The Fluency Questionnaire – Sam Simpson, Patrick Campbell & Chris Constantino

Sam SimpsonAbout the Authors:

Sam Simpson is a speech and language therapist and person-centred counsellor with a particular interest in disability studies, stammering activism and what stammering can teach us about ourselves and the world. She lives outside London and enjoys gardening and walking her dog in her free time.

Patrick CampbellPatrick Campbell is a stammerer and children’s doctor living in Cambridge, England. He has an interest in how public and self-stigma intertwine to produce disability for people who stammer and how this debilitating process can be altered through seeing positive value in stammering. In his spare time, Patrick enjoys five-a-side football.

 

 

 

Chris ConstantinoChris Constantino lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Megan, and son, Augustine. He is an assistant professor at Florida State University.

 

 

 

 

 

Together, Sam, Patrick and Chris co-edited the book Stammering Pride and Prejudice: Difference not Defect in 2019.

Most people who stammer are put, all too frequently, into situations where they feel unable to stammer openly due to the risk of being stereotyped, stigmatised, or discriminated against. This can place a considerable burden in terms of feeling the need to conceal or mask their dysfluency to pass as fluent. Discussing ableism (i.e. social prejudice in favour of people who are able-bodied) is complex and is an emerging and evolving cultural notion. To give people who do not stammer an insight into how it feels to experience the ableist expectations and norms that are pervasive in today’s society, the following satirical questionnaire was devised. Inspired by The Heterosexual Questionnaire attributed to Martin Rochlin (1972), it is based on fluency-phobic premises, rather than the fluency-philic premises which currently dominate. The Fluency Questionnaire aims to upend the typical dynamics between stammering and fluency and parody the formal assessment measures that people who stammer are frequently asked to complete.

———– QUESTIONNAIRE ———–

This questionnaire is designed for fluenters only (i.e. people who speak fluently). Fluency is a neurodevelopmental difference that leads to highly predictable and consistent forward execution of speech sounds produced in the context of language. The effects of this on a person have been shown to be wide-ranging and go far beyond the impact on speech itself. Common public perceptions of fluency are that it is dull to listen to due to its regularity and predictability. Fluenters are widely seen to be less creative, spontaneous, and interesting than stutterers. Research has also shown that fluenters lack insight into the subtle social and interpersonal dynamics of communication. If you do not identify as fluent, please pass this questionnaire on to a friend who does. Please try to answer the questions as candidly as possible. Your responses will be held in strict confidence and your anonymity fully protected. 

  1. What do you think caused your fluency? 
  2. When and how did you first realise you were fluent? 
  3. Is it possible that your fluency is just a phase you will grow out of? 
  4. Did preschool therapy as a child help you with your fluency or did your fluency persist?
  5. Could it be that your fluency stems from emotional trauma rather than a neurological or genetic difference? 
  6. To whom have you disclosed your fluency? How did they react? 
  7. Why do fluenters place so much emphasis on uniform, smooth, and polished delivery? 
  8. Why do you attribute fluency to so many famous people? Is it to justify your own fluency? 
  9. Why do fluenters feel so compelled to seduce others into their way of talking?
  10. Fluenters are notorious for assigning themselves and one another rigid, time-bound speaking roles and expectations. Why must you cling to such homogeneous speaking norms? 
  11. How often as a young fluenter, were play dates turned down for fear of catching your fluency?
  12. Why are fluenters so boring and predictable? 
  13. To what extent do you feel that your fluency is a sign of lack of creativity or a need to conform?
  14. What social penalties have you experienced as a result of your fluency? 
  15. How often do listeners give you ‘the face’ and look at you in confusion when you find yourself being fluent?
  16. When you are having a moment of fluency, how often do listeners break eye contact, not wait for you to finish talking, finish your utterance for you, laugh at you or walk away whilst you are mid-sentence?
  17. How often have you been complimented by people you have just met that they would hardly know you were fluent?
  18. How often have you not given a presentation, applied for a job or put yourself forward for a promotion because of your fluency?
  19. How do you find being seen as an inspiration for everything you have achieved despite your fluency?
  20. Could you trust a fluent therapist or doctor? Don’t you fear they might be inclined to influence you in the direction of their own speech orientation? 
  21. There seem to be a lot of unhappy fluenters. Techniques have been developed that might enable you to change your speaking pattern if you really want to. After all, you never chose to be a fluenter, did you? Have you considered fluency restructuring therapy, fluency modification or Fluency Anonymous? 
  22. Due to the chronic nature of fluency, do you agree that attaining completely normal and lasting dysfluency may be an unrealistic goal for fluenters? 
  23. Shouldn’t you ask your radical fluency pride activists to keep quiet? Wouldn’t that encourage more funding of medical research and therapy into improving the lives of those afflicted with fluency? 
  24. If you’ve never experienced dysfluency, how can you be sure you wouldn’t prefer it?

——-

We hope that you have learned something from completing this questionnaire. 

If you took it seriously, you may be feeling somewhat uneasy about the ableist attitudes, understandings, and beliefs it shines a light on. It is easier to understand another person’s experience if you are able to walk in their shoes. That is what this exercise aims to achieve. It was never intended to suggest that fluency is wrong or that you have to defend it in any way, but rather to give you a better understanding of fluent privilege and the attitudinal barriers people who stammer can face in relation to their own unique way of speaking. Recognising privilege and oppression present in our society enables us to see that much of what is accepted as ‘normal’ is socially constructed. You now have a better idea of the stereotypes, stigma and discrimination people who stammer can experience in a world that is designed for the fluent majority.

Going forward, we hope this thought experiment helps you to respond to unhelpful stammering stereotypes and ableist attitudes with greater insight, compassion and understanding. In doing so, you will contribute to creating a world that celebrates diversity and supports the right of all people to engage in life fully without question and without having to defend natural communication variation. 

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Comments

The Fluency Questionnaire – Sam Simpson, Patrick Campbell & Chris Constantino — 30 Comments

  1. Hey, Sam Simpson, Patrick Campbell & Chris Constantino!

    I thought this was a creative way of presenting the issue of ableism to people who do not stutter, since they do not know what that experience is like. I also appreciate the note at the end for the people who did not understand the point of the questions. As someone who never stuttered before, I did not know this is what it is like and I am so sorry that people who stutter go through that.People need to change their perspectives in order to be more respectful to everyone. I can tell that the more people who read this article, the more the world will be a less abelist place.

    -Amber Yado

        • I enjoyed all of them – laughing along with Chris and Sam as we talked about them. Sam put in much of the work for it. I think probably 21 is my favourite:
          There seem to be a lot of unhappy fluenters. Techniques have been developed that might enable you to change your speaking pattern if you really want to. After all, you never chose to be a fluenter, did you? Have you considered fluency restructuring therapy, fluency modification or Fluency Anonymous?

          • Hey, Patrick!

            That is a great point!
            To answer your question, when I was younger I used to have a communication disorder where I slurred my words and speak too fast. At first I had medicine that helped me speak my first word at the age of four since before then all of my words were unintelligible. And I did go to speech therapy for it and it helped me no longer have the speech disorder. But for most people, I know that having fluency is not really a choice and not something people who are fluent often think about unless they are in the field or in a situation that makes them nervous. Reading all of these articles was a great experience because I was able to relate it to my own story in a way too and have people I can relate too. Since it felt so isolating at the time when I did have the speech impediment.

            -Amber Yado

            • Hey, Patrick!

              I wanted to also ask if I can use this conversation for a project that our professor wants us to do because she wants screenshots of 3 conversations in this conference (from people who stutter, clinicians, or family members of those who stutter) and for us to talk about it in our paper. Is that okay? Thank you so much!

              -Amber Yado

  2. Sam, Patrick and Chris:

    Very creative approach to counter ”ableism” within this context. I’d like to share this added perspective that came to my mind while reading the questionnaire.
    I can very much relate to the challenge posed by “the (speech related) ableist expectations and norms that are pervasive in today’s society” in this way.
    To maintain smooth speech, my willingness to speak in a way that I believe listeners do not “expect” and do not consider a “norm” is one of the constant challenges in the many different speaking situations I face every day.

    • Thank you. Absolutely ableism manifests within us in very powerful ways in our self-talk. Good luck in keeping up against the fight against it. In Stammering solidarity, Patrick

  3. Sam, Patrick & Chris,

    Thank you for your article! As a therapist and person who don´t stutter it was very reflective.

    I also loved your book, I have learn so much reading it! Thanks a lot!

    Cynthia

  4. Very clever! Very funny! Extremely serious point made! Speech and Language Therapists at all levels would benefit from reading this and reminding themselves that often the very questions we ask in clinic are stigmatised and can cause discomfort however many empathetic therapy skills we use in the process. I think we can become distant and ‘numb’ to this over time; we just do it by rote. This is a BIG wake up call to encourage us to find a more compassionate way of discussing difference.

  5. Hello Sam, Patrick and Chris,

    thank you for such a clever questioner it was great how it allowed me to think. This was a great way to put into perspective on how stereotypes, stigma and discrimination people who stammer face. currently I am in my undergrad into becoming an SLP and I think this would be a great questionnaire to present for students and people in general to allow them to self reflect and realize how stammering stereotypes and stigmas could hopefully be getten rid of with just how we preserve things!

    • Thanks for your words of support Dania – it would be wonderful to see the questionnaire being used routinely on speech and language therapy training courses to invite reflection on ableism and the implications for therapists and stammering therapy going forward

  6. Hi Sam, Patrick and Chris — sort of turns things on their heads now, doesn’t it? Love it – thank you for the creative and powerful view on ableism!

  7. Funny at its core!
    #7 and #8 – point!!
    #10 – reminded me of my Toastmasters speech!
    #20 – many SLP’s I ahve been to, in India, tried to impose their fluency patterns on me, making me feel sad after a speech therapy session. How Ironic!

  8. This questionnaire made me realize how the actual questionnaires I have given in fluency assessments (as an SLP grad student) really frame stuttering and disfluency in a very negative light. I understand that the standardized assessments are necessary, but I also think I should find some positive things about stuttering that I could share with clients maybe at the end of the assessment.

  9. Oh my goodness – I really liked this. Hit the spot with the satirical look at how stuttering is viewed so differently from fluency, which of course it should not.

    That’s the problem – we have two standards for speech, which often contributes to stutterers vs fluenters.

    Such a clever way to look at the hoops persons who stutter often have to jump though in order to just go about life as ordinary people who just happen to stutter.

    Pam

  10. Hi Sam, Patrick, and Chris!

    I really enjoyed going through your questionnaire exercise. As a fluent speaker, I’ve never had to experience a questionnaire like this so I hadn’t fully realized just how ableist they can be. Some of the questions made me laugh a little because of how silly/ridiculous they sounded but I’m sure that’s how they sound to PWS as well when they’re asked about their stutter. It wouldn’t be acceptable or “make sense” for a fluent person to answer these kinds of questions so it shouldn’t be any different for PWS.

    The shift from an ableist society to a more diverse and inclusive one is definitely a long process but it starts with conversations like these. So thank you for coming up with such a creative way to really help me, a fluent speaker, understand my privilege and how it can harm others. As a communicative disorders undergrad student, going forward, I would like to have more conversations about this with my classmates, professors, and clinicians so we can be a part of the solution and not the problem! It’s unfortunate we live in an ableist society. All people are beautiful and worthy no matter our differences!

    Karla

  11. I really loved this post-it was both funny and eye-opening. The current attitude tests used for stuttering today paint dysfluent speech in such a negative way and reinforce stuttering stereotypes. I really liked #8. My husband is a person who stutters and always gets asked “have you ever seen that movie The King’s Speech?” He responds in a sarcastic manner, which is why I love him. Current attitude tests demonstrate how easily it is for people who are fluent are prone to put people who stutter into a box.

    -Kacie

  12. Sam, Patrick, and Chris,

    I absolutely love this approach to processing our own internal bias towards ableism specifically around stuttering. This is an effective way to bring levity to something family interactions that may look at disfluency unfavorably. I think this would be a great tool to use with families/caregivers that look at fluency as the goal of therapy.

    Obviously communication disorders are serious and have a significant impact on those who experience them, but using humor to approach difficult topics should be implemented more frequently. It would be interesting to look at perspectives of other communication disorders and create pointed yet humorous questions that help change perspectives!

    I cannot state how much I love this, you all did a wonderful job of indirectly attacking negative stereotypes and perspectives on fluency. Well Done!

  13. Reading through this questionnaire was an eye-opening experience for me. I hadn’t thought of how these types might make someone feel and this helped my own perspective taking process. So many questionnaires we give have a tendency to place fluency and other communication disorders in such a negative light. I’m a current SLP graduate student and I plan on sharing this with my off-campus clinic supervisor and the rest of the clinic staff – I’m curious to see what they, as professionals, think of the questionnaire! This was such a great way to acknowledge and call attention to some of my own internal biases, thank you!

  14. This questionnaire is such a great tool for people who don’t stutter to really see how these negative stereotypes can affect those who do stutter! It’s really important to see things from the perspective of someone who does stutter to be more mindful towards others and to avoid being a part of the stereotyping problem.

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