As we approach 2013, I want to wish all my friends and followers a very Happy New Year. I also want to tell you one of my big hopes for the coming year, because if it is fulfilled, it will give people who stutter the ability to speak fluently. My hope for 2013 is that what happened to medicine in the mid 19th century will happen to stuttering treatment in the coming year.
By 1800 there were good anatomical textbooks. People thought that these books and knowledge about anatomy were nice and scientific, but no one thought it had anything to do with medicine. Disease was defined by symptoms, and no one really paid much attention to what was going on in the body. If you had a fever, the doctor treated the fever. If you couldn’t breathe, you probably had to learn to live with it, until you didn’t live at all. No one connected the symptoms to an anatomical malady. This was because no one knew what was going on inside the body and even if they did, they didn’t know what to do about it.
This reminds me of how we look at stuttering even today. Stuttering is still being defined by the symptoms we see. It is thought that stuttering is repetitions of speech sounds, blocks, laryngeal tension, anxiety, bad breathing, etc. Furthermore treatment is still symptom oriented. People who stutter try to overcome their symptoms i.e. stuttered speech. This is because they don’t know that what is going on inside their brain that unifies the many symptoms they are experiencing. Even though researchers are finding evidence that stuttering is related to a malfunctioning speech production system, this is ignored in treatment, because people don’t know what to do about it and think nothing can be done to change it.
My hope is that next year will be the turn around year that goes down in history as the year when stuttering becomes widely accepted as only a symptom of the way the speech production system is functioning. I know the day will come when, just as anatomy became connected to medicine, brain processing will be connected to stuttering. It will be known that there is something that can be done to effectively treat people who stutter, because changing system function does make people who stutter symptom free. Let’s not wait any longer. May the coming year be the end of the era of treating symptoms, instead of the system that causes stuttering.