Chapter 5 Excerpt – From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief

Book on stuttering by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.Stuttering is one of the most misunderstood and mistreated of human disorders. In his book, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, stuttering expert Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. dispels the myths that surround the condition and takes readers on a captivating journey into stuttering from a scientific perspective. 

The following continues the series of chapter excerpts from this compelling book on stuttering.

CHAPTER 5 EXCERPT

Stuttering and the Arrow of Time

The problem with stuttering is that stuttering is not the problem. This is a paradoxical statement, yet I believe it is accurate. This chapter will expand the definition of what we now refer to as stuttering by showing that additional levels of observation are required in order to better understand the events involved in this problem.

Stuttering Book ExcerptEarlier I made the point that stuttering is inferred when, during speech initiation, particular observed speech events occur. However, as I indicated in the previous chapter, the simple identification of these behaviors and their cognitive/emotional consequences provides an incomplete and not particularly practical view of the problem.

Figure 4.1, in the previous chapter, presents a schematic illustration of the elements that appear in the legacy definition of stuttering. Note that in this model, the behavioral manifestations of disfluent speech are fundamentally important. Their presence gives rise to the accessory behaviors arrayed immediately below the disfluent speech events.

In addition, the disfluent speech activities and the accessory behaviors, together, are seen to generate activity within the cognitive/emotional domain as others react to the speech of the individual involved. In addition, the individual processes his or her experiences and establishes their meaning in his or her own manner. In my opinion, something is missing in this equation.

The legacy model recognizes specific behavioral events that are identified as the elements that permit the inference of stuttering. Note, however, that the behaviors identified in the model are behaviors by type; they are not stuttering. I believe that there is a critical need to sustain our focus on behavioral details because that, frankly, is where the action occurs…

… [end of excerpt from Chapter 5]

For more information about From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, visit Amazon.com. To learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, click here: www.stuttering.org.

Chapter 4 Excerpt – From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief

The following continues the series of chapter excerpts from the breakthrough book on stuttering, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief: 6.300 Cases Later, written by Ronald. L. Webster, Ph.D.

An expert on stuttering, Dr. Webster is a clinical psychologist, Professor Emeritus of psychology at Hollins University and President of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org.). Nonprofit HCRI, founded by Dr. Webster, is a world leader in stuttering research and therapy innovation. More than 6,500 individuals who stutter from 50 countries have come to HCRI for life-changing stuttering treatment.

CHAPTER 4 EXCERPT

The Legacy View of Stuttering

One of the perplexing problems with stuttering is that those who work in this problem area have failed to achieve an effective working definition for it. In fact, a few years ago, a panel of “experts” was charged with the task of evaluating stuttering and developing a solid answer to the question of its definition.

Chapter QuoteThe ironic outcome of the year-long effort and a number of meetings was a report presented at an annual convention of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association in which the experts stated that they were not able to define stuttering. Something is wrong with this outcome.

The paradox is that most people, professionals or not, seem to be able to identify the presence of stuttering. Difficulties arise when attempts are made to sort out the events of stuttering: the repetitions of sounds, syllables, and words; the prolongation of syllable initial sounds; and the blockage of attempts to initiate voicing, the vibration of the vocal folds that represents a component of many, but not all, speech sounds.

It is at this level of sorting out and classifying each disfluency where clinical judgment becomes less reliable: Was that distorted sound a prolongation, or was it an instance of voice blockage? Was it a combination of a repetition and a prolongation, or was it a case of voice blockage associated with a repetition?

The task becomes even more difficult when the observed disfluencies are barely discernable—when they are at the limits of observer detection. Note, however, that the speech events from which stuttering can be inferred are real, have physical features, and can be observed with at least modest reliability. This is not the end point in constructing a more complete definition of the events in the problem of stuttering. It is simply the practical beginning.

… [end of excerpt from Chapter 1]

For more information about From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, visit Amazon.com. To learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, click here: www.stuttering.org.

Chapter 3 Excerpt – From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief

From Stuttering to Fluent SpeechThe following is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of the book, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief.  The book is written by stuttering expert and clinical psychologist Ronald. L. Webster, Ph.D.  Dr. Webster is founder and president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org), a nonprofit center dedicated to stuttering research and treatment innovation. The book is available on Amazon.com.  

CHAPTER 3 EXCERPT

Stuttering and the Vortex of Verbal Confusion

I firmly believe that a major problem with stuttering is that “stuttering” is not the problem. People talk about stuttering as if it is a real thing. That is not so. No one sees stuttering. When we notice a person repeating sounds and words, struggling to initiate speech, or blocking in attempts to get his or her words out, we then apply the label “stuttering.” However, we do not witness stuttering. We observe classes of behavioral speech events, and then we add the stuttering label to the situation.

Book Quotes Chapter 3I believe that much of the work that has been done on stuttering also involves major problems with words. I am not referring here to the fact that the stutterer has problems in his or her production of words.

In this case, I mean that the words used to describe and talk about stuttering have contributed to what I perceive to be the persistent ignorance and general lack of therapeutic efficacy that surrounds this disorder. It seems clear to me that difficulties in understanding and successfully treating stuttering have been perpetuated by insufficient rigor in thought about—and poor attention to—how words actually apply to our ideas about events in nature.

In our everyday lives, we often use words loosely. We assume that others know what we mean when we talk to them. We talk about our lives, our problems, our intentions, our likes, and our dislikes, blithely believing that we are being understood. Our politicians blather on and on, using words that seem more like bubbles strung together than substantive thoughts. In fact, on any given day, a politician may cleverly use his or her words with an implied set of meanings and on the next day use the same words to mean something entirely different.

Word meanings can be slippery when used in our daily discourse. One famous politician, when pressed on a point regarding his misbehavior with a White House intern, said, “It all depends on what your meaning of ‘is’ is.” Here he slyly implied that we can assign meanings to words that suit our purposes.

This matter becomes particularly troublesome when we use abstract words and phrases that are not well linked to the physical world. Dictionary definitions of words provide some anchors for meaning by attachment of a word to other clouds of words; however, what we often end up with is a set of abstractions used to identify an initial abstraction.

… [end of excerpt from Chapter 3]

For more information about From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, visit Amazon.com. To learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, please click here: www.stuttering.org.

Chapter 2 Excerpt – From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief

The following is the second in a series of chapter excerpts from the insightful and innovative book on stuttering, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, written by Ronald. L. Webster, Ph.D. An expert on stuttering, Dr. Webster is a clinical psychologist and president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org.).

CHAPTER 2 EXCERPT

How Stuttering Became a Universal Problem

There are fascinating unanswered questions about the origin of stuttering. How long ago did stuttering appear in human speech? What factors enabled stuttering to become a universal problem that appears in all language groups? Are there present-day implications about the cause of stuttering that flow from its possible origins? New tools have been developed that may enable us to suggest possible answers to some of these questions.

GeneticsWe live in exciting times. Recent advances in genetic analysis have provided opportunities to look into the molecular structure of life itself. Advanced forms of genetic analysis have generated new insights into human evolution that can guide our thinking about the origins of stuttering.

These new forms of genetic analysis deal with mutations in DNA molecules that lie outside the human genome and thus are not available for recombination during the normal course of reproduction. Rates of mutations can be calculated for different types of DNA, and identification can be made of patterns of mutations that are passed from generation to generation. Analysis of DNA sequences can reveal the distinctive genetic variations for different groupings of the human species.

In fact, these new methods provide a virtual time machine that allows us to travel back through the centuries and identify when specific elements of genetic material first appeared in the DNA of our species. Recent analyses of the evolution of the FOXP2 gene, identified as the first gene clearly associated with the human capability to develop language, have indicated that the human variant of this gene was established in the past two hundred thousand years.

Thus, the time of appearance for the FoxP2 gene is consistent with the notion that the rapid expansion of humans to locations beyond East Africa was driven by the presence of increased speech and language abilities (Enard, Przeworski, Fisher, Lal, Weibe, Kitano, et al. 2002).

As we shall see, genetic analyses have indicated that there were two population “bottlenecks” in human evolution that occurred about 135,000 years ago. At the time of the first bottleneck, offspring of a single female became the survivors from whom all of us are descended. Sometime later, when the second bottleneck occurred, offspring of a single male became the survivors from whom we have all evolved.

… [end of excerpt from Chapter 2]

From Stuttering to Fluent SpeechFor more information about Dr. Webster’s book, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, visit Amazon.com.

To learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, click here: www.stuttering.org.

Chapter 1 Excerpt – From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief

Book written by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.

bookcover1aStuttering is one of the most misunderstood and mistreated of human disorders. In his book, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, stuttering expert and psychologist Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. dispels the myths that surround the disorder and takes readers on a compelling journey into stuttering from a scientific perspective.

Dr. Webster explains the origin of stuttering, possible causes, and how his nonprofit center, Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) uses cutting-edge science to successfully treat stuttering. The following is the first in a series of chapter excerpts from his in-depth book.

CHAPTER 1 EXCERPT

A Unique Problem in a Most Special Species

Stuttering is a most special problem. It rides within the flow of language—specifically, spoken language. My work has involved examining stuttering as a set of phenomena in nature. I have searched for patterns of lawfulness within this problem. I believe that the discovery of unique patterns among physical events in stuttered speech can set the stage for both developing a way to explain stuttering and to construct an effective treatment program for it.

Stuttering is special in a cosmological sense. Look up into the clear, dark night sky. The naked eye allows us to see about a thousand stars. Occasionally, we are able to see planets or watch man-made satellites cross above us. We can also make out a faint band of stars, the Milky Way, streaming across the sky.

There is much more out there in the night sky beyond the scope of the human eye. Trillions of stars and billions of galaxies are spread throughout the universe. The numbers are so large and the distances so vast that they are difficult to comprehend. It is amazing to grasp the idea that the distance light can travel in a year is a standard unit of measurement in the study of the universe.

Stop for a moment and consider the billions upon billions of galaxies that make up the universe. At the present time, we know of only one where stutterers are found. That is the Milky Way galaxy, characterized as a spiral nebula over one hundred light years across, about ten light years thick, and consisting of hundreds of billions of stars. Our solar system—comprised of the sun, eight planets, and a variety of moons, asteroids, and comets—lies in the Orion-Cygnus arm of the Milky Way galaxy, about twenty-seven thousand light years from its center.

In our solar system, there is only one location where stuttering is found: that is on planet Earth, the third planet from the sun. Even though the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (the SETI project) continues, to date, there are no signs of life beyond Earth. Clearly, this planet is an unusually distinctive place.

Stuttering is special, not only in terms of galactic distribution but also when viewed against the broad range of animal species represented on our planet. It has been estimated that there are more than two million animal species on planet Earth. However, there are a relatively small number (about five thousand) of mammalian species.

It is particularly meaningful that only a single mammalian species uses the distinctive and powerful form of communication identified as language. Of course, that species is the modern human, Homo sapiens sapiens. The important point is that while many different animals demonstrate communication, the evidence indicates that the powerful tool of syntactic language is unique to humans and is a necessary condition for the presence of stuttering.

In my view, speech represents the most complex naturally occurring individual behavior humans produce. The complexity of speech production can represent a barrier to trying to understand stuttering. However, if we take time to learn and understand some of its basic properties, we can begin to make sense out of the miracle of our speech—and we can improve our understanding of stuttering.

… [end of excerpt from Chapter 1]

For more information about From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, visit Amazon.com. To learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, click here: www.stuttering.org.