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

Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.
Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.

Stuttering expert and clinical psychologist Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI), has written a compelling book about stuttering that dispels the myths that surround the disorder and its treatment. 

In his book, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, Dr, Webster provides new insights into stuttering from a scientific perspective. As the chapters unfold, he reveals how his advanced behavioral therapy system has helped thousands acquire the ability to control their stuttering and sustain fluent speech. 

CHAPTER 6 EXCERPT

Biological Foundations of Stuttering

I have come to understand that stuttering, per se, is not the problem; anomalous muscle contractions that yield distorted speech-organ movements represent the crux of the matter.

Chapter 6 quoteDisfluencies and subsequent personal reactions to stuttering are driven by the earlier-appearing disturbed motor events and incorrect vocal-tract shapes. The visibility of disfluencies and the strong personal impact they have upon the individual can serve as persistent forces that divert our attention from more fundamental aspects of the disorder.

Our verbal communication system is a distinctive human feature, uniquely grounded in our anatomy, physiology, and behavior. The pervasive appearance of stuttering in peoples around the globe suggests that this problem was present within our species at least sixty thousand years ago.

Stuttering spread throughout the world as peoples migrated, developed distinctive languages, and experienced changes in their physical features through the forces of evolution. Stuttering has probably ridden along with human evolution because of our species’ specialized biological form and function.

Incidence and Prevalence of Stuttering

The common patterns in the incidence and prevalence of stuttering flow from its biological basis. When we refer to the incidence of stuttering we are calling attention to how many people have stuttered at some point in their lives. Prevalence, however, refers to how many people are stuttering at a particular moment in time. Thus, the incidence of stuttering is approximately 5 percent, with most of the cases reporting that their stuttering occurred during their preschool years (Andrews and Harris, 1964; Manson, 2000).

In the adult population, stuttering has a prevalence of approximately 1 percent, with slight evidence that the actual value may be a bit smaller at about .73 percent (Craig, A., Hancock, Craig. M, and Peters, 2002). An important study of 3,404 school-age children presented data showing a prevalence of 2.43 percent (Proctor, Duff, and Yairi, 2002; Yairi and Ambrose, 2005). There were no differences noted in prevalence across ethnic groups in this same study.

One of the fascinating aspects of stuttering is that…

[end of excerpt from Chapter 6]

From Stuttering to Fluent SpeechFor 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.

John and Annie Glenn – Reflecting on a Remarkable Couple Who Conquered Amazing Challenges

John and Annie Glenn at an HCRI alumni reunion
John and Annie Glenn attending an HCRI alumni reunion

John and Annie Glenn are beloved national heroes, each in their own right. With John’s recent passing, public interest in the couple’s remarkable lives has continued to grow.

John is recognized as a space pioneer and made history as the first man to orbit Earth. He made history again as the oldest astronaut to complete a space mission when he was 77 years old. In addition to his NASA contributions, John’s impressive military service and leadership as a four-term U.S. senator from Ohio will be long remembered.

For Annie, life was often overshadowed by the daily challenges brought on by her stuttered speech. As a severe stutterer, she was afraid to speak in social settings and meetings, use the phone, hail a taxi, order food in a restaurant, or summon help when needed. While she was able to adapt to get things done, her stutter held her back. John served as a tremendous support system for Annie, helping her navigate through life with her speech disability.

Her severe stutter was not known to many, even considering John’s very public profile. The couple often appeared together and John helped to shelter his wife from speaking opportunities whenever possible.

Then, when she was 53 years old, Annie and John saw television news coverage on NBC Today about the behavioral stuttering therapy developed by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI).

After she and John extensively researched the therapy approach, Annie enrolled in the science-based treatment program at HCRI in Roanoke, Virginia. By the end of her intensive therapy, Annie was able to  speak fluently for the first time in her life. She called John and it stunned him to hear her fluent voice over the phone.

 

HCRI therapy was the beginning of a new chapter in Annie’s life. With her new-found ability to talk at will, Annie seized opportunities to speak out on issues and help others. She became a national advocate for people with speech disabilities and provided hope and inspiration to many.

While John and Annie are known for their many accomplishments, the Glenns are admired for their loving, supportive marriage that is viewed as a role model for couples everywhere.

At HCRI, we continue to mourn John’s passing. He was a dear friend of the Institute and always accompanied Annie when she visited HCRI. John and Annie have helped raise stuttering awareness and the importance of receiving effective treatment. We are deeply grateful for all the couple has accomplished.

Following are links to some articles that have appeared over the years about Annie’s struggles with stuttering and the couple’s remarkable lives.

 

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.

How Gerald R. McDermott Conquered Stuttering with Determination, Innate Gifts and HCRI Therapy

The distinguished career of Gerald R. McDermott, Ph.D. spans many roles, including school principal, college professor, author, and pastor. These pivotal positions involve speaking in front of large groups, as well as talking one-on-one with individuals from all walks of life.

Gerald R. McDermott
Gerald R. McDermott

With his eloquent speech, no one would know Dr. McDermott struggled for years with a stuttering condition that began before he entered kindergarten. Throughout his school years, his unpredictable stutter made classroom participation difficult and embarrassing. He faced ridicule from others because of his speech.

Dr. McDermott, who is now Anglican Chair of Divinity, History and Doctrine at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, believes that facing the challenges of stuttering when he was young impelled him to push harder and excel more in life.

Like many people who stutter, Dr. McDermott tried different speech therapies during his youth. None of the treatments produced lasting fluency. So, he moved forward with his goals in spite of his speech. He was determined that his stuttering would not hold him back.

When he was a new professor at Roanoke College, a colleague suggested he look into the stuttering therapy program at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org). “I didn’t realize my stuttering was at a point that someone would mention I needed therapy. I was humiliated and in denial,” Dr. McDermott said.

Nevertheless, he contacted the nonprofit institute, met with HCRI President and Founder Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., and then enrolled in the stuttering therapy program. For three intensive weeks, Dr. McDermott systematically relearned how to use his speech muscles and adjust his breathing. The skills he acquired enabled him to control his stutter and speak fluently for the first time in his life. It was hard work and unlike any other therapy he experienced.

“HCRI stuttering therapy was transforming. The change in my speech from beginning to end was dramatic,” Dr. McDermott noted. “Dr. Webster and his team are among the few experts in the world who know how to appropriately treat stuttering. The therapy strategy is brilliant and it works.”

Dr. Webster, who also is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at Hollins University, invented the concept of comprehensive behavioral therapy for stuttering. He and his research team spent years investigating and developing his scientifically based treatment program that makes lasting fluency possible.

“We tested our stuttering treatment approach with thousands who stutter, representing a wide range of stuttering types and severity levels,” Dr. Webster said. “Our data consistently shows 93 percent of participants achieve fluency by the end of treatment and 70 to 75% maintain fluent speech when evaluated one and two years post therapy.”

Through the years, the HCRI team has continually refined the Institute’s stuttering therapy program, now 12 days in length. In addition, they created treatment technologies that make fluency skills easier to learn and maintain. More than 6,500 people who stutter from 50 countries have come to Virginia-based HCRI for stuttering therapy.

Famous Stutterers

According to Dr. McDermott, his struggles with stuttering yielded many life lessons and gifts. “It is easy to feel sorry for yourself when you are living with any type of disability – including stuttering. It can rob you of your joy if you aren’t careful,” he said.

“It is important to focus on the positive, get treatment that works, and consider how coping with stuttering makes you a better person,” he added. “Living with the disorder may drive a person to work harder, listen more, and have greater empathy for people with challenges.”

To provide inspiration to others who stutter, Dr. McDermott recently wrote a book, Famous Stutterers, that showcases 12 famous people who achieved greatness while struggling with their speech impediment.

The individuals profiled experienced anger and frustration like others who stutter. Yet, none let their stuttering prevent them from using their innate talents to make the world a better place. For a video trailer about the book, click here.

 

——————–

About HCRI

HCRI was founded by Ronald L Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Virginia-based HCRI, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of scientifically derived therapy approaches.

Clients include broadcaster John Stossel; Annie Glenn, wife of Senator and Astronaut John Glenn; as well as athletes, teachers, engineers, musicians, students, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, a supreme court nominee, and even royalty.

HCRI is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Va. 24019. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032.

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.