Feeling the Loss of Speech Control

Greg has a really interesting concept on Stuttering.Me: the notion that  “stuttered speech is nothing more than a reflexive behavior that the body uses to deal with the stuttering phenomenon (which is best represented as a neurological state).”  If the neurological state includes the disconnection of speech control (and sometimes the awareness of this loss of control through feedback from the body), then this notion makes a lot of sense to me, as does his idea that “we produce stuttering behaviors to kick-start (or get out of) our stuttered neural state.” Looked at in a slightly different way, this is basically saying that going ahead and speaking, in spite of the feeling that we are blocked (which may result in overt stuttering behavior) is a way of  resolving the block.  He concludes this by saying that “stuttering has 2 components; the stuttered neural state, and a reflexive behavioral compensation to the stuttered neural state.”

We are then left with the question: where does the “stuttered neural state” come from?

That’s the question we’re exploring here.  The key may be that we can sometimes actually feel that the loss of speech control is present. This feeling is the result of our awareness of underlying reactions and emotions (neurological phenomena and the resulting body state.)  Resolving this feeling and state is the theory behind preparatory sets.

  1. Pam

    Visited this site as a result of reading a reponse of yours on stuttering.me. I too am trying to figure out this interesting concept, of stuttering being a neural state and a reflexive behavior.
    Makes more sense than trying to use fluency shaping “targets” ,not hitting those targets, still stuttering and feeling a failure.
    I am also really interested in brain states – so I trust I will be a frequent flier here. Your tags interest me, as I have some of the same tags on my site, but referencing different things.

  2. Darrell

    Thanks for your message, Pam. Yes, those fluency shaping programs are very successful at temporarily changing people’s neurological state, from the support groups in the break rooms (never recognized as a large component in the “cure”) to the reassuring lectures telling people that stuttering is just a mechanical thing that three weeks in the booths can fix. It was so awful when I realized I’d “failed” that I stayed away from everything about stuttering for almost 14 years. When I started reading research on neurological conditioning I almost immediately found the reason: conditioning can be extinguished, but not totally erased.

    The reason for my inquiry is to explain those life changes I do see in people who stutter and to help make real change available to more people. Support groups are a big way to facilitate this, but I don’t think that we understand enough about stuttering to say that therapy can’t be improved … a lot.

    I love your blog. You are a wonderful spirit and a real inspiration. – Darrell

  3. Pam

    Thanks for above comment. I hope you keep visiting my blog.

    Can you explain exactly what is meant by “preparatory sets”. You use this as a taog for this post. I never really understood when it was briefly explained to me in therapy (maybe because I was resistant!). Thanks!

  4. Darrell

    Hi Pam: The preparatory set is a technique used to help extinguish the conditioned responses and resulting emotions associated with the movements that occur before the initiation of speech. There’s a pretty good description in the SFA’s “Self Therapy for the Stutterer.” It involves thinking about the move to be made, moving the articulators to the precise point where speech is initiated (think of a swimmer in the “set” position before the gun sounds), relaxing tension and dealing with the emotion while planning the initiation of speech (movement and voicing), and moving into and through the word in a deliberate and easy manner. Your therapist needed to practice this with you in the clinic and in transfer activities. They are not really intended for massed use in the flow of speech; more for problem sounds/words that bring up a lot of fear. There is a lot more to them, and they can be difficult, but that’s a thumbnail. They can be very helpful for some covert stutterers.

  5. Pam

    Hi Darrell:
    Thanks for the response. Not sure I still fully get it, but probably because thats something I don’t really want to work on. It seems very foreign for me to try to use techniques when I am very much in the self-accepatance stage. About coverts, I posted an observation today that I am learning about covert behaviors from writing my own blog.

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