Make Room For The Stuttering


Posted on: March 29, 2010

I finally have a better understanding of why I have been so resistant to fluency shaping targets. I shared with a friend how I felt about not attending a recent weekend stuttering workshop that focused on practicing fluency targets.

I have gone to this workshop for the past three years. I enjoyed participating and sharing with other people who stutter, but never really “worked on fluency”.  I was working more on acceptance, which is what I need and think other people need as well. I started talking more about acceptance and thinking about it and embracing it. I have never been comfortable with using targets. I never seemed to “use” them right or found I could stop and use them in the moment of stuttering.

I think perhaps some of the coordinators of the fluency workshop may have had a problem with my resistance to practicing fluency targets. It sort of felt like if I wasn’t working on fluency, then I shouldn’t go to this workshop. That’s the message I got anyway. I had wanted to go, planned to go, but the universe clearly had other ideas.

My friend put into words what I had been feeling  in a real visual way. When I think of a target, what comes to my mind is the game of darts, where you try to “hit” the target or the little round circle in the middle known as the bull’s-eye. If you miss and hit the outer circles, or even throw the dart completely off the board like I used to, you don’t get any points. And you lose. So if you miss the target, you have failed or are a loser.

Ever since I was introduced to the concept of fluency shaping and practicing targets, something didn’t feel right. I never liked the idea that if I didn’t reach a certain goal or target, that I failed in some way. I had been given so many messages of failure as a kid growing up that I certainly didn’t need to internalize failure as an adult.

And that’s what it has seemed like with me and target practice.  If I couldn’t do it or get it, I felt I wasn’t trying hard enough and somehow I was failing to meet expectations.

When my friend and I talked about target use, all of a sudden the light bulb in my head flashed on.  “Hitting a target” implies something negative. Hitting something. If the target is not hit, then we have failed. And I don’t like that word. I had enough of that as a kid. I work with kids. I praise them on their effort all the time. Even when they don’t succeed, they are not failures. None of us are. But when it is implied that if we had tried harder, we might have succeeded, it is hard to not feel like a failure.

I remember when I read the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes, I felt the same way. The book’s premise is the law of attraction. If you think positive thoughts about something, then it will happen or you will get what you want. To me, it implied failure if our positive thoughts didn’t lead to the positive result. Like somehow, I failed.

I remember last year I wrote about not wanting to be fixed. I still feel like that. There is nothing wrong with stuttering. I don’t need to hit targets to feel successful as a communicator.  All of us have different speech patterns and we all communicate in different ways. I don’t need to hit the bull’s eye. I am fine with the outer circles and even going off the board a lot.

Is it wrong of me to think like this? And if I do, should I really stay away from fluency-focused events? Even if I like the support and camaraderie?

7 Responses to "Bulls-Eye"

I feel the same way about targets. When I did speech therapy, several years ago, I was given some. I did ok with them for a little while and did notice some improvement in my speech. But then it all went through the window and I relapsed badly.

It was just recently when I realized that acceptance is what I need and many of us who stutter needs is the reason why these target techniques did not really work for me.

I need to stop feeling that I am flawed in some way or not as good as someonelse who does not stutter.

On the matter of going to these fluency-focussed events, I think you should, and have an open mind. Do not think that if you dont succeed at using them effectively, you have failed, as this is certainly not the case. The plus side to this is, we all need support and camaraderie, so if it is only for these, go.

Wow Pam that hit the nail on the head. I went through the Hollins fluency shaping program twice. The first time I just thought well, I guess I didn’t try hard enough, work hard enough after the program ect. So I went back for a refresher course to hopefully correct what I did wrong the first time. After that I felt like a utter failure. They basically say if you work hard enough it works. I did the refresher course over winter break. After going back to school for the spring semester, that was the toughest semester I had ever had. Day after day I couldn’t “hit my targets” perfectly. I felt like what is wrong with me? I could do this in the clinic. I just sorta spiraled down from there during the summer and felt like I was subhuman. Long story short, for me it did a lot of damage. I personally wouldn’t attend fluency-focused events.


It seems to me that you have already figured out what you need. You come come too far, to let the opinions of others direct what your goals ( in life) are. I am not sure if there is a difference between ” fluency” events or stuttering events, but I do think the stuttering community contimues to benefit from you being part of it. enjoy your week Lee

It seems to me that you already know what you need. You have come too far to let the opinions of others direct what you want for yourself. Acceptance has to come first, as you said. I don’t know what the difference is between “fluency” focused events and stuttering events, but I do know that the stuttering community benefits from you being part of it. Keep setting your own goals. enjoy the week Lee

Well, I think if you are going to a fluency focused event then your goal should be to improve fluency. I have never been to one of these weekends so I can’t say for sure. I guess you have to ask yourself why you are going? If it is for acceptance, than there are other venues to work on this. I personally don’t love the words “targets” or “techniques”. It implies that one can turn fluency on and off easily. I wasn’t able to do this and when I tried to, I felt defeated. I had to restructure how I spoke and I don’t use “targets”. I changed my whole way of speaking which resulted in improved fluency. I think you only fail if you are working so hard to please others that you lose sight of your goals. Hope you are enjoying your trip. I love your posts!!!

I have to add one more comment. I took Hollins also and felt like a failure after. I have learned many things over the years as a PWS and a speech pathologist. Looking back, PFSP was only the beginning and I have learned to move forward and not look back.

I really appreciate all the comments and support. I guess it is totally up to the individual. I want to be where other people who stutter are, because the support is so meaningful, but as the old saying goes, “I can’t have my cake and eat it too.” I do wish there was a group for women who stutter somewhere close to me. Thankfully there is this thing called the internet which offers us the chance to connect, and which makes the world smaller.
Thank you Annetta and Sarah for your perspectives as women who stutter, Lori for your views on being both a woman who stutters and SLP and Lee. As an SLP who advocates acceptance first, thank you. And for commenting for the first time!

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