The Veils of Stuttering

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American novelist Henry James' wonderfully complex and convoluted prose style may have been influenced by his habits of word avoidance and substitution.

For More Information | Stuttering and Identity

For More Information

o learn more about this interesting and still rather mysterious speech disorder, go to the Stuttering Home Page, a wonderful resource maintained by my friend Judith Kuster at Mankato State University. There, you'll find references to research articles and books, personal biographies of people who stutter, information on therapy and support groups in the U.S. and many other countries, and links to other stuttering resources on the Internet. This site provides an all-inclusive collection of links, and therapy claims made on such links need to be carefully considered. 

The Stuttering Foundation of America makes available a large, reasonably-priced, and extremely informative selection of books and videotapes for people who stutter, teachers, parents, and therapists.

The Web site of the National Stuttering Association provides information on how to join this supportive organization and one of its local support groups.  (Some of the NSA's self-help literature is insightful, but not clinically or research-based, however.)

Friends is a national support organization for children operated by John Ahlbach and Lee Caggiano.

An excellent speech-language pathology resource, which focuses on articulation, phonological, and voice disorders, is the Web site of Dr. Caroline Bowen, an SLP who practices in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Bowen's site also has excellent information on developmental apraxia of speech, a disorder that may sometimes be confused with stuttering in children.

Dr. Peter Ramig provides suggestions for parents and teachers and for adults who stutter on the Web site for his Associated Stuttering Treatment Centers in Colorado. 

Dr. Robert Quesal, a professor of speech-language pathology at Western Illinois University, has posted an excellent collection of essays of interest to the person who stutters, speech therapists, and students. His Web site features a tribute to Dean Williams, a pioneering stuttering therapist, as well as articles on Williams' "Problem-Solving Approach to Stuttering Therapy," the importance of attitudes in stuttering and stuttering therapy, and the role of the client in stuttering therapy.

Tim Mackesey is an Atlanta Area Stuttering Specialist who provides therapy for children and adults and whose Web site provides useful information for parents and teachers.

Anthony Wray, a stuttering therapist in Ontario, Canada, has particularly good advice on childhood stuttering for parents.

Dr. Dorvan Breitenfeldt operates the Successful Stuttering Management Program, a stuttering modification approach offering therapy workshops at Eastern Washington University and in Salt Lake City.

[ John Updike ]

How strange it would be to think of the late novelist, poet, and cultural commentator John Updike as "just" a "stutterer!"

The Veils: Stuttering and Identity

Too much has been made about the importance of the distinction between being a "stutterer" or a "person who stutters." Each of us does many things and has many occupations, identities and self-images. But we "are" those things only when we acquire the illusion that we are -- or should be -- identified with them.  Of course, that illusion is shared by many.

Dis-identification from stuttering involves and requires at least a partial dis-identification of the self from the reactions of the body and its emotions and the activities of the mind that are associated with the creation of self-images. This is a challenge faced by all people. Many humans probably come to this realization -- some at the moment of death. But some fortunate people can achieve this realization before then and use it to enrich their lives in many ways. Stuttering and other hardships like blindness, being hard of hearing, loss of the use of a limb, alcoholism, and diseases like AIDS and cancer allow people to see that the witnessing self (pure consciousness) is not afflicted by disorders of the body. The witnessing self -- a holographic creation that is possibly the greatest miracle in the universe -- cannot possibly be disabled or diseased or addicted (unless attacked directly by diseases of the brain that destroy consciousness itself.) Releasing the witnessing self from enmeshment with the body and the mind can support recovery from stuttering by freeing the self from the need to control, monitor, and amplify what can become a relatively insignificant speech difficulty.

The process of recovering from the effects of stuttering can take several weeks or months for a 3 year old, several years for an adolescent, and many years (or even several decades) for an adult. Some would say the process is ongoing for most adults. In any case, the process involves passing through a series of veils into higher consciousness. For the 3-year old, this may involve just becoming aware of, and learning to relax, articulatory tensions that signal covert reactions and error corrections. It may also involve an acceptance of the fact that (like the bad handwriting characteristic of some people who stutter) they may have to live with more normal speech errors than other children. For an adolescent, additional veils may include predictions of dysfluency (quieted by increasing success in fluency), frustrations or beginning fears associated with speech blocks, and false self-images of inadequacy associated with stuttering. For an adult, there may be, in addition to many years of maladaptive speech reactions and conditioning to overcome, a seemingly infinite series of false or unhelpful self-images, fears, projections, and areas of unawareness to illuminate and resolve as a part of ongoing personal growth and change.

In each case, the work of recovery can serve as a springboard to increased consciousness and awareness in other areas that can sometimes make stuttering seem like a blessing instead of a curse.

Finally, a word is in order about the images of famous people who stutter(ed) throughout this site. The point of this is not to show that people who stutter are smarter or more creative than other people; or that these are all people who "overcame" stuttering to do good things; or to say that these people were "OK" in spite of their stuttering; or to imply that PWS need to be great or need to be over-achievers to compensate for their stuttering. The point is to remind us that the value of each human is something that exists apart from physical traits or achievements or any other physical manifestations. The juxtaposition of stuttering and great achievement undercuts both the shame of stuttering and the triumph of earthly or even spiritual rewards. In the end, we are all left with that consciousness inside us that does not stutter (or limp, or struggle to see), that cannot possibly be shamed or hurt, and that does not need the fleeting rewards of this life to exist and flourish.

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Last Updated: Wednesday, March 17, 2010