I have recently heard people who stutter saying that they felt that a person who no longer stutters should not be a spokesperson for the stuttering community. They believe that if they speak without stuttering, the public gets the impression that everyone who stutters can speak fluently if they would only try, and people who stutter are given false hope that they can also speak fluently.
I was very bothered by this discussion because I believe these opinions reinforce the belief that people who stutter can at best learn to live with stuttering. It is my belief that the truth requires looking at stuttering from a different perspective. It was once true that we did not know exactly how to guide people who stutter develop the ability to speak naturally in all the different situations that they encounter in their lives. Therapy was a trial and error endeavor. Very often clients tried very hard to develop techniques and control their speech, but to no avail. On the other hand, there have always been people, who once stuttered, who no longer stutter. Since we didn’t know how that happened, it was chalked up to “good luck” or perhaps no longer chasing fluency god.
Times have changed. In my work with people who stutter I see on a regular basis that that there is a clear, explainable, and doable process that people who stutter can use that results in naturally fluent speech. It does not require chasing fluency, an activity that does usually result either in stuttering or effortful fluency. It does not require developing speech controls, the antithesis of automatic, normally produced speech. What it does involve is understanding how a person who stutters process speech and what changes need to be made to make speaking a much easier and dependable activity. I am fully part of the group who believes that there is no magic cure for stuttering. However, as a result of practical experience, I know that people of all ages and severities of stuttering are capable adopting and getting used to a process that results in comfortable easily produced fluent speech.
I believe that the stuttering community should welcome the input of people who have overcome stuttering. People who still stutter can learn from them that change is possible. For those who believe that it is not possible for people who stutter to develop a way of speaking fluently, it is time to gain a deeper understanding of stuttering. Instead of sticking to beliefs based on yesterday’s knowledge, they should listen carefully to the positive experiences of people who have overcome stuttering and to all the new research and clinical knowledge about stuttering. The time for negativity has past. The time for being open to a new perspective on stuttering has come.