Canadian Association for People who Stutter

CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993



When I was a boy I read a poem called 'The Ascent of F6' which described a girl living in the glass tower of a stammer. It really struck a chord. For many years my stutter had placed an invisible wall between me and society. Isolated within this translucent prison, I learned to be self sufficient, to be at peace with myself and even enjoy my own company. I was only lonely among people who made me aware of the seemingly impenetrable walls of my glass tower. When I tried to reach out to people, nobody seemed to hear or touch me.

Those glass walls were partly constructed by myself and partly by people who could not accept or look beyond my severe stutter. My contribution to the walls was that of fear, fear of the pain of trying to talk, fear of ridicule, fear of rejection, fear of violent response from others to my bizarre speech.

As a child, it took time to learn to deal with these fears. I had good and loving mentors who helped without being obvious about it, by example, suggestion and "what if...?" discussions.

They taught me that people who are different are often the salt of the earth; they taught me to fly, physically and otherwise, and to deal with my most dangerous adversary, myself; they taught me skills that my peers respected and showed that the worst of devils cannot tolerate good humour; they taught me to take joy in many things and to discover myself, and like myself, in wild places; they taught me that there is no dishonour in trying and failing, the only dishonour being not trying; they taught me that anger and bitterness about my stumbling speech and the injustices it incurred were destructive and to be avoided; they taught me management of anxiety, and this turned out to be the key to living with a stutter, by looking anxiety in the face and erasing the fear of fear, the most destructive and stifling of all anxieties.

By the age of 18 years I had come to terms with my impediment. I still stuttered, but it did not rule my life or affect my choices of activities. I managed quite well in the armed forces. Then, in 1945, my hard-won gains were shattered, literally.

I woke up after an explosion to find myself deaf, speechless and lacking in memory. I was otherwise unhurt. Nobody worried about it. Except me. I experienced sheer terror in a silent, mute world of fractured memory. My glass tower had become a dark, stone-walled dungeon. But in this dark dungeon there appeared small bright lights that had been lit in my mind by my mentors, lights that helped me navigate my way back to life and living. The memory soon came back, most of my hearing returned and my only burden was the familiar albatross of my blocking, stuttering speech. For a while I was nearly totally mute, but a little speech returned. I just stuttered on every word.

These days it is hard to imagine there being no reliable speech therapy, no counselling, no real help, no mutual aid groups. At that time, the 1940s and 1950s, people who stuttered tended to avoid people who stuttered. Stuttering was something that was not discussed, like social diseases. If you went to a psychiatrist, he would plunge you into Freudian or Jungian therapy to no effect except a diminished bank balance. If you went to a speech therapist, the treatment was likely to do more harm than good. If you went to a doctor, you found that you knew more about stuttering than he or she did. One felt helpless. But, thrown back upon my own resources, I found ways and means to communicate and get on with life.

These days I salute those people who accepted me as I was and looked beyond the stutter. It is remarkable that I was never short of girlfriends. They needed courage and compassion. How they put up with my incoherence and the disapproval of me by their parents is a miracle. My memories of life's good companions, male and female, those loving caring people, with their camaraderie, laughter and fun, warms my heart to this day. We worked, climbed, sailed, hiked, camped, fished, hunted, rode horses, loved, danced, and got a little drunk together, drinking life in great gulps, making up for lost time, so glad to be alive after a war.

For twenty years my speech was very bad, but I got through university, got a job, and married a fantastic wife, Joan, who dared to take on a man with a stuttering albatross around his neck. I was not everybody's choice for a husband. Marriage gave me a great lift, a surge of confidence, that helped me meet the world head on with my fractured speech. The stutter became a challenge, not a handicap. I learned that it was a part of me, so I had better get used to it.

I set seemingly impossible goals, reached for the stars and had to be satisfied with pieces of the moon. Children came and the family embarked upon adventure after adventure. Life has been and is a rich, colourful tapestry, thanks to my wife, Joan, my children, Kate, Sara and Susan, and my many good companions.

In the 1970s, I had excellent therapy from Ann Meltzer and other professionals in Ottawa. My intractable stutter, rated as untreatable, crumbled. I met other people who shared my impediment. The glass walls of my tower shattered. I reached out to people and made contact. I became my own therapist and learned to do the seemingly impossible. The first time I appeared on television, I nearly went into shock until I found I was enjoying myself.

The fearful dragon of speaking in public to large audiences surrendered with the help of caring people, particularly my family and the people in the self-help groups in Canada and the USA. Through these self-help or mutual-aid groups, I found myself part of a worldwide extended family, the Clan of the Tangled tongue. I encountered tolerance and courage on their part. Love and affection spiced my life. Friendly laughter dispelled the remaining cobwebs of anxiety.

I shall always stutter, unashamedly. Now that anxiety has gone and the impossible has become possible, with the glass tower shattered the stutter causes me no problems at all. I barely notice it. It is just a part of me, like my hair colour (now grey) and my moustache (even greyer).

As I once said in public in response to being asked whether I regretted having to deal with a severe stutter most of my life, I admitted that it had been hard work, but I said that my stutter made me who I am. I enjoy being who I am, and others seem to enjoy my company. So, if the price of becoming who I am is to have a stutter, so be it.

My best wishes go to the members of the Canadian Association for People who Stutter. The Association has mountains to move, people to help, and prejudices and ignorance to overcome. Members can act in the roles of mentors, sounding boards and spokespersons. At times they may even be wailing walls. Members can winkle out of their shells those who are so shattered by their stuttering that they are afraid to emerge into the world to seek help. Some people who stutter cannot admit even to themselves that they are handicapped. Many refuse to have therapy. Others will not join self-help groups or go to meetings about stuttering in case they label themselves as people who stutter. They reject their real stuttering selves from shame or fear. The real challenge for the Association is to bring these lonely, isolated closet stutterers out of their shells into the open and encourage them to live fully in fellowship with others in this frustrating but wonderful world.

Thank you very much Jock for such a wonderful, insightful and heart lifting article - Ottawa Conference '93, Speechmasters of Ottawa

CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993

San Francisco, August 13-16, 1992


Reprinted with permission from


Suggestions for managing your stuttering:

1. Stuttering will be with you forever and will not go away. There will always be a stuttering residual, so learn how to deal with those moments of stuttering.

2. There is "GOOD" stuttering and there is "BAD" stuttering. Learn how to identify both. GOOD stuttering involves low tension, is miniature in magnitude, is unpredictable (the stuttering word "Just happens to you") and has low awareness and high tolerance. There is little monitoring.

BAD stuttering involves high tension, struggle, high awareness, and low tolerance with all the old negative feelings about "that moment."

If you do not do anything about the BAD stuttering, it will always stay that way. You should have zero tolerance for your BAD stuttering and high tolerance for your GOOD stuttering.

3. Tolerate your GOOD stuttering. You might not very good at this at first because most therapies have required you to monitor all your stuttering and not to ignore it. Use your monitoring energy to work on changing your BAD stuttering. This focus on the BAD stuttering is where your energy should be.

Other people might not be too good at tolerating stuttering either but you can't change the world (all those listeners), so just worry about yourself. Peoples' reactions never get any better than how YOU perceive their reactions to be. Self-tolerance is of paramount importance.

4. Use positive self-talk. Fight against any negative self-talk. You are an important person - tell yourself that often. To make things work for the better takes dedication, effort, time, and commitment on your part. Be free and open, both with your stuttering and with yourself. Keep a positive attitude and do not start to stutter BEFORE you begin to speak. Keep moving forward.

5. Take risks. Avoidance can be a continuing problem. Avoidances are signs of listener intimidation, fear, holding back, lack of ego power, etc. The more risks you take the better. Tap into your potential.

6. Do not monitor your speech all the time. This is too hard to do and only becomes part of the problem and not a part of the solution. It is better to have GOOD stuttering and less monitoring than monitored speech and no stuttering. You will not be able to keep up this monster monitoring for long. Strive to become an unmonitored stutterer.

7. You don't have to stutter in the same way for the rest of your life. Vary it and change it to a more acceptable form of stuttering for you - turn your BAD stuttering into GOOD stuttering.

8. You don't have to learn to speak fluently - there is nothing wrong with your speech motor. But you do need to practice speaking fluently and to apply the same amount of energy to it that you use to stutter. People who stutter often go from stuttered word to stuttered word and they use a lot of energy in the process. Speaking fluently starts with first words and ends with the last word. Make yourself go THROUGH a sentence rather than stopping and starting with each stuttered word - use enough energy to MAKE yourself talk more fluently. Remember to tolerate the GOOD stuttering when you do this.

9. Pick apart your BAD stuttering and find out what you are doing and how you can change/modify it. Touch and feel your BAD stuttering and then change it.

10. Options for working through your BAD stuttering:

    1. If you anticipate a BAD stuttered word, sneak up on it and change it to easy stuttering. Say the word smoothly, gently, easily - then go on.
    2. Stop after you have had a BAD stuttered word. Pause and say it again smoothly, gently, easily - then go on.
    3. Figure out those stuttering trigger postures. Where do you get stuck and, physically, what are you doing when you stutter? No voice? Voice and no movement? Tongue stuck? Holding your breath? Etc.? Change and modify those stuttering trigger postures.
    4. Slide out of the BAD stuttered word (while you are stuttering) smoothly, gently, easily - then go on.
    5. Freeze the BAD stuttered word and hold it until you can smoothly, gently, and easily release yourself from the stuttering trigger posture - then go on.
    6. Figure out what stuttering modifier you care to use, and use it consistently/constantly on your BAD stuttering. A few of these modifiers are: soft/gentle contact with smooth flow through the word; airflow; "easy speech"; using the voice as a carrier wave through the sentence; and, stretch and string.
    7. Do not substitute any word for the one that you really wanted to say. Also, do not substitute negative self-talk for positive self-talk.
    8. Do not try NOT to stutter because that takes too much monitoring. Stutter openly, freely, easily, without tension or trigger postures, and without shame or embarrassment. If you can gain this powerful attitude you will always be in great shape and you will stutter much less than you think possible.

CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993


Reprinted with Permission from

Gerald F. Johnson, Ph.D.
School of Communicative Disorders
University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, Wisconsin

From Journal of Fluency Disorders, 12. (1987), 9-18.


Hard-core stutterers require long-term self-help maintenance skills. In spite of how successful the laboratory achievement of fluency skills is, it is inevitable that some stuttering either remains or returns after termination of therapy. Most successful programs develop self-help skills so that the severe stutterer can continue to generate acceptable speech. This maintenance program is intended to complement any therapy and integrates the stutterers self-help skills into his or her lifestyle.



This report is directed towards the person who stutters and who usually has accomplished a therapy program. At the conclusion of most therapy programs, the person who stutters continues to need some support for their reality testing. In addition, some persons begin to lose their therapy status - some stuttering returns, which might shake their confidence. Sometimes, stutterers refuse to return to therapy for booster treatments because they find it difficult to confront their clinician with their "failure" of not maintaining their clinical fluency. We find it to be very important to present our maintenance program immediately before termination so that a complete understanding of all the concepts can be achieved. At this point, nothing should be left for chance, so we usually tape record our discussion with the client so that he or she can keep and refer back to our discussion whenever they wish to. The client is made aware of our interest in providing "booster shots" whenever he or she determines the need for them.


These ideas are directed towards the hard-core stutterer. Do you consider yourself to be hard- core? Most people in the field of communicative disorders would use the terms like "secondary", "advanced", and/or "confirmed" when referring to the hard-core stutterer. Hard-core stutterers are people who 1) think of themselves as stutterers; 2) anticipate global and/or specific feared stuttering moments (global = a generalized fear of stuttering; specific = fear of sounds, words, situations, triggering postures); 3) have avoidant speech behavior; 4) evidence covert/overt associated disfluent behavior (a nonspeech struggle gradient that causes global and specific maladaptive tensiveness such as, "I feel nervous"; hyperventilation, irregular breathing; sweaty palms); 5) are occasionally "surprised" by their stuttering even after "successful" therapy; and 6) experienced a negative psychology about themselves and sometimes about other people who are associated with the person's stuttering. According to Sheehan (1975), the "principal ingredients in the psychology of stuttering" are:

Sheehan's (1975) solution to the stuttering problem is "...role acceptance as a stutterer eliminates much of the false role behavior that comprises stuttering and leads towards normal speech" (p.188).

These 10 Commandments are dedicated to the hard-core stutterer. It is towards an improved role acceptance that these ideas were formulated.


1. Undertake an objective self-analysis.
2. Develop rational thinking.
3. Work for philosophic change.
4. Achieve spontaneity.
5. Keep yourself healthy.
6. Do not fall victim to the guru complex.
7. Do not procrastinate.
8. Achieve independence.
9. Your choice - talk to yourself.
10. Monitor, Action, and Performance (MAP) - your way to fluency.

1. Undertake an Objective Self-analysis

Make a list of your assets and liabilities. Be both kind (assets) and brutal (liabilities). Take your asset list and put each on an index card and tape the cards in conspicuous places around your house. Pick out your "best", most desirable asset and tape it onto your mirror. Before leaving your residence, pick one of your other assets and carry it around with you during the day. Meditate on this asset at least four times during the day. Pick another one each day until you really believe in each one.

Now for the brutal side - your liabilities. How many of your liabilities are related to your stuttering? Write these liabilities down on a separate piece of paper for later reference. The liabilities that are related to your stuttering will be taken care of as you plan your MAP (Commandment 10). Of the remaining liabilities, how many of them realistically can be changed? Rank in order your liabilities from "best" to "worst". Then, make a list of all the solutions you can possibly think of for each liability. Then rank in order your solutions from "easiest" to "hardest" to accomplish. The key here is to identify very small, gradual solutions for each liability that leads to a modification or solution of that liability. Pick out one liability and put it on an index card along with three possible solutions and take it along with you that day. Meditate and act on this liability at least three times during the day. The next day either continue with the same liability or pick another one. However, do not persevere over any one liability so long that you create additional frustration in yourself.

Put each of the remaining liabilities, the ones with no solution or the ones you feel are too powerful to overcome, on an index card and pick one out each week - the same day and time - and burn it! As you burn that liability, think of something "funny" about it, or take you most important asset from your mirror and read it over and over again as the card burns. Once the card is completely burned, take the ashes outside and, with as deep a breath that you can take, blow the ashes away. Let out a loud Tarzan yell before you leave that place. Carry out this ritual each week until all your unsolvable liabilities are all "taken care of". "Big feet" was an unsolvable liability listed by a stutterer I worked with. Maybe he should kick away the ashes for that one.

2. Develop Rational Thinking

How realistic, objective, honest, and forthright are you with yourself? How many unrealistic expectations or demands do you place on yourself? Think about this for a moment. Make an attempt at moving through your life space with as few bumps and grinds as possible. To whom do you have to prove your competency? What do you have to prove? Are you caught up in a power struggle for position? How are you being intimidated? If you feel timid or fearful, then intimidation is a possible root cause. Is your intimidation internal or external? Of what magnitude? If you find increased disfluency in your everyday behavioral system (in addition to speech disfluency), then you have an identifiable signal that all is not well.

Some people are skilful manipulators - people become pawns on their chessboard and move according to the rules of that person. The artful manipulator is adept at managing other people's lives. It's a form of bondage and servitude. The primary breadwinner who "gives" his or her mate an "allowance" (which often just barely covers expenses) is manipulating that mate to servitude and begging. There is a power struggle here, with the manipulator holding the golden key.

The stutterer who tries to please his or her listener (how often have you heard that one?) and tries not to stutter, only to stutter more, is and has been intimidated and manipulated for too long a time. How long, oh Lord, how long? If you can't afford to stutter, you will! Rational thinking will lead you to the cognitive process of accepting more realistic beliefs and self- management skills, which will allow you to produce a more realistic alternative behavioral action. One of the first goals in some stuttering therapies is to have the stutterer stutter openly, without shame, guilt, and hostility. In other words, give yourself permission to do the thing (stutter) you are going to do anyway. This rational approach often leads to reduced stuttering.

Thus, rational thinking leads to an objective, self-help, realistic attitude with a positive outcome. Your self-induced panic/flight attacks will then subside because of your positive, forward-moving, responsible attitude. You have now taken responsibility for your actions. An example is when you have vigorously approached speaking, thereby eliminating any avoidance reaction you may have.

3. Work for Philosophic Change

What philosophical beliefs do you hold about your position in the cosmos, and how do these beliefs affect your life? We are living breathing, emoting, ever-changing specks of sand cast upon the human desert. Our pre-destination is embryonic as it awaits the limitless bombardment of environment. Our environmental twists and turns become conditioned fewer and of less magnitude with the passing of time, and we become "set in our ways", both actually and philosophically. Therein lies the danger. We become less resilient, less adaptable, and more entrenched and fearful of change and new or different ideas. Our philosophic spirit becomes endangered. We are given to philosophic tunnel vision.

Philosophies, however myopic they might be, can be changed through exposure to variety. However, a person needs to be willing to actively and eagerly seek out variety - to test, to expand, to try, to dare, to feel, to do.

Consistency and stability bring comfort to us, but this comfort can lead to stagnation, inhibition, fear, and anxiety of change. How possessed we become with this self-protection can lead to isolationism and to a stabilized philosophy that internally leads to a fallacious self-superiority that becomes supported by avoidant behavior and shallow thinking in order to preserve our philosophic superiority (or should one say our superficiality?).

Solution? Risk-taking! Risk your mind, spirit, and body. Expose yourself to life and its' peaks and valleys, its joys and pleasures, and its' hurts and pains. Stuttering thrives in isolation. Stuttering, however, weakens through exposure to an increase in talking time. An increase in talking time means contracting with yourself to make contact with your environment. Your personal philosophy and your need to protect the integrity of the self can make or break your personal contract. Accept what cannot be changed, but break loose from what can be changed. Tie together your self-analysis, your rational thinking, and your expanded philosophy.

4. Achieve Spontaneity

Anticipation is your worst enemy. Risk-takers are spontaneous people - they take a chance. They let it all "hang out" without guilt, self-doubt, and inhibition. These people are the leapers in our society. These leapers have jumped and discovered that spontaneity does not kill.

Inhibition is natural. It is the offspring of early childhood. Most of us were taught our early behavioral pattern through an older person's admonitions to be careful, to stop, to be quiet, to mind our manners, to inhibit the imperfections of childhood. In other words, we were taught to please other people before we dared think about pleasing ourselves. How much of our early childhood was manipulated in this way determines the strength of our adult inhibitions. How difficult it is to please all those people out there! All the demands of other people are impossible to meet, but we try! We try to be friends, to be liked, and to conform to the needs of other people. Our needs become subservient to our obsession to do the right things. Those persons who try to please everyone else soon find that they have nothing left to give to themselves.

Share your goodness, helpfulness, kindness, caring, etc., but save some for yourself. Your ego power will then be firm enough for you to give yourself permission to be yourself - to expose your every wart and imperfection without wondering if you've done the "right" thing. We all are people striving to be liked and to put our best foot forward. How then can we afford to stutter? To take a chance? To risk it? The irony of it all is that other people will admire your courage, fortitude, drive, and motivation when they observe your self-help efforts. You've got guts!

What does it take? Spontaneity! Let'er rip! Take a chance. Stuttering does not kill. Hard-core stutterers live to a ripe old age. Get off the tight rope that leads to nowhere, and set your sights on giving yourself some space and emotional freedom.

5. Keep Yourself Healthy

Develop a healthy respect for your mind, body, and spirit. Proper diet, rest, physical activity, and spiritual solace are all important components.

Proper diet, of course, is the cornerstone of good health. Remember the food groups (grain, meat, fruit, vegetables and dairy) and stick to them. Moderation is the key to good health, with some latitude for occasionally "going ape". The one ingredient that the food groups do not provide is willpower! That's what the self-help movement is all about. With a healthy body comes a healthy outlook, because you have the energy to make things happen.

A few minutes of meditation and relaxation each day can help the spirit. Do you have a safe place? A place where you can go to contemplate your navel or anything else you might wish? To relax? To self-hypnotize? Try this next time: go to your safe place and assume a comfortable position. Make a tight, tense fist and hold this tension long enough to have it travel up your arms and spread to your upper body, your neck, and face. Increase the tension to a point of almost being exhausted. Maybe you'll get "the shakes" because of the tension. Now slowly, slowly, slowly release the tension in your neck, head, and upper body, and let this tension flow out through your hands and fingers. Don't make this relaxation occur, let it happen to you. It may not be easy at first - you might be too tense to allow yourself to relax. Keep trying. When you have released your tension, let your thoughts travel to a pleasant place feeling, or event. Maybe it's a fantasy. It does not matter. Visualize it, go to it, float to it. Close your eyes. Are you there? Stay as long as you like. Feel, sense, taste, smell the pleasure! Feel refreshed, secure, happy, pleasant, and safe as you slowly open your eyes. Take another minute before you move. Carry these moments with you as you leave and return to reality. How long you allow this feeling to stay with you is up to you. Over a period of time, the safe place feeling will last longer and longer and your induction time will become shorter and shorter.

Approach life vigorously and with a positive attitude. Some of us do not like what we do - it's not fun. We go through the motions in a relatively dispassionate way. Our body language often mirrors our internal moods. We hold back, we slouch, we take reluctant steps forward. In the next phone call you make, take the phone off the hook and dial with authority. Take personal responsibility for being there. Be enthusiastic and forward-moving. Have fun through self- exploration. Make your conscious behavior and performance work for you.

6. Do Not Fall Victim to the Guru Complex

Some persons go from pillar to post and back again seeking the "Holy Grail". Is one therapy method better than another? Is one therapist better than another? Ask yourself this question. Did I achieve laboratory fluency or symptomatic control over my stuttering? If the answer is yes, you need go no further. You have all the tools necessary to perform just as well outside the laboratory as anyone else. Let's stop and think for a moment about the speech act. We take air in and we let it out. As the air goes out, we vibrate the vocal folds to make sounds and we move our articulators to produce speech. Simple! In your therapy, did you do anything differently to speak? No! Yes? Rate control, airflow, analysis of stuttering and trigger postures, DAF, Edinburgh masker, easy speech, soft contacts, syllable stretch, etc.? Okay, but wait Didn't you get air in and out, vibrate the vocal folds, and move your articulators? Where's the magic?

The Guru complex is dangerous because it tends to take power away from the person who stutters (us) and vests it in the therapist. The Websters, Schwartzs, Van Ripers, Sheehans, etc. and their clones do not hold the power to change you. They are the conductors of the orchestra, but nothing more. If you believe that fluency is projected to you by any one person or method, you are wrong. The power for change can only come from within. And, don't believe claims of cure or preposterous statements of uniqueness and originality.

Those of us who are hard-core stutterers know better than to believe in Gurus. Then what should we believe in? Our own innate ability to change our behavioral performance! Actively seek out self-initiated challenges. Don't wait for something to happen to you - make it happen. It may be an uphill battle, but keep pushing. Wishing will not make it happen.

7. Do Not Procrastinate

Procrastination is a non-choice. It is ambivalence and apathy at their worst and produces a push/pull, approach/ avoidance complex. What other choices are available? Although there are probably many choices, I'd like to propose only one: Commitment. Commitment can be scary if you think of it as forcing you to do something you don't care to do. Its not a dare: "Go ahead - you can do it!"

Commitment can be an exhilarating exercise in utilizing your knowledge, skills, and talent to put a plan into effect that is beneficial to your psyche. A person who is committed takes a stand and goes for it. This person is a problem-solver who takes the bull by the horns, moves forward, and takes a chance.

With commitment, you still have two choices: to commit or not to commit. Let's look at both of these choices. Its pretty obvious what advantages there are to being committed, namely, self-gratification and gratification from others, goal achievement positive change, etc. But, what are the problems of not being committed? The biggest problems are often guilt and rationalization. But, is not being committed a viable option? No, but we can learn a great deal with the various gradients of commitment. We must learn to deal with modifiers such as "maybe", "later", "soon", etc. As with most performance objectives, there is always a hierarchy of events from which to choose. Let's look at a few of the possibilities. Are you committed to improving your speech performance? Yes. Are you committed to answering your telephone? Yes. Are you committed to talking in front of your church congregation? No! If it's not important to you, let your "no" stand. However, you might parenthetically qualify your "no" by saying to yourself "not now". A qualified commitment? An avoidance? Sure, at this time. Guilt? No! The possibility still exists for speaking in front of your church congregation at a time when your level of commitment matches your confidence level. Avoidant behavior is very difficult to analyze, but one thing to keep in mind is the strength of your personal confidence in your ability to speak in a manner that is acceptable to you. Guilt is a destructive force that has no place in this problem-solving process. Not talking to the congregation was neither procrastination nor avoidant behavior. Instead, it was a realistic appraisal of your confidence to speak at a level of fluency that would be acceptable to you and commensurate with your ego power.

One word of caution - once you do commit yourself to the speech act and you back away from it, you surely do have an avoidance problem. Once you commit yourself to talk - you want to talk - you must. If you stutter, it doesn't matter because the goal was to talk. If your goal was to talk and not stutter, you were probably doomed to failure because you set an unrealistic goal.

In summary then, do not procrastinate. Make a commitment that is commensurate with your skill level. Do not feel guilty about avoiding if your confidence level is too weak to support your commitment level. However, once committed, do it!

8. Achieve Independence

Once you've gone through the sliding door and it closes behind you, keep walking, hold your head up high, put some starch in your backbone, and don't look back. Other people cannot lead your life for you, nor should they. They really don't know what it's like to walk in your shoes anyway. Be wary of advice-givers because you are your own person and how other people might perform or act might be entirely different from how you would.

Being a hard-core stutterer is not pleasant - it's tough and filled with anger, hostility, and frustration - but you've made it this far and you survived in your own way, even though it wasn't easy. There is a point of fluency and symptomatic control beyond which the hard-core stutterer cannot go. That statement should not depress anyone. It should only give you a sense of reality that will allow you to better accept yourself and help you gain independence from a further search for the "perfect" therapy. The hard-core stutterer's dependence is a byproduct of the dreaded feelings about stuttering - any stuttering.

There might come a time in the future when a psycho, neuro, physio, chemo, or some kind of "ologist" will discover (probably inadvertently) the pink pill to "cure" stuttering. Until that time, be thankful you are you and continue your vigorous pursuit of self-satisfaction and personal independence.

9. Your Choice - Talk to Yourself

Give yourself a pep talk, but be gentle, compassionate, self-indulgent, caring, loving, and (most of all) understanding. If you like yourself, you'll like others too. Touch yourself and allow others to touch you too as you find new joy in a sharing and caring relationship. It's okay to be selective too. You don't have to love everybody, but then don't expect everybody to love you. So what! Most people have no more than a handful of close friends (friends so close that you can confide to them your darkest, deepest thoughts and feelings). It's your choice.

People who stutter are one bunch of humanity who are humane. We are good listeners, empathetic, humanely humble, caring, deep thinkers, and downright good people. We are also vulnerable. We try too hard at times to please other people, often at our own sacrifice. We are forgiving too. to forgive is to forget, but too many people are neither forgiving nor forgetting. So be it! Do not seek the lowest common denominator in your life. Rise above the puny, self-serving person who attempts to detract from others for the sole purpose of building his or her pseudo-ego.

Be quick with your humor and joy of life. There is humor all around us, including the play on words, the "serious" moment turned humorous, not taking oneself seriously, the funny trip of the tongue, and the funny looks and expressions a stutterer gets while stuttering. Defuse the issue. Sometimes stutterers enjoy their stuttering. They look forward to the stuttering moment and even verbally take a jab at it: "Heck, I can stutter better than that if you give me the time."

It's your choice. Do with it what you will.

10. MAP - Your Way to Fluency (or Anything Else You Wish to Accomplish)

MAP is an acronym for Monitor, Action, and Performance. To start, you identify the therapy behavioral objectives that you want to monitor, such as airflow, cancellation, easy speech, eye contact, stretch and string, and fluency enhancement. Also, remember the liabilities that were related to your stuttering. These behaviors can be monitored too. In other words, anything that is behavior can be monitored.

Evaluate your performance according to three stars. The easiest behavioral objective you wish to monitor receives a one star performance rating. The most difficult warrants a three star rating.

After you have developed your list of monitored behaviors and performance standards, put yourself into action. Seven days a week, three times a day, you must accomplish one or more behavioral objectives. After each performance, rate the difficulty of that speech situation on a three-point scale. So, at the end of the week you know what objectives you worked on, what your performance was, and how difficult each speaking situation was for you.

MAP is everything we have discussed - a means of identifying, performing, and evaluating. Plan and carry through with your own MAP - your road to self-realization, actualization, and independence. Go for it!


Sheehan, J.G., Conflict theory and avoidance - reduction therapy. In Eisenson, J. (ed). Stuttering - A Second Symposium. New York: Harper & Row, 1975, pp. 187-88.

CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993



Thanks to Willard Mohr for permitting us to reprint his fluency facilitators. Will Mohr is a long-time Speechmasters of Ottawa member and friend, having taken the PFSP program at the Rehabilitation Centre in Ottawa and having been an active member of the Ottawa self-help group for many years. Will Mohr is now retired and lives in Calgary, Alberta and is active in the Calgary self-help group.


Concentrate on maintaining your composure in a stressful speaking situation, such as a formal speech. Don't allow yourself to be rushed at any point. MAKE TIME MY FRIEND... Don't fight it... HANG LOOSE. Just concentrate on the fluency skills, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. Don't get rattled, panicky, thinking about how much of the speech there is still left to go. Speak in phrases, with effective pausing; this makes it manageable - which is important in achieving fluency skills.


This helps me tune in to fluency skills. After years of practising and using targets, and everyone taking my fairly fluent speech for granted, its easy to become complacent and not focus on the skills for fluency. Zeroing in on targets must remain first and foremost in my mind.


This puts into a nutshell what I must do foremost when I am in a stressful speaking situation, e.g. that special phone call, introductions, a formal speech. I must use fluency skills DELIBERATELY.


Avoidance is no longer realistic considering my improved fluency skills, which I make work most of the time (especially when I put my mind to it!).


Be realistic. Get right back into action. Don't let the problem INCUBATE and grow out of proportion.


Substances (caffeine, alcohol, sugar...) which can affect our general well-being, and consequently our speech, are a problem for some of us. (For me, diet is not much of a factor).


When dysfluency occurs, such as in a formal presentation, adjust to it and get right BACK ON TRACK. Try an immediate interjection such as " There will be a brief intermission between words due to technical difficulties". Comic relief, perhaps, but it breaks the ice - this helps to bring it out in the open. (A good idea - I was better at this one!).


When tired, feeling out of sorts, or under the weather, breathing is often affected and speech usually suffers. Try to avoid getting tired or sick but when they occur, recognize that an adjustment is needed and exaggerate fluency skills more.


Lead some conversation rather than just following passively. Taking the initiative builds confidence, facilitates a sense of control, and aids fluency.


I find reading out aloud especially good practice - a slow normal rate, trying to get expression into it with effective pauses.


There's only one me, and only one you. As speakers, it is our most cherished possession - cling to it, develop it. It is the spark that puts force and sincerity into our speaking. It is our only real claim of importance.


After so many years of not enjoying speaking and not showing it, this comes as a switch but it can add so much to the way we come across. Show enthusiasm when speaking, smile, enjoy talking.


Benefit from recurring dysfluencies, recognize that they will improve, BUT don't be shattered by them or even set back by then. They are no big deal. Be realistic, recognize how great the improvement has been overall and continue to go forward.


I like to try manipulating my speech at times, feeling the ELASTICITY by going a little faster occasionally with a lighter feel of targets, then slower with more feel of targets. Varying the degree of target exaggeration in this way gives a feel of controlling one's voice rather than the other way around.


After years of monitoring my speech I find that I can recall the targets and bring them into play very easily - without thinking, almost. BUT, along with this comes the tendency to drift into spontaneous speech with a resulting drop in fluency. Every now and then I have to "jog my mind" to get back to more structured, disciplined speech (using the targets more deliberately - " deserved" fluency). This makes me sound a bit different from the other 99% of people out there but I have to resist that tendency to conform and DARE TO BE DIFFERENT!

Updated October 23rd, 1995

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