Thomas David Kehoe is the owner of a company that manufactures anti-stuttering devices, so it should come as no surprise that the first chapter is about anti-stuttering devices. Kehoe presents many studies showing that his company's anti-stuttering devices are effective, both when wearing the devices and for training long-term carryover fluency. They are helpful on their own but have found to be most effective when used in conjunction with other therapies. Kehoe clearly admits, "Many factors contribute to stuttering. No single stuttering therapy works for every stutterer." As a severe stutterer himself at one point in his life, Kehoe shows real insight into other issues related to stuttering. Many of you who have undergone Fluency Shaping therapy will find Kehoe's section 'Beyond Fluency Shaping' fascinating. This is where Kehoe really hits his stride and makes interesting if not provocative observations. He challenges conventional wisdom that stuttering is psychological in nature. Kehoe points to studies that found placebos did not reduce stuttering, and yet sufferers of what were thought to be strictly physical ailments, such as heart disease or asthma, were. At this point, Kehoe poses the ultimate irony. "Could stuttering--long believed to be solely psychological--actually have no psychological component?" Also in the section 'Beyond Fluency Shaping' Kehoe speculates why stutterers are sometimes fluent and sometimes not. Kehoe's explanation is that, as stutterers, we utilize not one but two speech motor programs. "Sometimes our brains pick the fluent speech motor program. At other times our brains pick the stuttering speech motor programs." According to Kehoe, we choose according to environmental settings as to which program to deploy. Here he uses the analogy of someone who lives part of the year in Vermont sporting a "yankee" accent and the other part of the year in Georgia speaking with a southern drawl. In the section "Zen and the art of speaking", Kehoe compares stuttering therapy to drawing and releasing an arrow. The section, with its colourful and entertaining metaphorical speech, highlights the importance of breathing properly. In the Zen philosophy, nothing is forced. Kehoe writes, "In stuttering therapy, the first word of a phrase should be without effort, rolling off your vocal folds like the snow sliding off the bamboo leaf. You shouldn't intend to say the first word, as the archer doesn't open his hand on purpose. The word should say itself, without your planning or calculating or trying." From there, Kehoe goes on to highlight the obvious yet thought-provoking difference between stuttering and other disabilities. Whereas stutterers are sometimes fluent, sometimes dysfluent, people aren't sometimes blind, or sometimes crippled. With stutterers, the speech apparatus is seemingly in perfect working order. We simply choose to use it incorrectly. In the section "Psychological" issues about stuttering, Kehoe presents this great piece of advice: "Don't try to avoid hiding the fact that you stutter. Indeed, trying to hide it only adds to the tension which can lead to greater difficulty. Take every opportunity to explain to people what you know about stuttering." I think this is great advice. For example, think about how we stutterers behave in a conversation compared to someone who is hard of hearing, who casually explains to listeners up front if they wouldn't mind speaking up because of a hearing problem. If anything we regard that kind of a person, who admits a frailty, not as someone hard of hearing or in our case someone who has a speech problem, but as someone who is open and honest. Kehoe emphasizes, "Stuttering doesn't necessarily communicate low status. Embarrassment and anxiety about stuttering communicates low status. --Review by Bernie Dobrucki, Canadian Stuttering Association "Voices" newsletter, November 2007
About the Author
Thomas David Kehoe's previous book was Stuttering: Science, Therapy & Practice
(1998). He is a member of the American Speech-Language Hearing Assocication.