Friday, May 02, 2008

The last provacative question

And here is the last question I was asked by the reader:
Do you think non-stuttering researchers do better research in stuttering, they seem to get more funding and on "the cutting edge" of modern stuttering research.
Let's start with therapists. For the typical adult cases, I am convinced that people who stutter or stuttered can well compensate most if not all of their lack in an appropriate qualification or training, as long as they are qualified or trained in something that requires some kind of self-control, moderate intelligence, and learning ability. For difficult cases with psychological issues, a professional is needed.I have also seen so many "therapists" who are just not very good: BEING A NICE SMILING CARING PERSON DOES NOT MAKE YOU A GOOD THERAPIST! :-). For children you need a professional to diagnose children and deal with the parents. So you need to know all the kinds of developmental disorders that can happen and exclude them. But some part of the therapy itself again could well be done by any people who stutter or parents who are not completely out of their mind. So I could well see myself organising a therapy for adults, but if I had a stuttering child, I would take him or her to a generalist speech and language therapist first to exclude other disorders and then discuss with a specialist one on what to do. But I would probably most of the training with the child myself, because as a parent I have more "access" unless the child wants someone else.

For researchers, my answer is a clear yes, but out of statistical reasons. A good researcher has to have an above-average intelligence. So from a pool of 100 researchers, there is on average one that stutters. So if I impose an equal ratio, I would decrease the quality of researchers because I have to hire some less qualified stuttering researchers than qualified non-stuttering researchers. But I guess I am not answering the question, because he most likely means: Does the fact that you stutter makes you an even better researcher, assuming you are a good researcher? Is there an added-value? There are three reasons in favour. First, the researcher is probably truly interested in the research, and does not mind to work on the topic above his calls of duty. Second, he or she understands some issues much better. I have often seen researchers misinterpreting certain behaviours of people who stutter or being unaware of certain issues. Third, the stuttering researcher might have a better connection to the consumer associations, and finds it easier to recruit for experiments or get invited to conferences. He or she is also not open to suspicion that they are only nice to stutterers because they need subjects. On the other hand, a stutterer might hold biased views, and might be reluctant to accept "hurting" experimental results. Let's say he finds strong evidence for Freud's anal displacement theory, he might ignore it, not publish it, or minimize the results. A neutral researcher just reports what he or she finds.

So it is a mixed bag in my view. Both kinds of researchers are needed really. And I have also not seen any evidence that research councils favor researchers who do not stutter. I would guess that the opposite might be more likely.

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