Book review: “Speech is a River”

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Book review: “Speech is a River”

“She’s got it, by George, she’s got it!!!” That’s what I said over and over again as I read Speech is a River: My Recovery From Stuttering, by Ruth Mead. This book explains so much about the inner game of speaking from the viewpoint of a person who stuttered and who no longer stutters. With clarity, wit, humor, and a not a small measure of political incorrectness, Mead takes on many of the false beliefs that perpetuate and exacerbate stuttering.

Ruth Mead is a writer. I don’t know if she is a professional writer, but she is a personable writer who opens a window into the mind that is behind the stuttering. In Speech is a River she describes her own mind, thoughts and observations, but I don’t think there are many people who stutter who will read this book and not recognize something of their own mind, beliefs, reactions, perceptions and behaviors.

The main premise throughout the book is that people who stutter let their conscious mind try to control the natural spontaneous speech that can flow within. She talks about her own discovery that “Speech is not amenable to coercion”, and explains how she stopped trying to plan and think about how to say words or push air through the block she felt in her throat..

Mead is no stranger to speech therapy. She discusses her experiences with some of the therapy approaches that she is familiar with. She then goes on to explain her recovery through a self-help journey that changed not just her speech; it changed her state of being.

As much as I agree whole-heartedly with everything that Ruth Mead says, I have to add, from the perspective of a clinician who sees many people who stutter, there is more to the “journey” than changing one’s worldview of speaking. There are brain processes that come into play that might intensify the mind’s attempt to control speech. Nevertheless, no therapy will be beneficial when the conscious mind is trying to get out words or say them consciously. That is why this book is so important. It really is the only book that I know of that discusses in length the debilitating tendency to plan, rehearse, think about and try to say words.

As a person who is determined to understand stuttering and guide people to overcome it, I am personally grateful to Ruth Mead for sharing her experiences and making her book available as a free download  This is a book that every person who stutters and their families and friends would benefit greatly from reading.


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