even possible. We’re just domesticating the beast. It will take both courage and practice, but the continued use of volitional stuttering gives us the ability to shape how the ti-ger behaves.
There are any number of online and print materials that provide step-by-step methods regarding how to employ the use of volitional stuttering to tame the tiger; this is just one.