We who stutter need more speech-language pathologists with the courage and blunt honesty like what SpeechIRL demonstrated in their new article, “Just Stop with the Damn Disfluency Counts.” The pseudo-anonymous, united approach of this call-to-arms by SpeechIRL is commendable, and perhaps a foundation for a wider proactive movement—not just a discussion—to confront this aged-out stutter-counting practice. And that is how I took it, one step, or a place to start, towards changing one of the practices that keeps we who stutter recycling through a system that truly desires to help us graduate.
While I eventually graduated, it wasn’t until I stumbled upon an SLP who didn’t count my individual stuttering moments or behaviors, and instead focused on how stuttering was impacting the totality of my lived experience. And, at least to my knowledge, never charted any specific data during the entire duration of my time in therapy (I assume my SLP used OASES or a similar method in private).
As a person who stutters, though, I cannot help but emphasize what the counting felt like after living through it for 15 years. The article is spot on, the evaluations in which speech samples are taken are moments in time, unlike any other situation we who stutter face. In fact, they are feared, especially after you go through them a few times and know what to expect. I can almost see the sentences and paragraphs about the plumber and the quick brown fox as if I just read them in front of a recording device. Granted, they have probably changed since then but the process is the same. Count my silences, blocks, and fidgety hands, but that isn’t even scratching the surface of my inner experience.
The message that I always took away from my evaluations was I am not making progress and (head in my palms) I’m going to be marked as severe again. Can you imagine what that’s like for a recidivist like me with a severe stutter? Counting my stuttering moments proved and told me that I was failing.
If this is coming off as anger at my SLPs, then you are missing the intended mark. One SLP changing what data they count and how they collect it is not going to change the system they learned how to do it from and now work within. While it will change the life of one of us who stutters, systems drive change not individual acts of courage.
And, what was even more astonishing is that SLPs aren’t even required to count literal moments of stuttering, which is absurd given the added trauma it inflicts as evidenced from my story alone. Stuttering therapy is meant to be a therapeutic experience. Why has it not been done away with yet? If there is no barrier to using data collected from observing the impact of stuttering on the client’s life, then—I guess I don’t understand what the system is waiting for? Is it accessibility of alternatives like OASES? Are there not enough teachers to have a wide-ranging effort to implement the alternative? Is it a fear of going against what has always been done because that’s the way it is taught? It’s unfortunate that I already know the answers to these questions as an outsider.
Please, heed this call by SpeechIRL. Do not let it fade away into the metaverse. It would be one thing if there were legal or monetary implications of changing how data is collected and measured, but one only has to look to the complementary industry most like our system, mental health, to know how rules and regulations traumatize those it is meant to help.
It’s worth repeating, please, for the sake of we who stutter, rally with grace and help those who want to help the counted change the system for the better.
Thank you for writing, SpeechIRL.
– A graduate from among the counted, on behalf of all those who are counted and will be counted