Stuttering

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"IIIII Can Can Can't Heeeelp It: Stuttering to the Truth"

"Stuttering is something the stutterer does, not something he has, because of something he is." --Wendell Johnson

Can you imagine not being able to introduce yourself without struggling to pronounce your own name? What would your life be like if you had to battle every time you said "hello"? How would you feel if a mob of security guards surrounded you at Wal-Mart because an employee had mistaken you for being mentally ill ((1))?

These are just a few scenarios that 42-year-old Kurt Salierno, a carpenter and minister from Atlanta, encounters everyday. Salierno has a stuttering disorder, which more than 3 million people in the United States and 55 million people around the world struggle with daily. Salierno describes his problem as similar to being trapped in a glass capsule; "I can see out, but there's no way to get out" ((1)). Salierno's feelings and views about what he experiences raises some interesting questions. What is reality like for a person with a stuttering disorder? Is the "I" that is trapped inside the capsule representative of the self that he cannot express due to his disorder? Internally, Salierno is conscious of the words, which he wishes to express. However, Salierno is seldom able to produce these words externally. Does a stutterer create his or her own reality within his or her mind? To the stutterer, does independent experience become reality? With reference to the philosophical thought experiment about the tree falling in a forest, does a stutterer make a sound if no one can hear him or her make that sound?

Stuttering is a neurological disorder of communication, from which the normal flow of speech is disrupted by repetitions (neu-neu-neuro), prolongations (biiiii-ol-ooogy), or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables. Rapid eye blinking, tremors of the lips and/or jaw, or other struggle behaviors of the face or upper body may accompany speech disruptions ((3)). Why does stuttering worsen in situations that involve speaking before a group of people or talking on the phone, whereas fluency of speech improves in situations such as whispering, acting, talking to pets, speaking alone, or singing ((1))? In ancient times, physicians believed that the stutterer's tongue was either too long or too short, too wet or too dry. Therefore, practitioners from the mid-1800s tried surgical remedies such as drilling holes into the skull or cutting pieces of the tongue out to eliminate stuttering ((1) ).

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