Any research on the “non-static’ nature of stuttering?

As I looked back over my long stuttering journey, I realized that my stuttering was never fixed. In other ¬† words, the profile of my stutter was changing constantly. I’ll give one specific instance. In my teen years I would always have trouble with non-variables such as my address or phone number. I was always relieved when those variables changed and I could move on to an “easier” sound. You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Yes, soon I would “learn” to stutter on that sound which previously had been an “easy” sound. My sense is that this is a common theme with all PWS. After finding my voice, I can’t identify my “good sounds” and “bad sounds” now. However, when I was deep into the writing of my book, I would break out of a long session of introspection and see those problematic sounds popping up again. Thankfully, they would go away when I returned to my voice which refuses to identify any stuttering proclivities. Any thoughts from the panel on how PWS are continuously figuring out new ways to stutter?

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Any research on the “non-static’ nature of stuttering? — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Vince – you’ve raised an excellent point…Many people have discussed the way that stuttering changes over time. There hasn’t been as much research on the topic other than to demonstrate that such variations definitely occur…over time, from situation-to-situation, from day-to-day, from word-to-word, and, of course, from person-to-person. People are constantly trying to figure out new ways of getting their words out (whether consciously or sub-consciously) and this leads to changes in the behavior. In my experience of working with people who stutter, it can be quite instructive for them to reflect, as you have done, on the changing patterns…and also to talk with others who have had similar experiences as a way of acknowledging that such experiences are normal and understandable. In treatment, we address these feared sounds by facing the fears directly – learning to in fact stutter on those previously feared sounds with diminishing fear through desensitization. A person who has overcome or minimized the fear of stuttering is less likely to have feared words… Thanks again for your interesting comment! Scott

  2. Hi Vince,
    This is one of the most frustrating and often least understood aspects of stuttering. The way I explain it is that any sound that you concentrate on and try to get out will become a hard sound. As Scott said, desensitization is important and also seeing that all sounds can be said when speaking silently. When speaking aloud the process can be identical except that in this case the voice is also activated. This is a hard concept to get, especially for people who have spent their life trying to control speaking and how to say words. However, it becomes clear when you experience the difference between trying to say words and letting speech develop automatically.

  3. Hello Vince, yes, stuttering is unpredictable. That may be the most challenging part of the disorder. Since we always will find great intersubject and intrasubject variablities in the occurence of disfluency, we have to work very flexible and individual oriented regarding treatment. For many individuals who stutter, the disorder incorporates much more than a motor speech difficulty. For quite many PWS they have to face additional social and psychological challenges in their daily life. Anyhow, I do not know you (and I am not familiar with your book), but I assume that your “stuttering journey” includes quite many different stuttering interventions – with some positive effect/result/changes or not. My experience is that there exist multiple ways in the sence of what may lead to a lasting positive change for each person, both in fluency and quality of life. If you let me become categorical, there might be individuals who have better effect of not focusing on their stuttering/fluency speech, and there are others who have great benefits of doing it (this group may be the major group, related to my clinical experiences). It sounds that you have found your way by focusing on your voice. I think by focusing on something, the fear of speaking might for some be decreasing or controlled in a more practical way. Therefore, in stead of focusing on the feared sounds/words (which may change in an unpredictable way), the focus can be on the speech/voicing/behaviour in general. For changing way of speaking/stuttering, more intensive based approaches have to be established, and much hard work has to be done by the person him/herself – in a personal significant environment. Here the desensitization work can be combined, often with double effect. I know quite many PWS who benefits from this way of thinking.

  4. Vince,
    It’s nice to see that you are no longer walking (at least most of the time) through the mine field of feared sounds or words. So many of us spent years placing one foot down at a time, praying we would hit green grass and not a land mine. Approaching a large field with this mentality (and fear) can be daunting, depressing, and frightening as hell. This metaphor makes sense to me (I’ve never used it before by the way) because that is exactly how I approached speaking, every day. So afraid I might stutter on every word that began with an /s/ or /k/ or whatever the sound of the week was. In reality, I believe most of my wounds were self-inflicted. There was no land mine. There was only grass. Maybe it is for this reason that our feared sounds and words change. Is it really more likely that our oral speech mechanism changes so that at age 12 a /k/ sound is harder and at age /14/ when our most feared teacher’s name starts with /s/ that an /s/ is now harder. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that PWS have a physiological predisposition that results in our speech to break down under conditions that a normally fluent speakers would not. But… it is our fear that often puts the added stress on that weaker system. If we have internalized that we are person who stutters, and this is to be avoided at all costs, then once we have success with one sound or word, is it possible that we latch on to the next word we stutter on as a problem sound so that our view of self can be confirmed? If we are always setting each foot down deliberately, lightly on the grass, hoping that we won’t step on a bomb, one foot at time, sweating and shaking with each step…. is it a wonder that we aren’t tired, and hence stumble more often.
    Just some thoughts over my first cup of coffee this last day of the ISAD. Thank you for reading.