Earlier this month I attended the Applied Research Symposium: Mapping a Plan for the Future, sponsored by the National Stuttering Association. The purpose of this seminar was not only to advance our understanding of stuttering but also to see how we can apply the findings to treatment for people who stutter. I was happy to have the chance to participate in a dialogue with researchers in the field. It was also very important for me to see if their findings fit into the Dahm Theory. The presentations touched on many aspects of stuttering, including the psychological processes of non-linguistic and language processing, and error-monitoring and motor control. I found it very encouraging that these topics touched upon the factors that I discuss in my model.
Our first speaker was Dr. Nan Bernstein Ratner. She set the tone for the need to look at all these areas as she explained, “We tend to ‘swing’ between trying to find a physical ‘locus’ for stuttering (in the larynx, tongue or brain), or origins in the ‘mind’ (whether by learning, repressed needs, or anticipatory struggle) … without making much effort to build theories that can accommodate aspects of both approaches AND fit within well-attested understanding of normal speech production.”
My theory of stuttering is, of course, an exception; as it does take into account all of these aspects. It also provides some preliminary understanding of how they interconnect as well as showing how to apply research to a practical therapy approach that actually gives people who stutter a way to speak with normal and comfortable fluency. As research progresses and we learn more about the brain, neuroplasticity, the speech motor system, linguistic processing, monitoring processes and more, I’m certain my theory will be more refined and that the basic premise I am proposing today will become mainstream.
All in all, the symposium left me feeling optimistic that the field of speech pathology is reaching the consensus that stuttering is multifactorial in its nature and needs to be treated as such.