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The 24/7 Speech monitor?

Tom had another great post today, and I thought I’d briefly throw my hat into the ring.  In essence, the question/problem is this:  In order to have any kind of order or science to the treatment of stuttering, we need to do better relative to measuring the effects of treatment.  In the past, it’s just goofy researchers (such as myself) getting PWS stutterers to sit in front of a videocamera and read something.  Doesn’t sound very valid, does it?  Well–it’s not.  For every 20 participants that I run, I can–maybe–keep 25% of them.  The simple reason is this, the stutterers aren’t stuttering in the control condition.

Put a stutterer in front of a videocamera, and they know what to do.  Not stutter.

So people are trying to improve upon this by having research assisstants calling particiapnts on the phone at random, or some other kind of random assessment.  If you stutter, you’re chuckling right now.  You konw what to do when your speech therapist calls you!  You turn on your tools and tricks, and you turn it to 11.

The only way to measure stuttering is to do it all the time.  24/7.  Measure so much that you forget your being measured.  Measure so often that it continues to measure of any time, people, evnironment.

The problem is this:  While this is what we need to be shooting for, it’s functioally impossible.  Here’s why:

1.  We can’t even define stuttering.  Neither the act of stuttering, nor the phenomenon itself.  So if you can’t define something, you most certainly can’t measure it with any kind of decent internal validity.

2.  Even if we try and operationally define it (i.e., say, “for the sake of argument, it’s…”), it still cannot be measured.  Stuttering cannot be counted.  In a very real sense, it’s felt–or experienced.  The phenomenon of subpercetual stuttering (moments where there is a loss of control that is not audibly picked up) are only known to the speaker.  And as such, it is subjective and experiential; and thus, cannot be empirically quantified.

As much as I hate to say it, when it comes to stuttering, we don’t know jack about jack.  I still love doing my research, but the whole point of Stuttering.me is to aid people as best I can with the current tools available and continue to fly in a holding pattern until there’s a breakthrough.

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  1. Cricket
    March 30th, 2009 at 13:24 | #1

    For some of the therapy, what about self-reporting? Brainstorming here. Every hour, record number of interactions, and % in which a) noticed stuttering b) stuttering was a problem. It won’t help evaluate therapies to reduce stuttering, but it will help to evaluate therapies where the goal is for the stutterer to feel more comfortable when talking.

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    There was actually a publication that said this very thing. The trouble w/ self-reports, however, is that they’re only as valid as they are honest. And the client may consciously or unconsciously report inaccuracies. (Seen it many many times…)

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