Pseudo-Stuttering Perspective

I am an SLP graduate student and in both of the stuttering classes I have taken, we completed a project where went out into the public and stuttered to a stranger. I loved this project because it helped me gain perspective on PWS and what they go through everyday. Some of my friends believe this is extremely inappropriate and disrespectful to do because we are pretending to be something we are not. Even some of my SLP friends think this is an inconsiderate project, which I find hard to believe.

I just wanted to get some opinions from professionals or PWS- do you think this project is disrespectful to the community of people who stutter?

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Pseudo-Stuttering Perspective — 7 Comments

  1. Hi-
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and question. Graduate school is such a fun, exciting, and often stressful time! Good luck with your endeavors and journey!

    I definitely agree with your experiences of pseudo-stuttering. I completed a project like this when I was in graduate school and found it to be one of the most powerful and influential assignments I’d ever completed. I found myself experiencing fear and anxiety about speaking – something that I’d rarely felt before. I also found myself avoiding the assignment because I was worried how others might react. I actually had someone hang up on me – and I remember being so upset after the phone call. The overall experience definitely gave me the chance to understand at least a little bit of what people who stutter may deal with on a daily basis!

    As clinicians, and people, I think one of the most powerful things that we can do is to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients as much as we can. In therapy, when we ask our clients to put themselves out there, whether in a speaking situation or a different way, we want to show them that we are willing to put ourselves out there first. So, if they are working on ordering at a restaurant, we might go first and pseudo-stutter before they go up and order. This helps to build that clinician-client relationship.

    Also, pseudo-stuttering gives you the chance to practice playing around with and producing moments of stuttering. As a clinician, it is important that you are able to understand and replicate how your client stutters. This way, if the client decides he wants to explore his moments of stuttering – perhaps play around with tension – you can guide him through that. I can be really difficult to talk about and explore stuttering if one doesn’t have at least a basic understanding of how it feels.

    I think that trying pseudo-stuttering as a way to gain insight into stuttering is very different than mocking or making fun of stuttering or a person who stutters. I can understand how people may feel worried or uncomfortable; and, I think that is a powerful experience and lesson in itself. As a person who does not stutter, I may never fully understand what my clients and friends go through on a daily basis; however, I do experience many of the same emotions – joy, happiness, fear, sadness – even though what sparks those emotions may be different. At the end of the day, we are all so much more similar than we are different, and the more that we can all learn and understand each other – the better!

    Hope this helps! I know that some of the other professionals will have wonderful thoughts and insight as well!

    Best of luck!
    ~Jaime Michise

  2. Hi! This is a very interesting question and highlights an issue around which there is some debate. As Jaime describes, pseudo-stuttering can be a valuable experience in many ways. Personally, I’m quite a fan of pseudo-stuttering, but I do recognise that it potentially has a darker, less constructive side. To counter this, I feel it is important that such activities are presented with a clear rationale and purpose, and that the subsequent experiences can be considered and discussed afterwards, particularly when they are used with the aim of giving an insight into negative emotions and reactions which may be experienced by some people who stutter (and students using pseudo-stuttering). Otherwise, the risk of such activities is that the message students take away is a fear of stuttering or pity for people who stutter, neither of which necessarily aid student SLPs in learning how to help people who stutter. There’s a link here to an article discussing the potential effects of such “simulations” which you may find interesting: https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm17/bm1706/bm170602.htm?fbclid=IwAR11T6-0drwNZ70zEvmSi6if0puiTbnBcmlYN7veP2-WjYhROvGPrvlsI80 .

  3. Branden,

    Negative emotions are a bell weather of being stuck in therapy

    In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy of Stuttering, we distinguish between two categories of negative emotions. The unhealthy negative emotions evoke a lot of emotional anguish and hinder recovery from stuttering. These include 1) shame, 2) guilt, 3) feeling that stuttering is awful, 4) that we should talk with perfect fluency, 5) that stuttering makes us somehow less worthwhile than people who do not stutter, etc.

    The corresponding healthy negative emotions, on the other hand, have just enough negative feelings associated with them to seriously motivate the PWS to pursue recovery from stuttering. Closer examination reveals that the corresponding negative feelings of 1) shame, for example, is concern, of 2) guilt is the resolve to do better, of 3) the feeling that stuttering is awful is the feeling that stuttering is inconvenient, of 4) that we should talk with perfect fluency is the desire to talk with less forcing and struggling, and of 5) that stuttering makes us somehow less worthwhile than people who do not stutter is the feeling that we have one characteristic (not the whole self) that can be improved, etc.

    When the progress in therapy stops it is because of the unhealthy negative feelings. These feelings can be detected by examining what unhelpful beliefs that gave rise to the unhealthy negative feelings. Let us start with the belief that stuttering is awful. After that, it only takes a little detective work to establish that we have an unhelpful belief that stuttering is so destructive as to wipe out all the possibilities to enjoy ourselves.

    Once we know what unhelpful feeling we hold, we can challenge it using the three scientific questions:
    1. I our belief backed up by empirical evidence? The answer is heck no! I still can enjoy a good cup of coffee, a good meal, company of acquaintances, etc.
    2. Is it logical? No, it does not make sense to define stuttering as awful.
    3. Does it help me to believe that stuttering destroys all chances for pleasure? Of course not.

    After we shred the unhelpful feeling, we remain with the belief “There is evidence that stuttering is nothing to cheer about. It does, sometimes, make logical sense to understand that it can have some practical disadvantages, and some situations would be easier and more pleasurable if I did not stutter.

    With this kind of belief, I would feel the healthy negative emotion: “stuttering is inconvenient”. This emotion would motivate me to focus more, and more calmly on my easy Iowa bounces. In conclusion, challenging and disputing unhelpful beliefs about a speaking situation helps us to recover from stuttering.
    Gunars

  4. My $0.02? Pseudostuttering should be an absolute requirement for any speech-language pathologist who hopes to help people who stutter, and the vast majority of people who stutter whom I know would agree with me. We are not mocking people who stutter when we do this.

    I know that it makes students uncomfortable in class, but that is no reason not to do it. I’m guessing that the people who have negative opinions about the activity also harbor some negative reactions or discomfort of their own…

    Here’s why I personally think it’s so important. When I have my students do pseudostuttering in class, it is for two reasons.

    The first reason is the obvious one: to help students and clinicians understand a little bit of the discomfort and embarrassment that people who stutter experience. This is the simple part of the assignment though. I mean, you already knew that it was going to be embarrassing before you did it, so confirming that doesn’t add much. (It is helpful to see, however, that other people’s responses to stuttering aren’t always as negative as we fear…sometimes they are, but not always.)

    The second reason is, to me, the more important one: I don’t just want people to feel embarrassment when they do their stuttering. I want them to *overcome* that embarrassment. In order words, just as I might use pseudostuttering in therapy to help a client desensitize to stuttering, I use pseudostuttering in class to help my students desensitize to stuttering. This is important because one of the things that we’ll do most frequently in therapy is stutter (exploring stuttering, easy stuttering, stuttering modification strategies, etc., all require the clinician to be able to produce stuttering like disfluencies in order to model the changes for the client. If the clinician is too embarrassed by or uncomfortable with pseudostuttering to be able to use these strategies in therapy, then they are of little use to the client.

    I like to say, a clinician who is afraid of stuttering with her client is a little like the clinician who doesn’t like to do articulation therapy because she’s afraid of minimal pairs. Ridiculous!

    Pseudostuttering is a strategy that we need to be able to use in therapy. Therefore, students need to learn how to do it. THAT, to me, is the reason I use this activity (and I use it extensively) in therapy.

    Thanks again for bringing your question to the group.

    J Scott Yaruss

  5. Hello!
    There are several topics which are of importance when we are discussing pseudo Stuttering, and if I understand you correctly, you want different opinions from professionals and persons who stutter on a particular excercise: for you as a SLP student to go out into Public and pseudo stutter towards strangers.

    Like my colleagues, I find it very helpful and important to be able to pseudo stutter or improve Our ‘stuttering skills’. This is very important also for SLP students to learn. My colleagues above are giving several and very good reasons for managing pseudostuttering, so I will not repeat their answers. In addition, and if it is introduced and implemented in a good and respectful way, I think that more persons who stutter might benefit from including pseudo Stuttering into their Speech and communication.

    Anyhow, I have five comments regarding the particular excercise about SLPs and SLP-students (who are not usually stuttering) to pseudo-stutter in Public:

    1) I am really glad that you loved this excercise and that this Project gave you New perspectives. I believe that there always will be the case; some finds it useful and some finds it strange or inappropriate.

    2)I would not feel comfortable doing this excercise myself, mostly because I think it does not fit With one of my very important values in life; about being authentic and thruthful in communication. I would feel this activity a bit weird myself, and I would not be me in this particular setting. I therefore can understand some of the comments or reactions you already have received from Your friends/SLP friends.

    In this sense I therefore will not instruct my SLP-students to go out in Public to stutter when we are exploring and Learning pseudo stuttering in class or in therapy. If some of the SLP students want, they are welcome to experience it and share their experiences afterwards. Instead I am really highlighting the importance of ‘being good to stutter’ and are sharing lots of examples when we are training.

    3) I think there are many alternative and good ways to improve knowledge and to understand Stuttering from the persons who stutter’s perspective. For me, the most important thing is to include as many People who stutter as possible in the courses, both for listening to their stories and to learn about what they appreciate in life or in Stuttering therapy. When we are providing practice for SLP students, pseudo stuttering is also an issue.

    4) I have wonderful SLP colleagues who think differently about SLP students doing pseudo Stuttering in public, and they are usually sharing both positive and negative experiences about this particular excercise. I very much respect their decisions.

    5)I am hoping that we can continue including different point of views. The most important thing is to let the SLPs and SLP students be prepared in such a way that they are able to do what is best for the persons who stutter.

  6. I am a current SLP graduate student and in my stuttering class we are required to complete several pseudo stuttering assignments and stutter in public. After doing one of the assignments, we discussed in class and some people expressed their concerns with offending PWS while stuttering in public. I never felt that this activity was offensive, and felt that although it was definitely scary to do, it was helpful for us to learn to take the perspective of a PWS and practice stuttering itself. My professor mentioned in class that several clients he had worked with had told stories of their past SLPs never stuttering with them or modeling techniques. This concept was crazy for me to think about , especially in the context of other speech-lanauge therapy, like not modeling verb tenses with your language client or a specific sounds for your articulation client. As SLPs, I think we owe it to our clients to do everything we can to help them to the best of our ability. When working with PWS, I think that requires pseudo stuttering. I think this post helped to confirm the importance of this activity in my mind and am glad I participated by stuttering in public.

  7. I as well am a current SLP graduate student. It is a requirement that we participate in 4 different pseudo stuttering assignments throughout this semester. Coming into the assignments, I was definitely on the side of the argument that this should not be done and that it was rude, and in a way, making fun of people who stutter. We just completed our third assignment and now I am a huge advocate for this exercise. I think that it helps to put you into the perspective of a person who stutters. Many times I found myself dreading the assignments and putting them off to the last possible second. The realization came to me that this could relate to our clients who stutter and their reluctancy to speak at times. Now that I am more comfortable doing the assignments, I am more willing to speak. I think that these assignments help me to better understand what our clients are going through socially and how they feel about their stuttering is more important than the amount that they stutter. I am very grateful for these assignments and opportunities to learn through them.