Home > Stuttering.Micropodcast > Episode 22 of the Stuttering.Me micropodcast is up

Episode 22 of the Stuttering.Me micropodcast is up

Episode 22 is up.  A 5 minute review of the grad stuttering class.  In short, there is an entire group of stuttering theories that (at their core) believe that stuttering is cause by anxiety.  And this is really a personal character flaw, because people who stutter can’t “take the pressure” and breakdown under stress.  I’m not easily offended, but such prejudice remains tough for me to swallow every day.  And unfortunately, many an SLP (as well as society) continues to believe these (lies).  But if you’re a Stuttering.me listener, you won’t (both on a cognitive and emotional level)!

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  1. Ora McCreary
    February 10th, 2009 at 23:20 | #1

    (Sleepless in New York)
    Just listed to micropodcast 22. My first contact with you except for slight contact @tom weidig.

    I was puzzled by one aspect of your explanation of the psychogenic theories of stuttering, which you spoke about on #22. Putting aside entirely the issue of the validity of such theories, you made a logical leap which seems to me common but if not wrong, then at least should be recognized and questioned. You said something like “I’m insulted at the notion that my stuttering is a character flaw, and therefore my fault” (I know I’m not quoting you exactly but I think that was the gist of what you said.)

    But how is a character flaw a “fault”? Is OCD a personal fault? Are people “guilty” of schizophrenia? Should we blame a borderline personality for the way they think and act? Or (to head into charged waters) should we blame people for alcoholism and addiction, or is it a disease? Where is the boundary between disease and personal responsibility?

    This is obviously a big big issue in modern philosophy, psychotherapy, medicine, as you no doubt know. But my point is: it seemed like you accepted unquestioningly the notion that character flaws can be overcome and are therefore one’s “fault”. Yeah, I know it’s a 5-min podcast and not a 3-hour grad class. But isn’t that your underlying premise there?

    Nice to make contact with you. All the best – Ora


  2. admin
    February 11th, 2009 at 08:24 | #2

    Hey Ora,

    I appreciate your comment… Please let me explain a little better.

    The stuttering iceberg is a very real phenomenon for us, people who stutter. And one of the more powerful aspects of this iceberg is the shame that is often associated with stuttering.

    Shame comes from the sense that one is “broken.” It’s my understanding that the root word in which “shame” is derived literally means, “to cover”. Meaning–covering/hiding oneself (from yourself or society) due to the fact that you are inadequate, broken, or fatally flawed as a person.

    It’s my belief that the stuttering population should reject such a notion. (Even though this is what we’re often emotionally taught to feel and think as children; it becomes the framework for our world views on stuttering and self.)

    So the notion that stuttering is caused by the fact that “we can’t handle the pressure” suggests that our character is weak. Stuttering is a result of personal weakness. And (at least in American culture), personal weakness is seen as a bad personal characteristic–and optional. If the person was a little “stronger”, then they could overcome their personal “weakness”. But since they’re weak, they can’t–ipso-facto, stutterers have fatally flawed / weak characters.

    And if a PWS actually believes this, either in thought or in feeling, then we’re reducing our own life opportunity.

    There is no character flaw that causes stuttering; the answer to that question is to reject the question in the first place. The premise of the question is wrong, thus it cannot be answered.

    So I’m thinking that we agree on this, if we got our perspectives aligned. The entire notion of “fault” for stuttering should be rejected whole-heatedly. We are not at fault for stuttering in any shape, matter or form. And the whole purpose of the site is to try and rid this underlying social construct from our collective unconscious.

    I guess I just need to do a better job of expressing it. 🙂


  3. Ora
    February 11th, 2009 at 19:04 | #3

    I didn’t know that about the shame-cover etymology. You’re right – though we have to go back to PIE (prot-Indo-European) to find it. See Online Etymology Dictionary (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=shame&searchmode=none).

    Exploring ideas now…

    As an SLP, presumably you believe that stuttering is remediable, at least in part, and that stutterers have it within their power to “improve” their speech by reducing their stuttering.

    The notion that reducing stuttering is an “improvement” is of course based on the assumption that stuttering is bad. You may disagree, or perhaps not entirely agree – but shouldn’t we respect the autonomy of a stutterer to make that decision for himself? Shouldn’t we, in the final analysis, let people make their own value judgments – their own assessment of what is good and what is bad?

    As an SLP, don’t you consider it your role to reduce stuttering if that’s what someone hires you for? You may reason, wheedle, persuade, cajole, inspire a person to alter his beliefs – and you and I probably are in agreement that that’s a good thing to do – but I assume you would agree with the proposition that it’s still your job to “improve” speech by reducing stuttering, if that’s what the client wants, no?

    And on the assumption that a person has it within his power to “improve” his speech, isn’t it reasonable to hold him responsible, or for him to hold himself responsible, if he desires to do so but fails to do so?

    The reason for the SHAME of stuttering (I think) is the thing itself (being “essentially” flawed, broken, and wanting to cover it). But the reason for the GUILT of stuttering is the belief, or at least the suspicion, that it is within one’s power to change, but one does not, for whatever reason. Within that belief system, THAT’s the character flaw, the weakness, the reason for guilt.


  4. admin
    February 12th, 2009 at 09:38 | #4

    I’m not sure that stuttering is remediable in all people, but I believe that we can free ourselves from a certain amount of bondage that we (and society) throws on us.

    And as far as your good/bad idea–we’re in complete agreement. In grad school, I told my prof that I thought stuttering was like a dialect. And if we can respect dialects, we can respect stuttering. His reply was something like, “I didn’t hear a dialect just then.” I thought much less of him after that.

    I think our roles as SLPs are to foster effective communication and personal empowerment to make substantive impacts on our clients quality of life. And that may or may not be a change in stuttering frequency. But it is (for sure) a change in stuttering attitude. Improve your life–which does not necessarily include speech.

    And as far as your guilt concept–right on!


  5. Ora
    February 12th, 2009 at 12:13 | #5

    “And as far as your guilt concept–right on!”

    But let’s take it the next step… If someone CAN remedy his stuttering and wants to, but for whatever reason fails to, isn’t it reasonable for him to feel guilty. Isn’t it “his fault”?

    (Again, accepting the premise that the stutterer, within his own value system, determines that he wants to change his stuttering.)

    Or to avoid the value-laden language of “guilt” and “blame” and “fault”, let’s reframe this in simply in terms of personal responsibility: If a person can change – knows how to do it, and has it within his power – and wants to do it, but fails to do so, isn’t it right to hold him responsible?

    “Blame” would be the normal phrase here, but perhaps this is unnecessarily inflammatory, and the neutral “personal responsibility” framework works just as well.

    And if we want to go even further, we can remove the external framework (other people “blame him”, other people say “it’s his fault”) and move to the subject-directed framework in which an individual makes his own assessments about his values, behaviors and choices.

    We don’t have to “blame him” or say “it’s his fault”: we simply accept his own assessment that he’s responsible.


  6. admin
    February 12th, 2009 at 19:37 | #6

    See–I’m not sure this is a realistic situation. If someone can change, and they want to change, and they have the gumption for change, then they will change.

    Further–we have to ask the right question… Change what? Attitude, feelings of self-empowerment, effective communication, reduction of secondaries, reduction of overt stuttering frequency… What?

    It seems to me that your hypothetical PWS sets goals for themself, and may or may not meet those goals. So by definition, they would feel “frustration.”

    I guess my fear of the word “responsible” is that I just can’t see how it can become (emotionally) divested from the concept that stuttering is *not* bad. (Because if stuttering is Ok–which I happen to believe–then the concept of change is optional.)


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