Friday, May 02, 2008

Natural dysfluency vs stuttering?

Another reader asks the following the question:
Do you -- as a person who stutters -- differentiate between disfluency and stuttering? Are they the same?
As a person who stutters, I can clearly sense a difference between natural disfluencies and stuttering. Natural disfluencies feel like a mental hesitation that is translated into disfluent speech. I do not know what to say or changed my mind, and I just say "ehhh" or "mmm" or do no continue or extend the syllable I have started. Or sometimes it feels like a glitch in my motor control in the same way as I sometimes make wrong hand or arm movements. It's more like "Funny.. why did I do this? I am clumsy today", and then I just do the correct one with ease.

Stuttered speech feels to me very differently. To start with, I know exactly what I want to say or at least I have the sense that my brain knows what it wants to say without me necessarily consciously knowing what it will be. :-) So I have this "your message is ready and we are ready to go live" feeling, but I can't get it out or I know it is going to be a struggle. It is also associated with other symptoms like tension, loss of control, and also some kind of blockage in the brain. It kind of feels like it involves more than just this local glitch. My whole mental space seems to become restricted to the moment of stuttering. And I know that it is not just a glitch, but will continue with the next sentences. I also feel that I have lost the control of my body posture.

Overtly when only listening to speech samples, it might well not be possible to distinguish clearly between natural disfluencies and stuttered speech, but internally it is most definitely very different. So I think a person who stutters has also natural disfluent speech like a fluent speaker and in addition he or she stutters.

What is your experience? I would like to hear from people who stutter, but also from others who listen a lot to stutterers. Can they detect the difference between natural disfluencies and stuttering?


Unknown said...

Hi Tom

I'm interested to know whether you have the same sensation for all types of stutters (repetitions, prolongations, pauses, etc.)? If not, how is the sensation different for each stutter type? (Obviously the difference is noticeable after the stutter happened, but can you feel of what type the stutter is beforehand).


Anonymous said...

Oren -

Just wondering...Are you saying repetitions, prolongations, pauses, etc. are suttering? Are these disfluencies in children's speech -- to you -- stuttering?



Tom Weidig said...

To Oren:

yes, I feel that there is some mental blockage, i.e. I know what to say, my brain gives the signal you can say it, but then I sense that I cannot. Whether this translates into repetition, prolongation or pause is secondary. Like if I fall, I can struggle not to hit the ground, I can fall on my knees, or use my hand to soften the fall. The share of different behaviour is either learned or based on where I am in the sentence I guess... So I would say that I do not know which symptom is going to happen.

To Mike,

I think kids have natural and stuttering disfluencies, only in kids the secondary symptoms are less strong usually. So you notice the difference less.

Anonymous said...

Tom -

I'd have to disagree with you. As a person who stutters, I'd rather have disfluencies (repetitions, prolongations, interjections, pauses, etc.)in my speech rather than stuttering or the ultimate block of chosen silence. Those are definite "killers" to most of us who stutter. I guess I've never had disfluencies kill me. ;-)

Just my view ~ but to me "disfluencies" are a far different animal than stuttering. I'd rather be disfluent anyday than stutter. I've found that stuttering usually brings silence.

Tom Weidig said...

Hi Mike,

you cannot disagree with my experience, because it is what it is. You can say though that my experience is not typical of the population of people who stutter.

For me repetitions, prolongations, pauses can be stuttering or they can be natural dysfluencies. I think the confusion here is that they can be either stuttering (i.e. avoiding a long block) or natural dsyfluncies that everyone has.

It might well be that you only have blocks but I dont. However were I to try to control my repetitions, prolongations, pauses, I would probably have long blocks.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...


Your right. I cannot disagree. Your experience "is what it is."

Do you have experience diagnosing and treating children who stutter?

I guess I am having a difficult time understanding what your meaning of "stuttering" is -- what your meaning of "dysfluency" is -- what your meaning of "natural dysfluency" is -- what your meaning of "block" is?

What is your definition of stuttering?

My personal experience in therapy for stuttering as a PWS has led to the release of natural speech. I am, I know, a fortunate son...

Look forward to your answers!


Unknown said...

Nice article