Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fill in the blanks

Here's a little test for you. Fill in the blank at the beginning of each sentence. Don't take too long - just come up with something that seems to fit the definition. The result will not count towards your final grade. ;-)

1. ____ is a morbidity of social consciousness, a hypersensitivity of social attitude, a pathological response. 2. ____is the result of conflict between opposed urges to speak and to hold back from speaking. 3. ____ is the disorganization of normally fluent speech that is a consequence of conditioned emotion. 4. ____ is a symptom of an emotionally disturbed personality that profoundly affects the physical, mental and emotional life. 5. ____ is a habit of making elaborate preparations for speech on the assumption that it is a difficult and treacherous process. 6. ____ is an anticipatory, apprehensive, hyptertonic avoidance reaction. 7. ____ is a psycho-neurosis caused by persistence into later life of early pregenital oral nursing, with oral-sadistic and anal-sadistic components. 8. ____ is to speak or say with involuntary pauses, spasms and repetition of sounds and syllables.

Did you guess that the answer to the first definition was stuttering? How about the second? The third? Yep, the answer to all eight definitions is stuttering. The first seven definitions were taken from the following experts in stuttering by Marcel Wingate in his book Foundations of Stuttering: J.H. Fletcher, 1958, J.G. Sheehan, 1953, E. Bruten & G. Shoemaker, 1967, M. Gifford, 1958, O. Bloodstein, 1984, W. Johnson, 1948, I. Coriat, 1958.

The final definition was taken from Webster's New World Dictionary. Now go back and look at those seven definitions generated by "experts" and compare it to the dictionary definition. Doesn't the general-use dictionary make more sense than the expert definitions? Of the expert definitions, one, four, five and six don't even mention speech! Wouldn't you think that a definition of stuttering would at least mention speech, if not, you know, stuttered speech? Numbers two, three and five could refer to any anxiety over speech, such as stage fright. When Marcel Wingate gave this test to his speech pathology class, very few were able to come up with correct answers.

The truth is that these "definitions" excepting the plain-English dictionary offering - are actually efforts to rationalize certain theories of stuttering. All of them are psychological in nature. Some are still popular today. If I could do one thing for stuttering therapy education, I'd make every young prospective therapist get the final, dictionary definition tattooed somewhere on their body. Just so they don't forget, stuttering is stuttering.

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