Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The unbelievable state of knowledge on stuttering in my home country

Today my interview with the Tageblatt, the Luxembourg daily, got published. They kindly allowed me to link to the pdf file: Tom's Tageblatt interview (in German). What a wonderful opportunity to inform everyone about stuttering and share our experiences and dispel a few myths about stuttering. Or so I thought! :-( And then the newspaper had the glorious (but very understandable) idea to ask the "experts" at the National Center for Speech and Language Therapy, the Centre de Logopédie. And here are the results of their interview: Interview of Hild and Hermes. Here is an English translation.

I am not questioning their motivation and I am sure they want the best for the patients. However. According to Georges Hermes, Director (!) of the Center, on the causes of stuttering: (unless he has been misquoted) (translation from German)
The causes of stuttering are diverse but nearly always to be found in the psyche of the person who stutters.

There are three causes: Stuttering as an expression of traumatic experiences or negative experiences over a long period are the most common cause for stuttering.

The learned stuttering, where kids imitate stutterers and cannot get out of this cycle anymore.

Stuttering due to developmental issues of speech and language found mostly in children of kindergarten age.
I cannot believe that the director of the national center seems to have out-dated ideas on stuttering. Unless he was misquoted. Where is the scientific evidence? Even wikipedia knows better!

Here is what the US National Association writes:

Stuttering is NOT caused by an emotional/psychological problem or nervous disorder, talking too fast, being unintelligent, not knowing what to say, etc.

The British Association writes:
It is not known what causes stammering but research seems to suggest that a combination of factors is involved.

Genetics are relevant at least in some cases. Someone with stammering in the family seems more likely to develop a stammer themselves.

Brain imaging studies have shown significant differences between the brain activity of people stammering as compared with fluent speakers.

The German Association says:
3. Beruht Stottern auf psychischen Problemen?

Nein. Stotternde Kinder und ihre Eltern unterscheiden sich in ihrer Persönlichkeit und ihrem Umgang miteinander nicht von der übrigen Bevölkerung. Es gibt keine typische "Stotterer"-Persönlichkeit und keine typischen "Stotterer"-Familien. Stotternde Menschen sind nicht nervöser, ängstlicher oder gehemmter als normal sprechende, nur weil sie stottern.

Stotternde Menschen sind auch nicht weniger intelligent. Leider sind solche Vorurteile in der Bevölkerung immer noch sehr verbreitet. Stottern ist eine Störung des Sprechablaufs. Die Gefühlslage eines Menschen und das Stottern können sich allerdings in hohem Maße gegenseitig beeinflussen.

And then Georges Hermes says:
That's why Georges Hermes believes that singing stutterers are rare
He must have been misquoted by the journalist, because how can a director of the national center be so misinformed? Or does he mean stutters rarely stutter while singing? Stutterer can sing as well or as badly (my case) as everyone else. My phone number is +352 621 432263. Call me and I'll sing you a song! Oh Baby Baby from Britney Spears or the Feierwon, a Luxembourg independence song! You can choose! :-) We generally do not stutter when singing. Very likely because different brain processes and areas are involved. And on top, we have Gareth Gates, the second in Pop Idol, who sold millions of copies!!

And a statement attributed to Jean Marc Hild, who heads the Audiophonological Services, is:
Many therapists work on rhythm: That can be a touching of the knee or clip one's finger.... Therapy goal is it to get the speech flow going and divert from stuttering.
Can I please see the hands of those who did all this, and found this method completely and utterly useless. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE SERIOUS STUTTERING THERAPY RUN BY PROFESSIONALS DEDICATED TO STUTTERING THAT WORKS LIKE THIS.

And can they please show me the scientific evidence that stutterers have clear trouble with rythm! Where is the scientific evidence that stutterers cannot sing as well as fluent people? Nowhere!

Please let me know what you think. It is important that they wake up in Luxembourg. We have moved so far elsewhere.


Norbert @ BSA said...

Do you have a professional body for SLTs in luxembourg? What do they say? Can you get in touch with him and clarify if this is what he actually said?

Ora said...

Congratulations on your increasing fame. Sorry that the article had problems.

I'd like to read the article, but I can't find it online at I searched for Weidig and got "Il n'y a aucune entrée qui corresponde à vos critères".

Can you post a link to the article itself?

Tom Weidig said...

I am working on a clear statement. I re-confirmed with the newspaper that Goerges Hermes said what he said. They probably have it on tape.

The Tageblatt does not have it online yet. I am working on getting it electronically accessible. I guess this will only happen later today or tommorrow, because they want to give their paper readers more benefits after all they paid for it!

Einar said...

Your part of the article is definitely very informative and useful!
Bad to read though through the comments of Jean Marc Hild that the methods of Centre audiophonologique and Centre de logopedie have not improved since I visited these 10 and 20 years ago as a kid and teenager... A reply should be sent to the newsletter on these useless statements to be published and a protest letter sent to Hild!

Norbert @ BSA said...

Also from the BSA website:

Should we stop saying "we don't know the cause of stammering"?

At the 2008 Oxford Disfluency Conference, Anne Smith of Purdue University suggested that we know a great deal about the factors that cause stammering. She proposed a short statement to capture and communicate our knowledge.

The context was a discussion of the often negative perception of speech pathology as a profession and specifically, the perceived lack of efficacy of treatments for stuttering. Anne commented:

It seems to me that we contribute to the perception that we have little knowledge about stuttering or how to treat it when we state, "the cause of stuttering is unknown." The statement can be interpreted by the listener (and often is interpreted this way, I think) to indicate that all causes which have been discussed historically are equally probable - for example, the idea that an early, frightening experience causes stuttering.

In fact, we know a great deal about the factors that cause stuttering. We don't know precisely every detail explaining the development of stuttering, but we don't know every detail concerning the onset of Parkinson's disease. This fact doesn't stop scientists and clinicians from stating what is known about the causes of Parkinson's disease.

Anne suggested we need a short statement that could capture our knowledge about the cause of stuttering and communicate it clearly. She attempted to make such a statement at the meeting:

"Stuttering is a neurodevelopmental disorder involving many different brain systems active for speech - including language, motor, and emotional networks. Each infant is born with a genetic makeup that contributes to his or her probability of stuttering, however whether stuttering will develop depends upon experience. To learn to speak fluently, a child's brain must develop many different neural circuits, and these circuits must interact in very precise and rapid ways. Stuttering emerges in childhood as a symptom than the brain's neural circuits for speech are not being wired normally. For this reason, early intervention is critical, because by shaping the child's experience, we can affect the ongoing wiring process in the child's rapidly developing brain. The longer the stuttering symptoms persist in early childhood, the more difficult it is for us to change the brain's wiring, and stuttering becomes a chronic, usually lifelong problem."

July 2008

Tom Weidig said...

I was there as a kid of kindergarten age. It was the worst time in my life! I seriously thought that they moved on and are more up-date. I am just shell-shocked.

I just feel for the poor kids and parents who are being treated now.

Anonymous said...

Regarding stuttering...Same as it ever was, same as it ever was...

And knowing the cause? Sheeeeeezzz - they don't know diddly. Never did, Never will...

Olivier said...

Is it possible to have an english version, when it will be avaliable ? 'would be nice.

Tom Weidig said...

Sorry there is none for my interview. I don't have the time really. If someone volunteers, please feel free..

Ora said...

Tom - Your PDF version on Google Docs includes the first page but not the continuation on page 27. Is it possible for you to post the remainder of the article?

Tom Weidig said...

It is on the top of the page of the interview with Hild and Hermes.

Marie-Claire said...

Tom, das Interview mit dir gefällt mir sehr gut, ich kann alle deine Aussagen doppelt und dreifach unterstreichen ;-) Das "Phänomen" Stottern ist sehr komplex und umso schwieriger zu erklären. Ich denke jedoch, dass du es geschafft hast, dass nun auch ein Nicht-Stotterer das Problem besser verstehen kann.

Dem Herrn Georges Hermes würde ich dein Interview allerdings auch dringend empfehlen. Ich finde es schade dass diese zwei Artikel, die ja das selbe Thema behandeln so unterschiedlich und wiedersprüchlich sind.

Georges Hermes:„Wir behandeln aber erst,
wenn die Ursache abgeklärt ist“

Theoretisch müssten die dann ja meistens ganz schön lange suchen. Die Ursache ist nämlech NICHT fast immer "in der Psyche zu suchen". Möglich ist eine psychische Störung die durch das Stottern hervorgerufen wurde (negative Erfahrungen in der Schule, auf der Arbeit etc) und nicht umgekehrt. Natürlich gibt es auch einige Fälle wo das zutrifft, doch die meisten Stotterer stottern seit sie sprechen können und sind psychisch völlig normal.