Thursday, November 27, 2008

Live from ASHA has broadcast from ASHA: see here. Listen to the first 15 minutes. It reminds me of giggling teenage girls. A brilliant snapshot of the atmosphere in which therapists interact. Laden with the following commandments:

  • do no criticise your colleagues
  • always praise your colleagues
  • always accept everyone's ideas (even if wrong)
  • never publicly admit that you have made a mistake
  • we are all a big family of friends
  • smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile, smile.
  • displeasure is shown by a shorter-than-usual smile

These taboos cause discussion rounds with most therapists to be completely and utterly useless unless you talk to them one on one! And filters through to research and debate on research. There is this immense strong emotional desire for harmony and peace (though if you know them personally, you realize that many don't like each other and bitch all the time! :-). Listen to the first 15 minutes again. Not a SINGLE CRITICAL THOUGHT on their own work. Their sentences contain virtually no information. Their workshops are brilliant, wonderful, I have learned so much, exceptional experience, I was so lucky to have X, amazing exhibition, so valuable, though i am confident of my skills I learned so much more. Let's do the reality check. Let's now compare what people who stutter write to me in tens and tens of emails: I am still stuttering (that's like 95% of emails), I am desperate, speech therapy was pretty useless for me, she saw me fluent but then my stuttering came back, and the only thing she did was smile all the time.
As I have said many times before, this atmosphere of forced harmony and peace is counter-productive to real constructive debates, because therapists are scared to speak out and from the beginning as students their brains are forced into into intellectual schizophrenia as it has to spend 99% of the resources in adhering to the prevailing social atmosphere (what should or can I say in this situation, how do others expect me to react) instead of speaking out (what do I think and what do I feel)
And regarding StutterTalk, from now on I call them the Larry Kings of stuttering. Whoever you are, from saint to dictator, you feel comfortable in their interviews, and leave with your world view intact!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Learn more about our brain

Looks like an interesting website on the human brain: see here. Sorry for the few posts, I am preparing an exam with 3000 pages to learn and understand...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Two types of genes?

I have spoken about my view before, that stuttering might well be a two-phase disorder, see here . Adult stuttering is the result of causes that lead to onset of stuttering and causes that lead to non-recovery from onset of stuttering. Maybe this structure extends to genes. There are stuttering genes and there are recovery genes. Put yourself in nature's shoes, you have all these early humans stuttering and it affects survival rates. Nature can either select out the bad stuttering genes, OR it can select in good recovery genes. If we assume stuttering is only genetics, then from 100 babies 5 have the stuttering genes, and 4 have recovery genes, which leaves us with 1%,  the adults who stutter. The picture is of course more complicated, because it is not 100% genetics but you get the twist. If this dynamics is dominant, the search for genes will be more complicated, because currently the trait is adult stuttering whereas the trait should really be ever-stuttered-as-a-child.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) holds its annual meeting End of November: see here . It is a very big conference, and a small part of it is on stuttering. I never went. Too expensive for a non-member. I was unable to get the program from the web. If you can find it, let me know!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Myth Creation

This cartoon illustrates well myth generation and it is no different in stuttering research. Through subtle changes of findings, summarizing of findings, and discussing based on these derivates, the story changes. Whenever you hear any statement, try to follow it back to the roots and you will be shocked to see that in 99.99% of all cases it is far more complicated. The absolute climax in my life was when I asked a therapist on the source of a claim and she referred me to the British Stammering Association (BSA). And I suddenly realized that as a member and chair of the BSA research committee I/we were actually her source of something I never heard anyone in the committee claiming let alone believe in!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama a stutterer?

Obama is at best a marginal stutterer. He just has a tendency to use fillers when he is under stress or tired. Maybe his brain is slower to give him the words he needs and so he uses fillers. He just has to train himself to slow down a bit, and I think this is what he has done recently. What is your opinion?

(Thanks for Dave for the tip).

Blog from research team

The research team at the Brain Imaging Lab of Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, had an interesting new idea, namely to create an Internet blog which aims to inform and recruit stuttering adults and children for brain imaging studies and reporting on its findings. I have already written this post on them. It is always great to have new independent team working on the neurosciences of stuttering, and please if you live in the area get in contact with them and get them in touch with self-help groups.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Did Dracula stutter?

I will be in Romania from Thursday to Sunday visiting Timisoara, Sibiu, and Brasov, and checking out whether Vlad Dracula stuttered and whether being impaled does really make you more fluent. If you are living in the region, let me know and we can meet up.

Good initiative

I 100% support Leys Geddes' initiative to fight claims of cure without any substantial evidence. (Though I still disagree with his early intervention "cure" claims! :-) If you know of any such cure claims, please send Leys or myself an email. Please also check out my Crackpot Posts highlightening similar issues.

Hello, Tom


We’ve all seen ads claiming to cure or eliminate stuttering. But as my company does a lot of consultancy work in the UK, in healthcare marketing, with big companies like GlaxoSmithKline, I know that the words used in advertising, and particularly in healthcare advertising, are normally very carefully written and policed.

So my feeling for some time has been that any organisation which claims it can cure or eliminate stammering gives false hope to people who stammer and gives people who don’t stammer the false impression that stammering can be dealt with quite easily.

Not only is the word ‘cure’ not used by speech therapists, but also it is not used in any other form of healthcare advertising, for any other condition, of which I am aware. No company, for example, is allowed to claim it can ‘cure’ even something as simple as a cold.

We had a Trustees Meeting of the BSA in the summer and discussed this issue. It was agreed unanimously that I should contact all the UK advertisers who are making doubtful claims and ask them to reconsider. If there was any disagreement, I would then refer them to our Advertising Standards Authority who, I know, are keen to stop advertisers making doubtful claims.

This simple plan is working out very well: all except one of the UK advertisers I have contacted so far have agreed to stop using the words ‘cure’ or ‘eliminate’ in their ads. The one which disagreed was passed to the ASA - and they agreed with us, and told them to stop it.

But a lot of ‘cure’ claims are being made in other countries and, with the increasing use of the web as an advertising medium, this can spill over into all other countries.

If you stutter, and the frustrations are immense, you might reasonably go to Google and enter ‘stutter cure’. You will then be greeted by a massive list of doubtful claims. Here are some examples:

- Loggita, who claim a 100% cure for stuttering in 25 days
- StammeringFree, who offer a stammer no more’ treatment, effective in 97% of cases
- JustBeWell, who will cure your stutter
- Stop Stuttering Secrets can cure you in three easy steps
- Stutter Cure, who, as you might imagine, will cure your stutter

This kind of slack and easy-going culture also affects the media, so that when they get served up a good story by the PR department of a stuttering ‘help’ organisation, they think they can talk about ‘miracles’ and ‘cures’ for stuttering, as everyone seems to do the same. And nobody stops them, because everyone is keen to sell their stuff, hype the outcome and give us a good happy story - and, hey, nobody does anything to say they shouldn’t. If you now put ‘stuttering cure’ or ‘stuttering miracle’ into YouTube, you’ll see what I mean.