Monday, May 02, 2005

Why this blog?

I think we are going through a revolutionary phase where new tools like brain imaging or genetics transform our understanding of Persistent Developmental Stuttering (PDS).

I would like to share my thoughts on the developments with you.

Scientists are often reluctant to disclose their current thinking or research projects, and they have a natural tendency to only talk about their own theory or research. Moreover, many articles and associated jargon is not easily accessible to non-scientists and practitioners.

In my blog, I attempt to be neutral, and present the current research issues and latest findings on PDS. I try to explain them in conceptual and non-technical terms, and analyse the impact on other areas of PDS. I also hope to discuss your feedback.

My perspective on PDS, and hence this choice for blog title, is the stuttering brain. I want to emphasise that something inside of the brain is going wrong, be it on the neurological, psychological, motor control, social, genetics level, and others, or a combination of many. The brain is us, it sends instructions to the speech muscles, creates fear, suggests avoidance, encodes language into instructions, and so on.

Finally, my blog is not just on understanding PDS, it's also on treatment like therapy efficacy or drugs, and the structures (like funding or national associations) necessary to achieve these aims.



Anonymous said...

This is a test by myself to see how it works to publish a comment.

Anonymous said...

It is very easy to publish comments. Just click on OTHER for identity, and write in the window and hit PUBLISH.


Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm Mary. Tom was mentioned on BBCtv during the London Marathon 2008. It had never occurred to me to check the net for info on stuttering and I was intrigued. You see, for over 60 years, stuttering and the never-ending battle to speak fluently have been part of my life, so I came along to read ... and after some soul-searching decided to add my twopennyworth to the pot. I hope my comments give the lie to some theories and assist with others. As for a cure? I should be so lucky.

I was one of six children (3 boys and 3 girls), five still living. Three of us stuttered from the start; three had no problems at all. Two stutterers are boys, the girl stutterer is me. All of us were extremely bright children who all went to grammar school, three of whom went to University including one of the male stutterers who went to Oxford. I went to college and the other male stutterer set up his own computer business after leaving school. The family was of working class, north of England stock, always short of money. No close relatives on either side of the family tree stuttered. No grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, no-one; now that some of us have children and some of those children have children, no-one else has ever stuttered. I'm not sure where the aberrant genes suddenly sprang from to affect part of one generation, or where they went after doing so. How cruel was that stroke of fate, eh?

I can't remember any discussion about my brothers going for any kind of therapy even though the younger one was, as a young child, and still is as an adult, one of the most severe stutterers I have ever heard. The older brother coped better but had and still has a severe problem. I suppose the parents thought that I wouldn't have many chances in the life of a girl if I stuttered so I got sent to a speech clinic at the age of 7 (1949). I seem to remember a lot of breathing exercises and relaxation methods but I don't remember taking the sessions seriously. Maybe I was too young and didn't understand the difference between this and playing with other children? At any event, therapy stopped when I was 11; the therapy had not alleviated the problem at all but when I began attending secondary school I was packed off to elocution lessons....

My two stuttering siblings and I have never discussed our speech problems together, so I can't pass on their thoughts at all. I can only convey my observations. I do remember a harrowing nightmare I had when I was 3 years old which I had repeatedly and sometimes still have. Always the same details, sequence, colours and sounds. I have always blamed my stuttering on that. Yes, I've read what has been said about trauma. I still blame that nightmare. I don't know what the boys blame, if anything. The older brother made improvements when he went to Oxford by adopting an Oxford accent and hiding the stutter behind that particular acting screen. The younger brother never appeared to have found any coping strategies since his stutter is still very very severe. Yet he refused to allow it to deter him from running his own highly successful computer business. I got aggressive. I had to. My surname began with a /p/ and trying to respond to the never-ending question: "And what name is it, please?" caused me so much anxiety and suffering and embarrassment, I had to try something. In many other situations, planning what one would say and finding synonyms for difficult sounds was the answer. I could hardly use a synonym for my surname. I found that spitting out words got me past most problems, so I learned to stoke up a pretend anger at the world when I knew I had to enter an unprepared dialogue. Gradually, the cloak of anger I adopted became part of my persona and so here I am today, able to chat fairly well but without anyone to chat with because I am so aggressive-sounding.

I could say a lot more. I will content myself with 2 questions. Does Alzheimers have anything in common with stuttering as far as the brain is concerned? Has anyone ever studied 3 siblings with a life-long history of stuttering where it simply does not occur in any other branch or generation of the family?

Good luck with your work, Tom. Many of your blogs I found heart-warming and encouraging. Thank you.