Make Room For The Stuttering

Clowning and Fluent Stuttering

Posted on: March 3, 2011

Today’s post is inspired by new friend Anna, who was featured in the January 2011 edition of the Toastmaster magazine. She was also a featured guest on “Women Who Stutter: Our Stories”, in Facing The Monster – Episode 44.

Anna contributed some great comments on the most recent episode featuring Nina G – Standing Up. Anna notes the importance of “fluent stuttering”, which is a term described by Van Riper in the classic stuttering book, The Treatment of Stuttering.

Someone once told me, “if it’s any consolation, at least your stuttering is easy to listen to”. I remember thinking, “why did she have to add the disclaimer phrase, if it’s any consolation?” To me, it sounded like she was paying me a compliment, but framing it as a negative, as if we are not ever supposed to say something positive about stuttering. Well, Anna de-bunks that and more!

I want to share Anna’s recent comments about “fluent stuttering” and how it can be attained by focusing on “the outside” rather than “the inside”.  I like to think of that as quieting our inner self-talk!

Pam,thank you for yet another wonderful pod cast. Nina is another example (one is you) of a person who has something that I call “fluent stuttering”. This means speaking confidently and passionately, without avoidance and fear. The difference with this kind of stuttering from “typical stuttering” – that which can be monotone, deliberate, struggled, or covert speech (I had this too) – is that such fluid stuttering is easy to listen to. In a while you stop noticing the stuttering just as you stop noticing a bit of an accent or some other different speaking pattern.

Speaking openly, expressively, without holding back is a very real goal. I myself aim for total fluency, but if I end up with fluent stuttering instead, I will be just as happy. By the way, I also learned a lot when I enrolled in a clown class – I am not performing on a real stage, but the whole approach to performing – learning how to interact with an audience and feeling confident on stage – is very valuable.

One great thing I learned in clown school is about directing your attention outward. We have lots of exercises to make sure that we focus on the outside rather than staying inside our heads. We, people who stutter, are usually all inside our heads – watching ourselves, anticipating stuttering, trying to figure out listeners’ reaction etc.

Having your attention concentrated on the outside allows you to enter the state of fluency and freedom of fear. The moment you go inside your head (I wonder how I am doing, do they like me?), you get tense and nervous. Nina’s confidence  on stage indicates that her attention is out there, she is connected to her audience. This is what makes Nina and others so fluent, despite stuttering. Fluent stuttering sounds strange, but it is a real phenomena and one that everyone can learn how to do.

I just loved Anna’s thoughts and honesty, especially sharing that she took classes at Clown school. How exciting is that? What do you think of Fluent Stuttering? Can you see yourself doing that and being happy with it, as Anna suggests? Let us know your thoughts!

11 Responses to "Clowning and Fluent Stuttering"

Yes, I would be very happy with fluent stuttering. Getting rid of that struggle is one of my goals. My pattern used to be pure struggle (all blocking). As I reduce the struggle my stuttering inceases. As my stuttering increases so does my ability to communicate effectively 🙂

I think that for stutterers that have really hard tensing blocks like me,we don’t have any choice but to learn to stutter differently.
I also use some Fluency Shaping tools to stutter less,but i try not to be in full control.
When any block can destroys your ability to speak,no fluency skills will help.
The absurd was that i knew that i need to learn to react different when i stutter,but nobody explain me how to do it,
i needed to find it by myself!

Pam, I thought that I was so clever inventing a “fluent stuttering” term:) But it was already invented before me:) I have to read this book! By the way, here is my speech in which I talk about the importance of “getting out of our heads” and about some suggestions we learn in the clown school.

Hi Pam and Anna, I thought I had coined that term – “fluent stuttering” :-)..How can so many people think of the same thing!!
I watched the video and it was an amazing!
Anna, are there any more resources from where I can learn more about this concept of clown school ?

Ari, this is why I am so fascinated with “fluent stuttering”, because my natural tendency was just like Wendel Johnson describes to tense and push because of the fear that I will stutter. So I had to learn to accept some minor disfluencies calmly and to tell my subsoncious to not jump to my rescue and do not make me tense all my speech muscle. I had long and hard blocks, which were difficult to listen too. Often people just couldn’t understand me. Having fluent stuttering with no fear hesitation or doubt would be nice at that time.

For years i was so frustrating,i felt that nobody understand my stuttering.
I just wanted to feel free to speak without the fear, switching words, avoiding and very hard tensing blocks.
When i found that it is possible to stutter and continue the conversation,i knew that this is what i needed ,and that i have hope.
I am just disappointed that not even one SLP taught me how to stutter,and i think that In Israel nobody teach it,so the stutters of my kind don’t have any hope,and this is very sad!

Jai, you asked where you can learn about the concept of a clown school. I would advise you to enroll in some performing art class. Because the theory is simple – I summed it up in my speech. But putting it to practice requires some training. Some performing art class really do little with talking – for example, in our class we usually do silent impromptu. So if you stutter, this will not be too stressful. But the whole concept of “getting out of your head” and detach from your worries and your fears is very useful for us. I still may stutter if I am nervous or unsure of myself. And I know that to get back on a fluent track, I have to make myself engaged in the moment, stop worrying about how I look or sound and just let it go. The more you practice this, the easier it is to find this state.

Ari, when I first started applying “zero avoidance” strategy – stopped switching words and tried to speak even when I was afraid, I at that time had speech therapy. And often I would feel that I talk so easily and without those hard and painfully long blocks, and my speech therapist would say “You seem to stutter more today”. She never could get that it wasn’t the number of disfluencies that were important to me, but my ability to communicate to express my thoughts and to get rid of those long embarassing pauses and struggle. I went thorugh the long period when I was very disfluent and yet felt so much better comparing to times when I was fearful and avoided speaking. Then I started improving and now although still somewhat disfluent, enjoy a great degree of freedom. So yes, SLPs just have no idea that disfluent speech and blocked/struggling speech is two big differences.

Anna i enjoyed so much to read your last post,because i feel that our stuttering experience is very much the same.
With one difference:i didn’t face this “embarrassing pauses” cause i tried not to talk when i wasn’t in control.
So i had 3 speeches,one with my parents and stutterers that i was in full control and very fluent ,one with my friends that i switched words and i was with half control,and with the rest of the world i couldn’t speak at all.
I participated for years in Fluency Shaping groups,and my fluent speech didn’t help me in the real life.
Until I decided to start speaking faster (in that group)without control,and to feel my real stuttering .
Since then i practice my stuttering and not my fluency,and my stuttering get better with less and less tension.
Now i still have a lot of fear to talk,but i do it anyway ,and the fear decrease more and more.
It’s very hard process,cause like you said nobody understand it,My previous SLP told me that i ruined my wonderful speech,
and to other stutterers he said that”Ari spoke so well,but from some reason he want to stutter(like i am a kind of crazy”.
Your words give me power to go on!
Can i published it in stuttering forum and in my blog(Hebrew) ?

Ari, yes of course you are welcome. Our experience is very similar, because I also was evry skillful in switching words or not talking when I knew I will block. So many friends had no idea how severe my stuttering was. But I coulodn’t avoid those blocks no matter how I tried. And the worst experinece for me was when we were sitting together with my friends having beer and good time, and I would start tellling some funny story and would block on a punch line. Those were excruciating moments when i tried to push those words out and couldn’t By the time I was able to say a punch line, it wasn’t funny at all. I would suggest to play with your speech. Try to speak very slowly, or with long pauses or louder then normally. Not to get rid of stuttering, but to find you own natural most expressive voice. If you out a goal to be expressive and powrful rather than fluent, you wil start noticing amazing change. Here is my full story – may be you’ll find something useful here for you. There is also an account of all fluency shaping therapy I had – which never worked for me.

Thanks so much!

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