How often have you heard someone say, “I stutter”, or, “I am a stutterer”, or, “he stutters”, or, “Winston Churchill was a stutterer”? Have you ever stopped to think what the person means when they say that? What do they mean? What is it telling you? Well if you are really interested in knowing a little more about how that person speaks or thinks about speaking, then it really doesn’t tell you anything other than someone thinks he or she has some form of speech dysfluency, that has been defined as stuttering. But are you aware that there are some people who define themselves as having a stutter, that you will rarely, or never see stutter. So what is stuttering? Well if we are going to talk about stuttering, then we had better know what we are talking about, and understand “how deep this rabbit hole goes”.
There are so many different ways that speech dysfleuncy can manifest, and each person is different. Stuttering can be word related, (stutters on certain sounds or words), or situational related, (stutters in certain situations), or people related, (stutters with certain people or personalities), or time related, (stutters when tired etc), and the list goes on. Not only can the perceived triggers change, but the degree of stuttering can also change, from mild to severe, seldom to regular to constant, stumbling to complete blockages. All this we call stuttering, or if you like, stammering.
Now if that is not enough, there is a further dimension to stuttering, and that is the unseen aspect of the physical manifestation of stuttering, and that relates to the ability of the afflicted individual to be able to hide the speech dysfluency, when it is about to occur. This is generally done by what is called avoidance behaviour, in its many forms, ranging from avoiding words by substituting a similar word that is perceived as easier to say, to totally avoiding speaking at all, and all that is in between.
Getting confusing? Starting to see that, “I am a stutterer”, or, “he stutters”, tells you very little about the depth of the person’s problem, if it is even a problem. Well it doesn’t end there.
Speech is such an integral part of communication, and human nature. It is how we express to others our thoughts, feelings, wants and needs. We express our emotions of love and hate and all that is in between through the marvellous human facility of speech. So what do you think it would be like if you were not able to speak or speak fluently enough to get your message out in a normal timeframe without a major effort? How would you feel? How would it affect your self esteem, your general thoughts, feelings and emotions? How would you see the world that you live in? The answer is that we are all affected by our experiences in different ways. In simple terms people who stutter, along with any other person who perceives they have “an issue” with speech fluency are affected either mildly, moderately or severely.
Some people have, what most of us would agree, is a stutter, and appear to not even know they have a speech dysfluency, in that it does not have any effect on the way they live any aspect of their life, whereas another person, with the same level of stuttering, or much less, can be so effected by their problem, that it impacts on every part of their life, to the extent that some individuals, are totally debilitated by it, in every way and it influences almost every decision they make.
So no matter if we are a person who stutters, a professional seeking to treat those who stutter, or just a person trying to understand what stuttering is, if we are to talk about stuttering and stutterers and seek effective treatment for the different forms of stuttering, then we need a way of expanding our vocabulary when we speak amongst ourselves about it, so as to allow us to know instantly, the degree to which we are talking about, when we say that a person stutters. When one person seems to be coping well with stuttering, while another does not, we need to have some way of indicating why this could be the case. Finally, we need to have a way of separating one person who stutters from another, so that treatment for stuttering can be tailored correctly for that person’s complete problem, surrounding the dysfluent speech. How are we going to do this in a simple and easily understood way? Well, that is the subject of my next article, and in that regard I invite you to avail yourself of my RSS feed here, so that you will be the first to read and understand this simple yet revolutionary way of communicating the degree of speech dysfluency, and associated anxiety disorder, we are talking about.
In the mean time, I also invite you to comment below on the problem as you see it.