Thursday, June 1, 2017

My current view of stuttering - and its treatment

This diagram shows my current tentative thinking about stuttering ... the icon for the "mindbody" (psycho-physical) component is larger because it seems to play a more prominent part than the other "day-to-day" non-mindbody stresses that also impact on fluency.

Stuttering can be tackled at any of these three levels: at the top, the mindbody issues such as repressed emotions (fear, rage etc.); in the middle, the tensions generated by either the mindbody or by other, non-mindbody stresses; and at the bottom, the tension-related vocal-cord "freezing" or "locking" that results in conditioned repetitions, prolongations, secondary behaviours such as stamping a foot etc.

Of course, if mindbody issues are regarded as the actual cause of stuttering, and treated by way of mindbody healing, it would theoretically not be necessary to reduce tension (at the middle level) or work on preventing the vocal-cord blocks (at the bottom level). In real life, however, stress management and some way of dealing with the vocal-cord blocks would support mindbody healing. For instance, relapses at the upper level of the mindbody would be counteracted by stress management at the middle level. And fluency techniques such as Passive Airflow, Slow / Easy Onset, breathing techniques etc. would still have a purpose to reduce vocal-cord tension at the bottom level.

Feel free to join my "Stuttering as a mindbody disorder" Facebook group ! 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Stuttering and the highly sensitive child (HSC)

Is hypersensitivity a factor in the onset of stuttering? More than 80% of people who stutter are HSPs (Highly Sensitive Persons), yet this fact is seldom discussed in stuttering groups - probably because it's not politically correct to talk about psychological issues in stuttering. So, a few words on HSPs, particularly highly sensitive children (HSC), as this personality trait is probably a major factor in a child beginning to stutter due to subconscious repressed emotions. I would guess that a hypersensitive, introverted child is more likely to repress his unacceptable emotions, thereby risking the onset of stuttering.
About 1/5 of the human population is hypersensitive, meaning that their sensory system (touch, sounds, etc.) is more finely attuned than others. On the upside, they tend to experience life more intensely and deeply - and many great artists, thinkers and other achievers are or were HSPs. On the downside it is easier for them to be overwhelmed by sensory stimuli, stress and life in general. Their fight / flight / freeze response is stronger, and anxiety, particularly social anxiety, is common. They are usually, but not always, introverts and shy - though they can overcome shyness - and they take longer to make decisions.

"Orchid children"

HSCs have been described as "orchid children". Like orchids, they can develop into extraordinary individuals if their sensitivity is taken into account. Hypersensitivity is an inherent trait and society should not try to change them, as they are not "abnormal". They tend to prefer quiet, slow, solitary and structured environments and value privacy, using "me-time" to reload their batteries, and they avoid noise and crowds, often wanting to stay at home rather than going out. Too many extramural activities should be avoided, and they prefer smaller parties rather than large gatherings. They like to be prepared for any change in routines, and prefer predictable outcomes rather than unpleasant surprises.
Stressful sports do not work for these children - they perform best in more solitary sports such as bicycle riding, long-distance running, rock climbing etc. Oral exams, asking questions in class etc. can be a nightmare for them.
The above facts are based on the advice of a leading occupational therapist here in South Africa, and I hope that it will assist caregivers in helping their highly sensitive children reach their full potential and perhaps reducing or even eliminating stuttering. Being an HSP myself I can attest to the value of these tips!
For more information on HSC, check out the following bestseller by the famous psychologist Dr Elaine Aron: The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When The World Overwhelms Them (2002).