I have written a lot about how people who stutter think too much about words and how to say them. Most people who stutter or stuttered any time during their life knowthat when they stop trying to anticipate what they are going to say, they have a sense of relief, an increased ease of speaking and increased fluency. However, giving upthinking about words and speech sounds is only part of what makes speech morefluent. Today I want to discuss a different aspect of stuttering. It relates to control, but can be more subconscious than thinking about words. I am talking about articulation,the movement of the tongue, lips, jaw, and other speech organs that transforms the basic voice (vocal fold vibrations) into speech sounds.
In the clinic it is obvious to me that there are 2 basic ways of articulating.One is by using a completely automatic mode and the other is by using a more effortful and controlled motor process. This means that the brain has 2 different ways of functioning to produce speech sounds. The difference can be seen (if you’re looking for it) and felt by the speaker (if you do it both ways and compare).
To understand what I mean by 2 different modes, let’s compare the articulators to your eyelids. All day long you blink and don’t even feel it. Your eyelids move down and up on an automatic mode. However, if you blink on purpose, the movement is slower and you feel the blink at least a little more than when it happened automatically. The same thing is true concerning your articulators. When your mouth moves automatically, you are not even aware of it. It moves just as automatically as it does when you smile or frown. It’s a pretty amazing system. As our brain develops language, those articulators go full speed without any conscious or subconscious control. Anyway, that’s the way they’re meant to function when we speak.
So when I talk about giving up control, I mean giving up control in all ways. I know it’s hard for some people to believe that you don’t have to try to make those “hard sounds”. One new client recently commented that he couldn’t understand how his mouth could move on its own, but he was thrilled to realize that he could give up worrying about it and when he did it was so much easier to speak.
I guess this is why there are 2 approaches to therapy. One is to speak slowly to accommodate that slow controlled articulation. The other is the Dynamic Stuttering Therapy approach: speak naturally at any rate by letting the very efficient and automatic articulation mode happen.