Friday, February 19, 2010

Stuttering a communication disorder?

StutterTalk is trying out a shorter format: sessions of less than 10 minutes. Good idea! Make it sharp, short, one topic, and more people will listen. But not every day, but 2-3 times a week. The longer sessions are really more of a series of topics with a guest and more in depth, and one every 2 week published for a weekend is best in my humble view.

One of the first topics was Do people stutter when alone? I don't like the language and arguments they used: only introspective and phenomenological. They truly live and think in a 20th century way devoid of deeper neurobiological understanding and perspective. My extra view points are

1) Talking alone is very different to talking to yourself in terms of which brain areas are involved.

2) Being in front of someone changes your body language, and emotional state via a change in neurotransmitter level.

3) You have to formulate as you speak.

4) You need to respond to your changing environment and ideas being discussed.

5) You have learned a lot of behaviours and associated emotional states to talking in front of people (because jamming is more frequent)

6) To conclude, there is so much more going on in terms of processing. It's like having 10 windows open on your desktop as opposed to just one!

They also talk about stuttering as a communication disorder. For me stuttering is not a communication disorder per se but rather a disorder leading to communication break-downs, because there is nothing wrong with our cognitive and emotional ability to communicate and understand the various aspects of human communication. Saying it is a communication disorders or a communication issue is barking up the wrong tree. But autism for example is a communication disorder for they are fundamentally limited. I am not sure what to do about deaf people. They have a dysfunction in a sensory function, but not a motor function (well their speech is slurry due to a lack of good hearing.). But then again some can still hear a bit. I guess I associate communication disorder mostly with mental abilities to communicate rather than peripheral sensory or motor abilities needed to communicate well.

What's your opinion?


Mark B. said...

I do talk to myself - it runs in the family ;-) - and I definitely do stutter. I might talk back to something I hear on television or radio, and when I do I can stutter on the first syllable without warning. This fact flies in the face of anticipation/anxiety theory. I stutter when there is no listener present, and when I don't have the time to anticipate.

I think the communication argument is based on content and context. The incidence of stuttering is often based on the meaning content of the word. More important words in a sentence (nouns) are stuttered more often than conjunctions. Stuttering is also more common when speaking to authority figures as opposed to social inferiors.

I'm not sure where I stand on this, but you do have to separate communication from cognition. Stuttering is an intermittent failure of speech production, but it's not random. It's not a language disability, but it is language-related. And it certainly does degrade communication.

And of course, if Wikipedia says so, it must be true! ;-)

Ora said...

What about stuttering when talking with a computerized voice-response phone line? ("Please speak your account number", etc.) Or with the Google iPhone app where you speak your request?

Is this "communication"? I'm alone (I think). But I stutter.

Mark B. said...

You could say that just being self-conscious is enough to set off the stutter. If you tape recorded yourself to see if you stuttered when alone, you would be conscious of having a "listener." So in that sense, you are effectively "communicating" even if you are speaking to a voice recognition system.

Adrian said...

Speaking when alone and speaking when around others are two separate processes. The analagy I like is it is like comparing riding a stationary bike vs. riding a real bike in traffic. You need far more skills to navigate and balance a bike in traffic. We simply cannot compare the two.

Mark B. said...

Adrian - I think you've gone too far there. Non-stutterers wouldn't know what you're talking about, would they? Speech is speech. The environment speech occurs in can have an effect, but you can't say that the two situations cannot be compared.

ultrasonic liposuction guide said...

When talking with people who stutter, the best thing to do is give them the time they need to say what they want to say. Try not to finish sentences or fill in words for them.

Unknown said...

You could say that only self-aware enough to offset the stuttering. If you tape yourself to see if they stutter when alone, be aware of having a "listener." In that sense, it is actually "communicate", even if you're talking to a voice recognition system.

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