A well-researched book which benefits from the author's personal experience of stammering. Dr. Trudy Stewart, Speaking Lucid, easy-to-read You learn to see your stuttering in an entirely new light. . . . Bill has identified and demystified one of the key elements of the [stuttering] system - the speech block - and he does it in a way that makes perfect sense. --John Harrison, Letting Go
From the Publisher
Most people who stutter can also speak fluently some of the time. The author of this book believes that their problem is not a lack of ability to speak, but rather an interference with that ability - usually when the words seem most important. This book shows how a stutterer's blocks are powered by the body's Valsalva mechanism - a neurologically coordinated combination of muscles in the larynx, mouth, chest, and abdomen. According to the Valsalva Hypothesis, stutterers may have developed the habit of activating the Valsalva mechanism in an attempt to force out words when they anticipate difficulty in speaking. Although this may feel like the "right" thing to do, it results in forceful blockages of airflow by the mouth or larynx and interference with phonation - two of the basic, underlying elements of stuttering. Therefore, the harder one struggles against stuttering, the worse the blocks become. Over time, these behaviors become deeply rooted in the nerve pathways of the brain, making them extremely difficult to change.
This book lays out a comprehensive plan to improve fluency by controlling the Valsalva mechanism and breaking the Valsalva-Stuttering Cycle. Unlike other therapies, which may have an indirect effect on various aspects of the Valsalva-Stuttering Cycle, Valsalva Control focuses directly on the Valsalva mechanism itself and attacks all aspects of the Cycle - both physical and psychological. It includes specific advice and exercises related to breathing, phonating, and relaxing muscles of the Valsalva mechanism. The goal is not artificially produced fluency, but speech that is free and natural.
The book does not rely on simplistic gimmicks. Instead, its approach requires that we first gain a thorough understanding of what stuttering is and why we do it. Applying insights gained from the Valsalva Hypothesis, it analyzes the symptoms and circumstances of stuttering, the development of stuttering in childhood, the influence of heredity and neurological factors, and the physical and psychological conditions that tend to increase or reduce stuttering. It then discusses the strengths and weaknesses of existing therapies (including drugs and electronic devices), points out the elements that many therapies have in common, shows why most stutterers tend to relapse, and indicates ways in which therapies might be made more effective. (What one reader called "repetitive" was merely the brief restatement of the Valsalva Hypothesis in relation to each of these many aspects of stuttering, in order to make the discussions easier to follow.)
It would be presumptuous to claim that people will be "cured" of stuttering just by reading a book. Nevertheless, this book is sure to provide a deeper understanding of stuttering, as well as effective tools to reduce one's struggle in speaking.
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