Click for pdf file of entire 65 page book
Table of Contents



Published originally by SIMON & SCHUSTER


Two thousand and five marks the thirty-seventh anniversary of my association with New York University Medical Center. During most of these years I have led two lives. The first has been my association with the Department of Surgery and basic research on birth defects, particularly the problems of cleft lip and palate. My second, which emerged from the first, started thirty-one years ago when I accidentally discovered the physical cause of stuttering, developed a treatment for it, and subsequently founded The National Center for Stuttering.

The birth of my second life was not without incident. When I entered it, research colleagues were there waiting, contending that stuttering was not my area, that I should stay with basic research, and that direct, clinical work with stutterers represented a form of prostitution that would destroy my career.

Clinicians, on the other hand, contended that I was an interloper, that I should remain in my "ivory tower" and stay off their "turf." They even went so far as to threaten legal action!

I listened to both groups for quite a while before making the decision to forge ahead. In retrospect, I was correct, and the ensuing years have borne witness to a revolution in both our understanding and treatment of stuttering - all stimulated by my initial discovery of its physical cause.

As I have continued to work with stutterers I have been struck by their similarities. There is no difference treating a person from France, Nigeria, Japan or the US. The stories and emotions are the same.

What follows is a compilation of experiences gleaned from many patients; it represents the voice of the archetypical stutterer speaking about his life; it is why I feel so deeply about the problem and why I continue to work personally with stutterers whenever I can.

"Imagine that from the time you were a child you stuttered with everyone. Not that you wanted to stutter, mind you, you just couldn't help yourself. As a result you often went to great lengths to avoid stuttering and, in so doing, found that people misunderstood you. They considered you aloof, withdrawn, a loner, the silent type.

But you ached to be with people, you had much to say, and the thought of the interaction was marvelous. And so each night before you went to sleep you prayed that this dreadful affliction would be gone. But it was not to be.

As a child you were sent to specialists who tried to show you how to stop stuttering or how to stutter in less offensive ways. Sometimes you stopped with them, but as soon as you left their office it returned, and their suggestions, which earlier had worked so well, now failed miserably.

The stuttering demeaned you, it humiliated you, it destroyed your self-esteem. And often, when it was at its worst, as if to add insult to injury, people laughed at you, called you stupid, and never took you seriously at all.

In school if you had a question you wouldn't ask it. If you had to respond and couldn't give the correct answer you'd give an incorrect one. In the cafeteria, you ordered what you could say rather than what you wanted. Anything to avoid the humiliation.

You studied a lot, and since you were intelligent, received excellent grades, as long as the grades were based on written exams. You lived in constant dread of required oral reports and begged your parents to ask your teachers to excuse you from them. Some teachers were sensitive, and made class participation easier. Others insisted that the way to overcome the problem was to force you to participate - and the memory of this nightmare persisted for years and made your fighting worse, not only in class, but everywhere.

You wanted to go to college, but dreaded the prospect of an interview. As a matter of fact, any sort of interview was a nightmare. Because of this, jobs were difficult and you were lucky to find an employer who would overlook your problem.

Dating was another torture; the very prospect filled you with terror. The first hint of a stutter seemed instantly to destroy the evening. Occasionally you met someone kind, a person who did not appear to be bothered by your problem, someone who looked beyond the superficiality of it to the person beneath. These were wonderful times.

And as you grew older you grew smarter, you learned tricks to avoid stuttering and chose an occupation you could perform without penalty - like accounting or engineering or computer programing or truck driving - activities that could be performed alone.

Your parents gave up. They no longer mentioned your affliction. It was as if it didn't exist. And your friends and acquaintances did the same. A massive conspiracy of denial gradually descended to protect you and them from a behavior too painful for anyone to acknowledge.

You tried alcohol and illegal drugs because you heard these sometimes worked. But not for you; they only made it worse, and you stopped. You tried tranquilizers, anti-convulsants, beta-blockers - anything that modern medicine might suggest had the slightest possibility of helping. But again nothing.

You joined a self-help group of others with your problem, but it was like looking into a mirror. You especially couldn't stand confronting those worse than yourself; it suggested what might happen if your stuttering got worse.

To say that the stuttering affected your life would be the profoundest of understatements. It permeated your life and controlled it in so insidious a fashion as to often cause you to reflect whether any life like this should continue.

And so you gave up. You quit looking for an answer. You joined the conspiracy of denial and made the best of it."

Fortunately, this tale of woe is becoming a thing of the past. Not only do we have a technique that works, but one that works quickly, often in a matter of minutes, and stops stuttering completely. We have perfected the procedures for making a habit of this technique, and have made remarkable strides in eliminating the fears associated with stuttering.

Of equal importance is our hope for the future. The promise is bright. New research is shedding light on the inner workings of the brain: the neural center responsible for stuttering has been located. It seems more likely than ever that the 21st Century will witness a cure.

But until then, we can stop stuttering with a simply-learned technique and can, after 9 to 12 months of practice, make a permanent, new habit.

It is clear that no one need stutter any longer! 

Table of Contents