Friday, April 16, 2010

Stockholm syndrome in Speech Easy TV cures

Peter Reitzes from StutterTalk has a brilliant and measured follow-up of his Mark Babcock interview on Oprah's Speech Easy miracle cures. Two more media stars of Speech Easy users. As expected both still stutter, even severely. Check out Peter's interview with them.

Amazingly they are both suffering from the Stockholm syndrome: victims of kidnaps often sympathize with their kidnappers! And they blame themselves thereby increasing the risk of others falling victim, too.

Wesley did not want to speak publicly, but wrote that he gave up on Speech Easy and stutters, and shockingly:
Since that time I was approached by GMA for a follow-up segment, which I declined. I've always felt a sense of respect for the guys at ECU and what they did (and hopefully are still doing), so I don't want my personal decisions to not use the device or my personal experiences with the device to be indicative of its success or my feelings towards it.
His thinking is so distorted. Why did you give up Speech Easy? Very simple. Because Speech Easy does not work! You have been deluded, and more so: you are taking the blame. They paraded you like cattle for commercial gains, the shows and Janus, and you defend them?? You sound like a wife explaining away her husband beating her or like a woman blaming her sexy cloth for not reporting rape. Not only does she not report a crime, but she does not prevent that man beating or raping another woman again. Millions have seen your cure, and thousands have spent thousands of dollars of bogus treatment because of you! By not re-appearing on the show, you are actively misleading your fellow sufferer. Wes, it was not just your personal decision to stop. It is the decision of the vast majority of Speech Easy users!

And then we have Rebecca. She too was paraded, as the cute poor teenage calf that had been stuttering and was saved from slaughter with a miracle cure. Well, I just listened to you: I can't even understand most of the words you are saying. You stutter even worse than me when I am on StutterTalk! There is not a single sign of a cure, but still you say that you are using Speech Easy for special occasions. Fine, might work for you on those occasions. But why did you not use it on StutterTalk? They showed you up as a cure. Rebecca comes across as the type of girl that wants to be nice to everyone, and just hiding the obvious... And she shockingly reminds me of the typical behaviour of young women that got sexually abused by their father, and only in their mid twenties do they realize what actually happened to them!

Wes and Rebecca, as time goes on and you reflect, you will agree with me. But not now. You hate me for writing what I just wrote, and defend your kidnappers. And thousands are buying Speech Easy in the hope to be what they think you are! Contact the media and tell the truth.


Satyendra said...

Interesting - but saddening. This carrying on of trade in human pain & misery..

Norbert said...

Well, I read Wes' comment and I've rarely read anything more sensible and measured in his approach to his own stammering. Perhaps you can learn from his measured approach?

Rebecca obviously has found a way to make the device work for her - she uses it for special occasions and that doesn't seem unreasonable, given the drawbacks of using it as outlined in Wes' comments.

To write anything like you did about Rebecca seems personally rather unpleasant. I hadn't realised you knew her so well.

Tom Weidig said...

His approach might be measured, but the consequence of his actions are not.

He has allowed other to portray Speech Easy as a cure, and he keeps up that image. He is now co-responsible for misleading thousands of stutterers spending thousands of dollars. That is the plain fact.

Does it really work for Rebecca? I can just say that I didn't understand most of what she said because she stuttered so badly. Now how does this equate with the TV footage? Again, thousands of stutterers are mislead by her appearance. She is co-responsible now.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments regarding exposing results of therapy, therapy devices and providers of therapy as related to the SpeechEasy.

I am wondering if those feelings expressed by Wes, Rebecca and Tom could also have any validity as one considers the outcomes of Fluency Training and Stuttering Modification based therapies and the professionals and professional organizations that advertise there effectiveness?

To me, it would seem to be so. Perhaps Peter Reitz could have a show on that possibility? There may be one or two PWS out there that have similar experiences from engaging in Fluecy Training or Stuttering Modification therapies.
Just an idea...

Tom Weidig said...

Absolutely. The Stockholm syndrome exists in all kind of therapies...

I myself suffer from it to some degree...

1. because the therapist(s) are nice people.

2. because they want to help you.

3. because they do extra work that is not paid.

4. because i did not do all the stuff they told me to do so.

5. and so on.

Anonymous said...

Tom - I want to object to your tone. Here, like previously, you write in a very critical, unsympathetic, superior, unsympathetic tone.

It's OK to disagree with people. But to make personally critical, ad hominem comments as you so often do, is insensitive and unnecessary, particularly in a public forum like this. You say of Rebecca "I can't even understand most of the words you are saying! ... you stutter worse than me...!" That's really nasty. How do you think that makes her feel? Why not give her credit for her courage in speaking up and appearing on Stutter Talk?

And to use analogies of rape and sexual abuse and domestic violence is bizarre. I'm not saying your analogies are not apt, but to use such extreme examples in connection with real people is extreme and insensitive and unnecessary. Yes, I know you didn't visualize Rebecca herself being sexually abused by her father, but when you use that shocking image in the context of a discussion of real people, it seems tasteless and inappropriate.

You don't need to be so mean. You could make the same points more effectively if you used more respectful language.

(From a regular reader who today chooses to be anonymous.)

Tom Weidig said...

We and Rebecca are not ordinary people. They are icons in our society that mislead stutterers.

"You say of Rebecca "I can't even understand most of the words you are saying! ... you stutter worse than me...!" That's really nasty. How do you think that makes her feel? Why not give her credit for her courage in speaking up and appearing on Stutter Talk?"

I do not mention her stuttering because of a desire to attack her personally, but because it is the core of the issue. How can a cured person stutter so badly? Pointing out the OBVIOUS will make her feel bad about herself. In the same way as it made me feel bad when someone said the same when I was on StutterTalk. But that is what I thought, and it is what most people think when hearing her. You sound hypocritical, overriding the core issue because you want to be nice. It's like most people saying "It is OK to be overweight", because they want to help but inside they think "Oh my god, just look how fat she is. How dare she wear this!".

I did not choose the rape analogy on purpose, but these are the clearest examples of what is psychologically happening here.

She might be the nicest person on Earth, but the image that is out there is that of a person who was cured by stuttering using SpeechEasy, and that is very very clearly not the case. For her to defend SpeechEasy is nothing else than delusion. And it's causing real harm.

tal said...

Tom, I think this post was excellent, and I'm glad you're not diluting your point in order to be nice.

JZ said...

Tom, you think that it is Wes and Rebecca's responsibility to reveal their long term effect of SpeechEasy to the public. I think this is wrong.

It is the commercial behaviors of Janus, Oprah's show, GMA, etc., that brought Wes and Rebecca to the public. You probably would agree that at that time, SpeechEasy worked amazingly for them, and they did not fake their responses to stuttering. They might be willing to participate in such commercial activities because, this gadget worked for them, and probably would help others. In addition, for Rebecca, she got a $5000 gadget for free, so why not? So, point 1, you could not blame them for showing up on these shows years ago.

Now, their fluency deteriorated, and you blamed them for misleading thousands of stutterers about SpeechEasy. Well, they sincerely expressed their feelings toward the gadget, they even talked at StutterTalk so everyone could perceive their fluency level and make their own judgment. What else you want them to do?

You may want them to publicly criticize SpeechEasy, as you think they are not "cured," or still stutter so badly. And because they showed some hesitance in criticizing SpeechEasy (Rebecca said she is still very satisfactory of the gadget), you then considered that as an expression of Stockholm syndrome. And then you manifested that you are also a victim of the syndrome. If a well-trained physicist cannot avoid from suffering from the syndrome, how should you require a 21-year old college girl to be better? And Stockholm syndrome itself is not well studied; no validated diagnostic criteria exist (Namnyak et al., 2008).

Or you want them to speak, write, to the public about their experience with SpeechEasy. You see they have responded to StutterTalk, which is good enough. You cannot ask them to do more. They cannot decide to show up at GMA, Oprah's show, etc., as they want. It is the responsibility of them, the GMA, Oprah, etc., to dig the story. Janus, of course, will not try to hurt itself. And probably the GMA, Oprah, etc., will not have too much interest in showing to the public the failure of something. It is just too common.

Sadly, I think this is consistent with the general public's ignorance of stuttering. Anyway, it is not life threatening. The effort to help the stutterers are usually not that dramatic and long-lasting. So there is no news about stuttering, not that much. But it is necessary to buzz it, so the public will know more about it and probably more help will be given to the stutterers.

Anonymous said...

Janus, Joe K., ASHA, BRS-FD, SFA...could go on and and with the professional organizations that allow/endorse professionals who recommend the SpeechEasy device for PWS as well as - even more frightening - children who stutter.

I appreciate the honesty of Tom sharing what he thinks... It's his blog!!!

StutterTalk - if they are going to go after therapies and professional organizations that endorse therapies - needs to expand its going afters to ALL the ones... Reitz is an SFA 'er and won't go after that. StutterTalk won't go after their friends or buddies. Kinda funny to me.

Anonymous said...

The truth is that current stuttering treatment is a joke and SLPs have no clue....the speecheasy users relapsed. Some people recover on their own with or without the help of SLPs.

The millions of stutterers who went through stuttering modification or fluency shaping also RELAPSED. What is the difference? Did greedy SLPs rape stutterers out of their hard earned money?

Tom....what about Hollins???

Joe said...

Joe Sheehan said: "There is nothing to be ashamed of when you stutter and there is nothing to be proud of when you fluent"

Tom, you have no right to attack are a bitter stutterer....Have you ever tried the speecheasy yourself.

You should apologize to Wes and Rebecca...a stutterer making fun of another stutterer is the worst crime in the world!

Now, don't delete my comment just because I am expressing my opinion and you don't like it.

ig88sir said...

I can see how Tom's rape analogy will offend many but it is a clearly understood analogy. Look at it as just that.

Not only is the SpeechEasy Company (Janus?) falsely advertising but also is Hollins. I have yet to meet a PWS retain the level of fluency they had on their last day at the Hollins clinic. Hollins therapy is also as expensive as the Speecheasy.

As a 35 year old PWS myself the greatest antidote for my stuttering had nothing to do with these stuttering aids. The people who administer them have no idea what stuttering even is.

Just fully immerse yourself in your pursuits so you have no time to worry about your speech. This works far better than any awkward sounding therapy that falls apart in stress.

Tom Weidig said...


you lack clear thinking on this topic. Your mind is blinded by the over-riding desire to be nice to people.

I did not make fun of them. I said what the facts are. How can anyone sensible be a cure for stuttering when they stutter so severely?

You are killing the messenger of bad news, i.e. me, instead of the creator of bad news, i.e. Oprah, Speech Easy's Janus company and other media outlet.

And Wes and Rebecca are willing victims. By their refusal to go back on TV and criticise the cures, they are creating thousands of more victims.

And Joe you too are part of this industry. Your blind mind is covering for those who have created the victims.

You are a good example of how a well-intended action (to be good to an individual stutterer) is creating negative consequences.

Norbert said...

"I did not make fun of them. I said what the facts are. How can anyone sensible be a cure for stuttering when they stutter so severely? "

I must have overlooked the bit where either Wes or Rebecca said they were 'cured'

Konstantin Kutzkow said...

First of all I would like to thank you for the great blog providing us with a lot of information! However, this time I was very disappointed with your comments. The main reason to comment is not to convince you that you made a mistake or similar (of course it is your blog and it is your choice what and how to write), but rather to defend Rebecca.

1. I admire this lively, beautiful girl for being so brave to appear on TV and then on StutterTalk and talk so openly about her stuttering and experience with SpeechEasy. We all can learn from her.
2. After careful listening to her interview for ABC and StutterTalk I think that her speech sounds now better and I can understand her (despite of not being a native speaker). She is saying what she wants to say (at least I see it this way) and she is plugging through words instead of wasting her time to choose the "easy" word.
3. Tom, you are not writing a paper that you want to submit to a high impact journal, you are commenting a girl in her early twenties. Not everything in this life is science and it is simply not a decent education to offend a girl. Whatever reasons you have for doing so. Moreover we all know that psychology plays a great role in stuttering, especially for young people. (Even if it not cause for stuttering.)
4. How the hell do you know that she is suffering from the Stockholm syndrome? Maybe she met her boyfriend while the SpeechEasy was still really helpful, maybe she passed a frightened oral exam with the SpeechEasy, maybe she is still using it as an aid for oral presentations. We don't know. And it is simply stupid to draw conclusions and label people as suffering from Stockholm syndrome just based on the observations from two interviews.
5. Stutterers are still normal people and they are not supposed to be fighters for the truth or wise scientists. Especially when they are in their early twenties.
6. I watched the Oprah show and the appearance of Joe Kalinowski. It is simply disgusting! (No offense to anyone here, but for me this is the typical American way to make an entertaining show from everything, so maybe it is just the usual way of presenting things.) I fully support you that the stuttering community has to do something against that.
But to blame a 20 years girl for being part of the big conspiracy is simply ridiculous. I am sorry that you are so bitter against therapies that you even offend an innocent young girl.
7. The fact someone told you that your talking on StutterTalk sounds bad is no excuse to offend in such way a young girl. You have achieved so much in life and your blog has a significant influence on the stuttering community. I hope you realize that and you show more emotional maturity in your future posts.
8. Even if she is suffering from a Stockholm syndrome, bombing her with accusations is certainly not helpful. (Again no personal insult to anyone here, but bombing a country which has problems is in general not real help, in most cases it only makes things worse.)

Tom Weidig said...


"I must have overlooked the bit where either Wes or Rebecca said they were 'cured'"

It is totally irrelevant. Their public image is that of the cure on Oprah or the other media. Thousands are buying the device because of them.

Wes and Rebecca have refused to be interviewed again. That for me is clearly irresponsible. The false public image is still in the media. So effectively, he/she is saying "I am cured", because that public image is still present.

Tom Weidig said...

Dear Konstantin,

you are free to voice your opinion which is clearly formulated. I have voiced mine.

I am not blaming her in that she is consciously does something to harm fellow stutterers.

However, her public image, her delusion, and her unwillingness to say something bad about SpeechEasy and the way she was portrayed as a cure is part of the reasons why fellow stutterers are still being misled. Why grandmothers buy SpeechEasy for their grandchild!

At age 21, she has a responsibility to correct this public image of cure.

In the same way, I am of course not blaming a young woman who was sexually abused for not reporting her father for creating more victims. She does not yet fully understand what went on. But her inability to report is creating more victims. It is a causal relationship.

Why don't you all focus on your energy on Oprah and Janus instead on me!

Best wishes,

Norbert said...

So, in essence, what's been happeninh is that Wes tried Speak Easy and while it worked for a while he has stopped using it though he doesn't believe he has been exploited or conned. Rebecca found that Speak Easy works for her in the way she wants to use it now. Neither of them has ever claimed that they were 'cured'.

This is how they feel. However, what Tom thinks they *ought* to feel is that they have been conned and that they really, really must tell the world what Tom thinks they *should* be feeling as opposed to what they *are* feeling. This is a rather strange approach.

I am sure we can all think of rather unpleasant experiences in your childhood that could explain that kind of attitude; but maybe a quote that hangs next to my desk at work as a warning to myself might suffice?
"Contrary to popular belief, the Germans don't know everything; they just know everything better."

K. Kutzkow said...

Hi Tom,

Something I find really outrageous and, following your advice, I will focus my energy on this:

In Bulgaria we have the Bulgarian Stuttering Association (In the following BulSA, to avoid confusion with the BSA). I have never been a member, and I haven't visited their homepage for about a year because I found it rather boring.
Apparently, I should have visited earlier.
In the Section "News" there is the following announcement about the Speech Easy: (My translation in English.)
"A new anti-stuttering device on the Bulgarian market. ..."
The device is briefly presented and then we read:

"Speech Easy was tested on over 150 PWS. The device increased the fluency in almost all cases. The improvement is between 50% and 90%. In Bulgaria it can be bought by (contact information of the company selling it) ...".

Things become even more interesting. In a TV show on the Bulgarian National Television a member of the BulSA was wearing the device and explained how it helped her to give a talk. Some speech therapist explained why the Speech Easy works. Of course, no one mentioned that in most cases the effect wears off after a few months. (Just to add that for Bulgaria 5000 USD are a lot of money, comparing salaries it is something like 15 000--20 000 in the USA.) The show was broadcast last October.

On the website there is no information about all the recent research activities: brain imaging, gene findings, pagoclone trials, etc. (The only article mentioning the view of stuttering as a disorder with neurological roots seems to be a presentation of your blog that you sent to Irina Papancheva.) Until I updated the entry for Stuttering in the Bulgarian section of Wikipedia about a week ago, the cause for stuttering was "a stressful situation".

If one types the Bulgarian word for stuttering in Google, the first advertisement that appears is of some program guaranteeing "End of stuttering - only in 25 days!". Members of the BulSA appeared together in some TV show with a representative of the program, of course without asking them to verify the claim of curing stuttering in 25 days.

I can list more examples but I guess this already gives a clear picture.
I heavily criticized the BulSA in their forum with respect to the above points. The reply I got was something like: "Well, we are no scientists and we can't present the new research. It is expensive to pay people to do so. You are welcome to translate and publish articles."

I think (or rather hope) that the people from the BulSA are doing all the work voluntarily and they have no intention to mislead PWS. But even if so, they should act responsibly and correctly inform their members and readers. The negative consequences of not informing/misleading people about the causes and nature of stuttering are clear.

IMHO, attacking a stupid TV show for creating a false image of stuttering is quite difficult, but there should be a way to ask for responsible attitude a National Stuttering Association. Any advice?


Anonymous said...

Tom is 100% right. Speech easy and programs like Hollins use misleading statistics to make money off of people who stutter. What they are doing is wrong. Case closed. Wes and Rebecca are being used by speech east to promote a device that only works in the short term. They are being used to make $$$ for a device that does not work in the longrun for most stutterers. That’s the truth. All Tom did was point this out. Why is that so controversial?

Anonymous said...

I may well choke before I finish typing this sentence, but I actually agree with Norbert's last comment.

Anonymous said...

"Contrary to popular belief, the Germans don't know everything; they just know everything better."

Can someone explain the quote above?