Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book Talk - Understanding Stuttering

As I read to inform myself and gather material, I'd like to pass on my opinion of various books - a sort of a Consumer's Report for stuttering books, if you will. I'll start with Nathan Lavid M.D.'s small book Understanding Stuttering (2003). At 75 pages of text, plus appendix, glossary and bibliography, it's an easy read, and is written for a general audience. Chapters are: 1. Stuttering Defined, 2. Who Stutters, 3. The Biology of Stuttering, 4. Treatments of Stuttering, and 5. Searching for a Cure.

Such a small book has the virtue of getting to the point quickly, and the vice of not always making its point properly. The first two chapters do the job reasonably well for the general reader not familiar with stuttering or the stuttering literature. The third chapter, The Biology of Stuttering does rather well for its size, discussing relevant brain structure and language-generating areas, brain imaging research, pharmacology and genetics.

The fourth chapter, Treatments for Stuttering, is a disappointment. There is a discussion of brain plasticity and the much-discussed factors that induce fluency (choral speech, singing, adaptation, etc), but the only look at actual speech therapy we get is the author's own practice of Cognitive-behavioral therapy. Nothing on fluency shaping, Van Riper's stuttering modification or operant behavioral practice. After four and a half pages, he goes on to pharmacology and examines various drugs that have been used to treat stuttering. Rather a disappointment there.

The final chapter - Searching for a Cure - is all of seven pages long, and offers little of substance.

All in all, I'd rate it worth borrowing from the library - as I did. The content seems to be reliable as written, only suffering for what it lacks. For those with little time or lacking the inclination to dig into the stuttering literature, this would be a good start.

I'll give it Three Stars out of five. Some good content, but not not long enough to cover the topics properly. In the case of the therapy section, entirely unsatisfactory.

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