If my theory of stuttering is valid, it must be able to explain the variable nature of stuttering. There are some people who stutter in almost all conversations, but this rare, and even these people do not stutter on every word. Most people have times, or situations during which they report that they don’t stutter. Sometimes people can predict when they will stutter, but sometimes it just seems to happen without any warning.
According to my theory both stuttered and fluent speech is the outcome of the way the brain functions when speaking. Brains are dynamic. Therefore, while there is a preferred neural network for carrying out a specific task, different neural networks can kick in at different times according to the circumstance, health, thoughts and feelings of the person, or environmental cues. Let’s take the task of writing. The letters we see on the paper are the outcome of a neural network that we develop as we learn to form letters to express language, and do this repeatedly. After a while our handwriting becomes automatic and individualized. However, over time it changes. It also changes if we are relaxed/excited, happy/sad, distracted/concentrated, and, according to graphologists, as our personality develops. The same is true of speech. Fluent or stuttered speech is the outcome of a neural network that we develop as we learn to verbally express language, and do this repeatedly.
One of the factors that I believe affects the way the brain functions is the degree of conscious control that the speaker exerts over how to move the mouth to form words. More control equals more stuttering and less control results in better fluency. If you are speaking to myself, to an animal or small child, you are probably not at all concerned about speaking. In fact you might even be oblivious of the fact that you are speaking. What you are doing is simply giving expression to your inner thoughts. You are not thinking at all about talking, let alone trying to be fluent. Here is a situation that will not trigger the control mode of speaking, the mode that helps to create stuttering. Different situations can be linked to different modes of speech production. In later blog, I will explain the neurophysiological speech control network and why it creates stuttering.
Of course, there are people who also stutter in the situations that I’ve mentioned. Maybe they stutter less than when speaking before an audience or telling a joke, but they do report that their speech is not completely fluent. According to my theory, the network may have become so hardwired that even when not trying to control fluency, it is the default program. You might say it is basically the way the brain functions.
I invite all of you who stutter to see if there is a connection between your trying to speak fluently, articulately, or just trying to talk and the degree to which you stutter. When you totally forget that you are speaking, as in swearing or making asides, such as “I-I-I b-b-built a mmmm-mmmm-mmmm (aside: ‘This word is not coming out’) mmmmodel airplane,” do you have some spontaneous fluency? After you look into this, I invite you to share your experiences. You might just find out why “chasing fluency” is so very unhelpful.