Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Misleading chapter in Guitar & McCauley's book on SpeechEasy?

The Treatment of Stuttering by Guitar and McCauley is one of latest books by Guitar who has written a text book on stuttering before. In general, I am absolutely not impressed by Guitar's presentations I have attended and research I read about. He is doing a lot of pseudo-science. He tries to be rigorous scientist but he is really a clinician (probably a good one) who should stay away from research designs.

I came across Thomas Kehoe's feedback on the chapter on Speech Easy. Thomas is selling a similar device. I love the way he has taken apart that chapter. Having read stuff from him in the past, I have little doubt that his arguments are sound. And if so, that's highly embarrassing for Guitar

The most damaging allegation is that "seventeen pages about the SpeechEasy device, written by a SpeechEasy dealer." That's what you call conflict of interests.

So be aware if you have or want to buy their book.

By Thomas D. Kehoe (Boulder, CO USA)
This review is of one chapter, not the entire book. Different chapters were written by different authors, so the rest of the book may be better.

Chapter 16 is seventeen pages about the SpeechEasy device, written by a SpeechEasy dealer. In it we learn, for example, the interest rate at which they can finance your purchase. (My company makes the SmallTalk device, which competes with the SpeechEasy device.)

Pages 316-317 and page 249 (written by Barry Guitar) refer to a study “showing benefits of SpeechEasy use for…telephone calls.” But the study (Zimmerman, 1997) used my company’s devices, not SpeechEasy devices!

Page 312 says that SpeechEasy includes FAF technology proven to “increase fluency for many who stutter.” This is not true. SpeechEasy includes frequency-shifting; FAF is pitch-shifting. The studies referred to are of pitch-shifting FAF. No studies have investigated whether frequency-shifting alone has an effect on stuttering.

Page 312 says that “Prior to the introduction of the SpeechEasy, DAF…machines were quite large and required cables and headphones.” In reality, at least four companies had miniaturized DAF devices on the market before SpeechEasy, at least one of which (my company) had wireless hearing aid technology.

Page 314 says that DAF never results in carryover fluency and that over time the effectiveness “wears off,” with a reference to the “Speech Easy Training Manual, 2006.” Yet page 318 refers to a study finding that use of my company’s DAF devices over a 3-month period resulted in carryover fluency and did not result in “wearing off” of effectiveness. In other words, the authors state facts about the SpeechEasy device as generalizations about all AAF devices.

The same page says regarding SpeechEasy’s lack of carryover fluency that “long-term, longitudinal research could potentially disprove this” lack of carryover fluency and that this is an open question “until research provides clearer answers.” But Stuart (2004, 2006) found no carryover fluency and Pollard (2009) found no carryover in high-stress conversations and minimal carryover in low-stress conversations. When two long-term, longitudinal studies find the same answer, it’s not an open question.

Pages 317-318 report a 2004 survey of SpeechEasy customers finding that 80% of SpeechEasy customers were satisfied with the device. This is misleading. Of the approximately 5750 customers who tried the device, 45% bought and kept the device past the 30-day return period. These customers were then surveyed. 19% of these customers returned the surveys. Of the customers who returned the surveys, 80% were satisfied. Counting all the customers who tried the device, the survey suggests that the satisfaction rate was between 7% and 35%.

Page 318 describes a study of SpeechEasy devices (O’Donnell, 2008) without mentioning that two of the seven subjects were receiving speech therapy at the same time that they were using the SpeechEasy device, making the results attributable to either the speech therapy or the device (or both).

Three times (pages 318, 325, and 326) the authors reference their own study (Pollard, 2009) without saying what their study found. Here’s what their study found. In reading aloud (low stress), the SpeechEasy devices reduced stuttering 58%; in conversations with someone the subjects knew (medium stress), the devices reduced stuttering 15%; and in conversations with strangers (high stress) the devices reduced stuttering 2%. Is it possible that the authors didn’t want readers to learn how (in)effective their device is?

This advertisement, I mean chapter, is a disingenuous, self-contradictory confusion of claims touting the SpeechEasy device, using studies finding other devices to be effective and ignoring research finding the SpeechEasy device to be ineffective.


Satyendra said...

Thanks Tom. This is really useful. Taking hope away is no good but TRUTH must be told. Eventually truth does help. I have seen many PWS who keep pinning their hopes on some drug trial or gadget- and ignore the obvious remedy: accepting that they have stammer and working on communication skills.
Thanks for such investigative journalism.

Anonymous said...

Do you have the actual book and read the chapter. Thought the chapter on Speecheasy was written by Peter Ramig and Ryan Pollard (???) and others....you should check the facts.....

Dr. Guitar is a PWS and well respected researcher, are you sure he is not a good scientist/science researcher? Are you a good scientist?

Human clinical research is very different from theoretial physics and plain numbers and happy theory.....

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous above,

> Are you a good scientist?

You ask if Tom is a good scientist. I have never met him and I don't know him. He has a PhD in physics, but he does not work in science at all. He works in finance or accountancy or something useless like that. So if I go by the facts, i.e. that Tom does NOT do any scientific research, and that Dr. Guitar has been a scientific researcher for many years, I would ignore Tom's opinion on matters related to stuttering research ... his opinion carries as much credibility as that of any amateur. However, I would certainly ask him advice on completing my tax return.

Tom Weidig said...

To my dear Anons too scared to give an opinion openly,

I am giving Thomas Kehoe an opportunity to voice his opinions against Microsoft SpeechEasy. My blog is read by many. I sometimes disagree with what he writes but he always is thorough.

> Dr. Guitar is a PWS

who cares if he is, does this make the chapter by itself more or less correct? no!

Anonymous said...

To those who have supported or want to support Mr. Weidig’s supposedly altruistic “mission” on behalf of those who stutter, please read the following.

Mr. Weidig, I’m going to keep this short because I’ve already published work on the SpeechEasy and defended it in peer-reviewed journals; I have no desire to do so again at length on someone’s blog. As another post already pointed out, the chapter in question was not written by Dr. Guitar, but rather by Ramig, Ellis, and Pollard. The chapter appears in a clinician-directed text book with chapters written by experts on numerous interventions. The PCI approach is written by people from the Palin Centre, the Camperdown and Lidcombe Program chapters are written by the developers of those methods, etc. We were asked to write the SpeechEasy chapter because we have experience with providing and researching the device.

Any self-styled arbiter of good science and voice of the unheard minority, let alone any decent investigative journalist, would have bothered to read the chapter himself before providing a venue for Mr. Kehoe to vent his spleen. Apparently you failed to do so. I might also suggest that you read my longitudinal study on the device (http://jslhr.asha.org/cgi/content/abstract/52/2/516) and my letter to the editor in the current issue of JSLHR (http://jslhr.asha.org/cgi/content/abstract/53/4/912). Strangely, I couldn’t find either of those papers on your “Published Articles” link. It’s quite puzzling and slightly amusing to me that one camp has accused us of praising the SpeechEasy too much, while another camp feels that we’ve been too critical of the device. C'est la vie.

For anyone who would like to judge for him/herself whether my colleagues and I write “misleading,” “disingenuous” “advertisements” praising the SpeechEasy as a cure-all, please also see this post on the AIS website: http://stutteringtreatment.org/blog/2010/02/more-discussion-on-research-of-the-speecheasy-device

Incidentally, Tom: putting a question mark at the end of a denigrating headline is reminiscent of a tactic used by Fox News. I suspect your level of journalistic integrity, so to speak, is on par with theirs.

-Dr. Ryan Pollard

A Sucker who Stutters that was duped into buying a SpeechEasy said...

Hey Pollard -

Don't Kid Yourself ---Fox News is more believable and has higher professional and journalistic integrity than you, Ramig and Ellis.

SpeechEasy = $$$ for those who sell it; Disappointment for those who use it before they toss it.

How much did Geetar pay you "researchers" for your chapter?

We don't like your call...Not a very good call.


Thanks Tom for giving the insight. But actually if you have the book can you download these chapters full because I do agree these lines are confusing. But to get full essence of the sentence we should read the book. As the understanding of every word can vary from individual to individual. I will agree more and respect you more if rather than looking for thaw negative side if you will look stvthe positive side too. No doubt you may have to continue speech therapy along with the device speech easy as a company also says it. We also say that when tried everything for stuttering try speech easy. As per dissatisfaction every product in the world get negative and positive comments as some feel it is good for them and some feel it is not. It is totally individual specific. As if I will take example of iPad we all know it is a good tool but still negative comments are written about it and it is good too in improving the technology. This applies to every living and non living thing even while selecting your friends but the only thing is we don't post it.

Actually being a speech therapist myself I will say we should be open to everything and give it a try I can understand if it is not giving benefits to many but still you cannot challenge the fact that it is not giving benefit to all the users. So if you are totally anti of technological advancements then you are doing no good to the stammering society.

Actually I know the manufacturers of other device too when I discussed whole of the thing with them they too agreed with the benefit of FAF.

And atlast my dear Tom the researches are still on. We have got benefit of speech easy in not just stammering but other disorders too. Will post you the latest as soon as we finish up with our project.

Thanks to all. We need your support in making the life more fluent.

Vikrant Malik