Have you ever wondered why you speak much more fluently when you are talking to yourself or to babies and animals? Aside from making you curious, the inconsistency in your ability to speak in different situations has probably caused a lot of frustration. There you are talking to yourself and having no problem. Then someone walks into the room and oops, the words don’t flow anymore. Talking alone or to pets is just one of the many fluency enhancing conditions that needs to be explained in any adequate theory of stuttering.
To try to understand what the difference is between speaking in the fluency enhancing situation and when talking to others, let’s look at the situations more closely.
Rover has just started to chew on your favorite pair of old slippers. “Rover, stop that. I love those slippers. Naughty dog. What am I going to do with you?” flows through your mind and without realizing it, your thoughts become audible speech.
Mother walks in the room, expressing her frustration that Rover is causing more damage. You want to defend him. You try hard to find the right words to tell her what a good dog Rover is. You have to say that “m” sound that is so hard for you to say. “M-M-Mother, HHHes only being (pause) playful.”
What is the difference? Between scene #1 and #2? In the first scene you forgot that you were talking. Actually, you were thinking aloud. The aloud part was secondary. You were not really conscious that you were talking. You were involved in the situation, not the speech. In scene #2, you were “trying” to talk, “trying” to find the right words to convince Mother, “trying” to get that awful “m” sound out. You were conscious of the act of talking.
In my theory that stuttering is a condition in which there is too much control and consciousness about speaking, these scenes make perfect sense. People who stutter are capable of developing flowing language as they think. It is only when they are thinking about the words they are saying and “trying” to consciously to make speech that they have a problem. “Trying” to talk and allowing your thoughts to flow aloud are two different neurological processes. The first is stuttering, regardless of whether it is perceived by the listener, or covert in nature. The other process is the way most people produce speech, most of the time.
Knowing this, it is possible for each person who stutters to explore what is easier, the conscious act of “trying” to talk, or talking with as little consciousness as possible about how to talk. This exploration will lead to a greater understanding of how fluent speech is naturally created.