Monday, March 26, 2012
Does the 'borderline stutterer' exist?
Some years ago in our self-help group for people who stutter in Johannesburg I met a man who mentioned that he only stuttered on two or three words and was otherwise completely fluent. It didn’t really bother him, he said, as he word-substituted if really necessary. He didn’t regard himself as a ‘real’ stutterer, spoke fluently as far as I could tell and only attended one meeting, apparently to find out what caused his minor dysfluency.
I would call this person a ‘borderline stutterer’, and it would seem that not much is known of this category, if it in fact exists. I have never read anything about similar cases; and this lack of information could be because this type of stutterer rarely if ever visits a speech therapist, simply because they don’t need therapy.
Even so I think that it is a very important category because it may shed more light on the disorder. If a person just stutters on one word, would it not strengthen the hypothesis that stuttering is in large part conditioned struggle behaviour reinforced over the years?
I hypothesise that borderline stutterers exist and that they can offer important information about stuttering. If stuttering is regarded as a spectrum ranging in severity from near muteness to very minor, it makes sense that you will also get stutterers who have very few symptoms, sometimes so minor that they can hardly be described as stutterers.
Therefore I am looking for borderline cases. If you are a person who only stutters on one or two words or sounds, please participate in the informal survey below. Or if you are a speech student/therapist/researcher, why not do some research yourself? You could get great marks / impress colleagues / become famous ... :-)