Stuttering or Fluency?

I am a male of 83 years. I have many fond past links with the ISA and the BSA (now known as STAMMA).

I have learned in the last 20 years of life that what we think about (focus on) has a strong tendency to happen. This has led me to watch what I am thinking and reduce negative thoughts. We all have negative thoughts but if we are watchful, we can quickly evaluate why they are in our minds and as soon as is reasonable switch them to positive thoughts or just let them go and think of something else.
That is why I do not think of my stammer / stutter, I think of my fluency and how to improve it day by day.

This leads me to ask the questions

Why do organizations involved in helping us, use Stuttering in their titles?

So as against ISA, why not IIFA….International Improving Fluency Association (or something similar)?


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Stuttering or Fluency? — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Keith,

    You raise an interesting point and I am sure that you will receive conflicting opinions on this. I prefer to use the terms “stuttering” or “stammering” because I think that it decreases stigma to use the correct terminology. Michael Boyle has done excellent research in this area.

    I understand your point of making situations more positive, but I am not sure all things can be positive or negative thoughts can always be made positive or ignored. Sometimes those unhelpful thoughts continue to pop up and need a better response. Reframing (challenging those thoughts) is an option sometimes or defusion (distancing those thoughts) may be more effective.

    You are right! What we focus on can drive our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. And, it is human nature to have negative thoughts and responses to unpleasant situations. That is how we have evolved as humans. Learning to manage those negative thoughts and reactions is not made easier by saying “fluency” in instead of “stutter/stammer.” It is made easier by shared experiences, understanding acceptance principals and managing the unhelpful thoughts that are part of us.
    thanks again for your question,

  2. That’s a very interesting question.

    My own views on this topic have evolved over many decades. Initially my concern was developing fluency. To me, fluency was the Name of the Game. My ultimate goal was to transform myself into a fluent speaker.

    I went through four different fluency shaping programs, not to mention many fluency refreshers, and about 20 fluency therapy reunions. There were many periods during which I practiced my techniques daily and intensively, often for an hour or more each day. I also strived to carefully monitor every conversation with my fluency techniques.

    Did all this effort pay off?
    I enjoyed quite a few extended periods lasting for weeks, sometimes for months, in which my fluency was almost absolute. I practiced and practiced and practiced, and when I could maintain this intensive daily pract4ice, I could maintain my fluency.

    But I couldn’t maintain this in the real long term. Sometimes there just wasn’t the available time to give an hour or more to intensive practice each day. Sometimes I just got very tired of the daily and boring drudgery of practice.

    What I noticed about myself was that when I slacked off in practice, my fluency also slacked off. If I was having a busy week, and missed a half-week of intensive practice, my severe stuttering returned.

    For about a quarter-century I went through a variety of fluency shaping prgrams with similar results – typically, a lot of fluency for weeks or months, then a slide back into severe stuttering.
    The wild swings between fluency and disfluency were exasperating.

    Finally, about 20 years ago (I’m now 67), I made the decision to simply and peacefully accept myself as a person who just happens to stutter. I found life to be much more pleasant, and much less preesured, once I made this change in my attitude towards my stuttering. Indeed, I came to realize, why is fluency all that important? I came to understand that fluency is not essential to life happiness.

    Regarding organizations, a change of emphasis to fluency would be somewhat contrary to the thinking of people like myself. I have come to accept my stuttering calmly and peacefully, and I’m no longer driven to transform myself into a fluent speaker.

    But with “stuttering” in the titles of these organizations, people can have their own perspectives. Those for whom fluency is a major goal can interpret the names in the way they wish. Those who have a goal of acceptance of themselves as people who stutter can also interpret the titles in the way they wish.

    In any case, best of luck to you in reaching the goals you aspire to.

  3. This is such a great question, Keith. Thank you so much for asking a question to the professional panel and, for sharing part of your journey with stuttering with us. I hear you, and value your opinion with your own journey with stuttering.

    Recent research shows that when it comes to identity and labels (so to speak) within the stuttering experience, best practice for speech pathologists is now to recognize an individual for their own stuttering journey, and recognize/use what terminology that person prefers themselves in the therapy room. With that being said, you make a good comment regarding given groups and usage of terms within the large-scale; how is this handled if stuttering is an individualized experience with different preferences? As you stated within your own stuttering, you prefer to focus on your own fluency and the improvement of your fluency- that is your narrative, however, and not everyone holds that same value within their narrative. So this is a difficult situation for large-scale international groups like IFA, ISA etc., because what terminology do they use when personalized values, identities and preferences are so wide-spread with so many given variables within the international stuttering community?

    Individuals who stutter oftentimes see the definition of terms like “fluency” and “stuttering” based on cultural beliefs and values, past lived experiences with stuttering, etc. Here in the United States and other countries that have access to and have conducted recent research in the lived stuttering experience, those studies have shown that on a large-scale individuals who stutter have shifted focus from fluency improvement in years past to now a more humanistic approach of acceptance as Rita mentioned in her response. Stuttering is now no longer seen as a problem to be “fixed”, but rather, an acceptable entity that is ok; regardless of severity or the amount of disfluencies present in one’s speech. It is very recognized, however, that individuals have preferences, different cultural backgrounds etc within the stuttering experience, and may still value fluency improvement, such as yourself.

    Larger groups such as ISA and IFA are tasked with using terminology that is the most conducive to the most recent best practice and socially acceptable terminology within the international stuttering community. If an acronym were used to indicate the improvement of fluency as you suggested, that would not embrace the most recent shift of focus of acceptance of stuttering that I described to you earlier, and would potentially cause trauma or harm to others, as those who stutter could perhaps, not feel good enough and that their speaking must “improve” with using such wording- if that helps give you more reference/explanation.

    I hope that these explanations help and your question and again, such a great one. There have also been recent discussions about the use of the word “fluency” in itself, and some people who stutter really don’t like that word in general, as they may have been forced into therapy methodology as a kid that made them feel less than, etc. Other individuals who stutter don’t mind the word; this truly again shows us that stuttering is such an individualized experience. Be well, and thanks again for contacting the professional panel and for your involvement in this conference.

  4. Keith, the only thing I would add to Rita and Steff’s responses is that within the neurodiversity movement, where conditions such as autism and stuttering are being viewed as normal human differences rather than pathology, “stuttering” has become a preferred term by many.

    Ana Paula

  5. Hi Keith – Thanks for bringing up this topic. I’d like to offer a bit of an alternate viewpoint to what you’ve suggested…this comes from a video blog post that Chris Constantino, Seth Tichenor, Nina Reeves, and I recently posted for Stuttering Therapy Resources. Because it’s a vlog, I can’t post the comments here directly, but you can find them at this link:

    Basically, we want to differentiate when people are thinking about fluency as opposed to when they are thinking about stuttering and reduce the negative connotations that the word fluency has for people.

    Also, Chris and Seth and I just had a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research on the use of the word “fluency” – it should be out early next year, and we’re hoping that it will lead to some nice discussions to challenge the status quo.

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