Monday, November 08, 2010

Emily Blunt: Fluency is a goal for everyone?

StutterTalk, and especially Eric, were really excited by their latest guest, movie actress Emily Blunt.

First, she really did stutter when she was a young teenager. All her comments and descriptions are very realistic, and shared by many people who stutter. So she does understand us who are still stuttering.

Second, she tells the story on her being saved from stuttering due to acting, but what she really means is that stuttering waned at the same time that acting happened.

Third, she says that stuttering gradually became less, but doesn't have a fixed date or event in mind.

My guess is that for whatever reasons her neurobiology became more stable and she gained confidence in acting. Moreover, her stuttering might have been mild but her reaction moderate. Then she correlated acting to her becoming fluent, and acting became her life-changing thing. Coupled with youthful energy and focus, she made acting her life. But I would bet that she would now also be fluent without acting and linking this to another story like growing up.

The last question Eric asks is: Do you believe fluency is a goal for everyone? And she answers with a definite Yes. The issue is that she extrapolates from her own experience, and is wrong on this point. Surely, fluency can improve in all but is sensitive to relapse. Many tried but failed. She has a biased view, because she does not see the people entering clinic for several months afterwards and she is fed the success stories Oprah-style.

So Emily is a bit of a double edged sword for us. Great to support us PR-wise, and great to talk about how it feels to stutter, but misleading as an example of a person who stutter and as an example on how you can overcome stuttering. A bit similar to Gareth Gates.

I am the best counter-example. I did take acting classes in my twenties (that was a workshop at the City Lit in London) and Toastmasters. I did gain a lot of confidence, but I still stutter. But maybe doing acting at an early age would have changed it. I remember the teacher of the acting group at my high school asking me, and I immediately refused.

On the other hand, had I started acting, I would probably never have done theoretical physics! I would have ended up taking drugs, repeating lines other people wrote for me, and being nice to reporters. ;-)


Pam said...

Love this post. I have not yet listened to stuttertalk's latest episode, and probabky won't even. I don't think Emily Blunt is a good example of a role model for people who stutter, especially women, simply because she does not stutter anymore and women who do stutter everyday can't really relate to a movie star who "used" to stutter. Its a shame too, becasue the ordinary women who live with stuttering everday don't really have any high profile stuttering role models.
While I agree with Tom that it's great for PR purposes, so would more ordinary women who stutter in every day living and still have lives considered to be meaningful and productive.
Fluency cannot be the goal for everyone - that is a set up.
As for Toastmasters, I too have been involved for 4 years, and still stutter. But the point is, I communicate very effectively, and we all know that fluency and commuication are two completely different things.

Anonymous said...

no she recovered from stuttering....
and the stuttering experts do not know why? (or do not accept that cure/100% recovery from stuttering after age 8 is possible).

Do you know why?

Anonymous said...

She said that she still stutters. I heard her stutter slightly multiple times during the interview. These were not normal dysfluencies. She starts into a word, says the first syllable, she hesitates and says something similar.

Fluency probably just became automatic, but nothing in her brain changed.

Anonymous said...

so is she a stutterer or is she not a stutterer....eventhough she may still be disfluent....she said she doesn't consider herself a stutterer and considers her to be a fluent person.

That is important. How you perceive yourself.....???

Anonymous said...

i think we should be grateful for Emily having the guts to revisit her stuttering past so early on in her career.. i mean i hide stutttering at times and im not even famous.

For her to put her name to stuttering is enough in my eyes. She even mentioned how she became self conscious in the interview, but shes a brave lady.

so for once how about we dont get caught up in who stutters worser ;)

one word.. inspiring.

Unknown said...

You're right Tom, I was excited to talk to Emily Blunt--just like I'm excited to talk to most guests we have on StutterTalk.

My view of the Emily Blunts of the world is that their systems are probably less vulnerable than ours. Changing words, circumlocuting, whatever, is not as big a deal for someone like Emily Blunt as it might be for those of us who have more vulnerable systems.

I don't think we should ignore the impact though that acting (or something like it) may have had on her ability to communicate. I believed her when she said acting gave her the confidence that somehow helped her talk. It might be difficult to measure how confidence helps people talk (or at least feel more comfortable talking), but would anybody disagree with the notion that it does? Obviously, when it turns into, "Oh, why don't you take an acting class--I heard that's what helped Emily Blunt stop stuttering," we have an issue. But couldn’t it be that acting, coupled with a less vulnerable system (probably the more important factor), helped Emily Blunt to become a person who doesn't really noticeably exhibit stuttering symptoms anymore?

Pam, I share some of your concern that people who stutter, who don't do it often noticeably, might not be the best role models for those of us who still "struggle" with stuttering. However, are we suggesting that a person like Walt Manning, who very rarely noticeably stutters, is not a good role model for people who stutter? One could argue that most people who stutter are people who, comparatively speaking, have less vulnerable systems--and perhaps a more suited role model for them might be someone who also has a less vulnerable system. The idea that actors/celebrities are not good role models doesn't let us take the potentially good things (e.g. confidence speaking, ability to engage, “normal talking” models, etc.) that might be embedded there.

Pam said...

Hey Eric,
Not sure what you mean by "less vulnerable" systems?
And by way of Walt Manning - I believe he is a SLP, yes? I have never heard him speak, so I cannot conclude anything one way or another about his impact as a role model. But he is not a visible, public figure in the media, stuttering and accepting stuttering publicly. Most of the public figures we have are Blunt, Biden, Stoessel. That's all I am saying.
We have a political figure here in upstate NY, the mayor of Schenectady. He speaks in press conferences and is on the news and radio regularly, and stutters openly. He doesn't talk about it, but he stutters and doesn't try to hide it or act ashamed, and shows people that it is ok and he is still able to be quite successful.
That's all I am saying. There are few, if any, visible, in the media women who stutter.

Adrian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ari(Israel) said...

I have just love relationship with the Stuttertalk guys.
Their goal is to talk and educate about stuttering,not to fight against another opinions.

Ora said...

Eric - you wrote "One could argue that most people who stutter are people who, comparatively speaking, have less vulnerable systems"

That's an odd statement. Is that really what you meant?

Unknown said...

Yes. Put the statement back in context. Among people who stutter, it is possible that the majority are people who have less vulnerable systems. Some people would call them "mild"...

Pam said...

I had not been sure either what Eric had meant . . . so the systems are more or less vulnerable to what? the factors that combine to make us stutter? like the demand and capacity theory?

L. (Stottern in Zuerich) said...

I agree with Eric. Acting may have an impact on stuttering as, IMO it shares some features with non-avoidance therapy techniques. Going on stage may be an effective way of confronting the feared situation. Possibly, Ms. Blunt went on stage because she felt she needed to face her fears.

Anonymous said...

i thought the key was increased self confidence and increased self esteem....not necessarily only acting.

what about excel in sports or toastmasters?

JustinH said...

Personally, I think that good fluency is my main goal in life. After meeting several people at the Cleveland NSA conference who do not share this goal, I was very confused! I had no idea that people like this existed. These people are OK with stuttering, and it seems that they would like the world to change to accept them, instead of improving their fluency. Many fight for rights of stuttering people with various federal institutes for people with disabilities. I share an opposing view..

ig88sir said...

From what I have noticed females generally don't stutter as severe as males. Why is this? We all know they generally have a more advanced speech and language center than males do. Males are also lateral. Females are not. It could be an issue of space. We males have a unilateral smaller speech center. Too bad for western society's laws on courting females!

I grew up learning 2 languages and am left handed. I started stuttering at 12. Perhaps if I didn't learn the 2nd language I would have used a part of my left hemisphere to connect those syntactically complex words rather than overlap the right hemisphere and struggle with the less than optimal connection..Just a thought..

John Books said...

I listened to Emily talking on a video located and elsewhere at the American Institute for Stuttering and she indicated that her speech was much better if she pretended to be somebody else, a very significant point.

I think the combination of not having a strong reaction to her stuttering and pretending to be someone else probably was enough for her to overcome her stuttering, also include having good parents and a good childhood home which I think is a severely neglected concept for people to consider because of the very strong bias amongst people who stutter against anything psychological or emotional mentioned as a agent contributing to stuttering.

I think it is good that Emily supports and represents AIS but I don't think she realizes that AIS believes and advertises that stuttering is a neurological and hereditary caused problem. I say this because since she admitted that becoming someone else helped her stuttering this PROVES that it is NOT neurological!

Look Emily is very attractive and very talented but she does not seem to understand her association with AIS. AIS is using her and her fame to make AIS more acceptable and famous also but AIS does not help people overcome stuttering as they got President Clinton to say in a video. AIS gets people to accept their stuttering, not feel as bad about stuttering and to use techniques from 70 years ago that didn't work then and don't work now. AIS had severely misinformed everyone including Emily.

The Founder of AIS is really pushing concept and ideas that she learned at the Option Institute in Mass. The AIS program is really all about the Option Institute and very little about speech therapy. The speech therapy portion of the AIS progam is actually a very watered down version of the Hollins program invented by Ronald Webster where the AIS Founder was trained. AIS really represents personal experiences of the Founder and an on-going argument with Ronald Webster who had fired the Founder of AIS. THe Founder of AIS was very good at getting celebrities to support her in her cause including Emily Blunt but these celebrities don't really understand what the AIS program is about but people assume they do.

Anonymous said...

The Stuttering Brain should start to take a really close look at the AIS program and determine if all the people on the Board at AIS has made any contributions to the program offered by AIS. My impression is that they have not, I once asked AIS how Biden overcame his speech problem and they said (a therapist on staff) that they thought he used to look in the mirror as a kid. They "think" he used to look in the mirror? I bet you that they are just on the Board for show, that many, many people make the assumption that either they took the AIS program or some variation of it earlier or that they actually contributed to the program all of which I would bet is not true. AIS is guilty of indirect false advertising and the Director identifies herself as an expert, outrageous.