ITS CAUSE AND CURE
BENJAMIN NATHANIEL BOGUE
A Chronic Stammerer for Almost Twenty Years; Originator of the Bogue Unit Method of Restoring Perfect Speech; Founder of the Bogue Institute for Stammerers and Editor of the "Emancipator," a magazine devoted to the Interests of Perfect Speech
TO MY MOTHER
That wonderful woman whose unflagging courage held me to a task that I never could have completed alone and who when all others failed, stood by me, encouraged me and pointed out the heights where lay success—this volume is dedicated
PART I—MY LIFE AS A STAMMERER
I. Starting Life Under a Handicap II. My First Attempt to Be Cured III. My Search Continues IV. A Stammerer Hunts a Job V. Further Futile Attempts to Be Cured VI. I Refuse to Be Discouraged VII. The Benefit of Many Failures VIII. Beginning Where Others Had Left Off
PART II—STAMMERING AND STUTTERING
The Causes, Peculiarities, Tendencies and Effects
I. Speech Disorders Defined II. The Causes of Stuttering and Stammering III. The Peculiarities of Stuttering and Stammering IV. The Intermittent Tendency V. The Progressive Tendency VI. Can Stammering and Stuttering Be Outgrown? VII. The Effect on the Mind VIII. The Effect on the Body IX. Defective Speech in Children, (1) The Pre-Speaking Period X. Defective Speech in Children, (2) The Formative Period XI. Defective Speech in Children, (3) The Speech-Setting Period XII. The Speech Disorders of Youth XIII. Where Does Stammering Lead?
PART III—THE CURE OF STAMMERING AND STUTTERING
I. Can Stammering Really Be Cured? II. Cases That "Cure Themselves" III. Cases That Cannot Be Cured IV. Can Stammering Be Cured by Mail? V. The Importance of Expert Diagnosis VI. The Secret of Curing Stuttering and Stammering VII. The Bogue Unit Method Described VIII. Some Cases I Have Met
PART IV—SETTING THE TONGUE FREE
I. The Joy of Perfect Speech II. How to Determine Whether You Can Be Cured III. The Bogue Guarantee and What It Means IV. The Cure Is Permanent V. A Priceless Gift—An Everlasting Investment VI. The Home of Perfect Speech VII. My Mother and The Home Life at the Institute VIII. A Heart-to-Heart Talk with Parents IX. The Dangers of Delay
Considerably more than a third of a century has elapsed since I purchased my first book on stammering. I still have that quaint little book made up in its typically English style with small pages, small type and yellow paper back—the work of an English author whose obtuse and half-baked theories certainly lent no clarity to the stammerer's understanding of his trouble. Since that first purchase my library of books on stammering has grown until it is perhaps the largest individual collection in the world. I have read these books—many of them several times, pondered over the obscurities in some, smiled at the absurdities in others and benefited by the truths in a few. Yet, with all their profound explanations of theories and their verbose defense of hopelessly unscientific methods, the stammerer would be disappointed indeed, should he attempt to find in the entire collection a practical and understandable discussion of his trouble.
This insufficiency of existing books on stammering has encouraged me to bring out the present volume. It is needed. I know this—because I spent almost twenty years of my life in a well-nigh futile search for the very knowledge herein revealed. I haunted the libraries, was a familiar figure in book stores and a frequent visitor to the second-hand dealer. Yet these efforts brought me comparatively little—not one-tenth the information that this book contains.
Perhaps it is but a colossal conceit that prompts me to offer this volume to those who stutter and stammer as I did. Yet, I cannot but believe that almost twenty years' personal experience as a stammerer plus more than twenty-eight years' experience in curing speech disorders has supplied me with an intensely practical, valuable and worth-while knowledge on which to base this book.
After having stammered for twenty years you have pretty well run the whole gamut of mockery, humiliation and failure. You understand the stammerer's feelings, his mental processes and his peculiarities.
And when you add to this more than a quarter of a century, every waking hour of which has been spent in alleviating the stammerer's difficulty—and successfully, too—you have a ground-work of first-hand information that tends toward facts instead of fiction and toward practice instead of theory.
These are my qualifications.
I have spent a life-time in studying stammering, stuttering and kindred speech defects. I have written this book out of the fullness of that experience—I might almost say out of my daily work. I have made no attempt at literary style or rhetorical excellence and while the work may be homely in expression the information it contains is definite and positive—and what is more important—it is authoritative.
I hope the reader will find the book useful—yes, and helpful. I hope he will find in it the way to Freedom of Speech—his birthright and the birthright of every man.
BENJAMIN NATHANIEL BOGUE
Indianapolis September, 1929
Its Cause and Cure
MY LIFE AS A STAMMERER
STARTING LIFE UNDER A HANDICAP
I was laughed at for nearly twenty years because I stammered. I found school a burden, college a practical impossibility and life a misery because of my affliction.
I was born in Wabash county, Indiana, and as far back as I can remember, there was never a time when I did not stammer or stutter. So far as I know, the halting utterance came with the first word I spoke and for almost twenty years this difficulty continued to dog me relentlessly.
When six years of age, I went to the little school house down the road, little realizing what I was to go through with there before I left.
Previous to the time I entered school, those around me were my family, my relatives and my friends—people who were very kind and considerate, who never spoke of my difficulty in my presence, and certainly never laughed at me.
At school, it was quite another matter. It was fun for the other boys to hear me speak and it was common pastime with them to get me to talk whenever possible. They would jibe and jeer—and then ask, "What did you say? Why don't you learn to talk English?" Their best entertainment was to tease and mock me until I became angry, taunt me when I did, and ridicule me at every turn.
It was not only in the school yard and going to and from school that I suffered—but also in class. When I got up to recite, what a spectacle I made, hesitating over every other word, stumbling along, gasping for breath, waiting while speech returned to me. And how they laughed at me—for then I was helpless to defend myself. True, my teachers tried to be kind to me, but that did not make me talk normally like other children, nor did it always prevent the others from laughing at me.
The reader can imagine my state of mind during these school days. I fairly hated even to start to school in the morning—not because I disliked to go to school, but because I was sure to meet some of my taunting comrades, sure to be humiliated and laughed at because I stammered. And having reached the school room I had to face the prospect of failing every time I stood up on my feet and tried to recite.
There were four things I looked forward to with positive dread—the trip to school, the recitations in class, recess in the school yard and the trip home again. It makes me shudder even now to think of those days—the dread with which I left that home of mine every school day morning, the nervous strain, the torment and torture, and the constant fear of failure which never left me. Imagine my thoughts as I left parents and friends to face the ribald laughter of those who did not understand. I asked myself: "Well, what new disgrace today? Whom will I meet this morning? What will the teacher say when I stumble? How shall I get through recess? What is the easiest way home?"
These and a hundred other questions, born of nervousness and fear, I asked myself morning after morning. And day after day, as the hours dragged by, I would wonder, "Will this day NEVER end? Will I NEVER get out of this?"
Such was my life in school. And such is the daily life of thousands of boys and hundreds of girls—a life of dread, of constant fear, of endless worry and unceasing nervousness.
But, as I look back at the boys and girls who helped to make life miserable for me in school, I feel for them only kindness. I bear no malice. They did no more than their fathers and mothers, many of them, would have done. They little realized what they were doing. They had no intention to do me personal injury, though there is no question in my mind but that they made my trouble worse. They did not know how terribly they were punishing me. They saw in my affliction only fun, while I saw in it—only misery.
MY FIRST ATTEMPT TO BE CURED
I can remember very clearly the positive fear which always accompanied a visit to our friends or neighbors, or the advent of visitors at my home. Many a time I did not have what I desired to eat because I was afraid to ask for it. When I did ask, every eye was turned on me, and the looks of the strangers, with now and then a half-suppressed smile, worked me up to a nervous state that was almost hysterical, causing me to stutter worse than at any other time.
At one time—I do not remember what the occasion was—a number of people had come to visit us. A large table had been set and loaded with good things. We sat down, the many dishes were passed around the table, as was the custom at our home, and I said not a word. But before long the first helping was gone—a hungry boy soon cleans his plate—and I was about to ask for more when I bethought myself. "Please pass—" I could never do it—"p" was one of the hard sounds for me. "Please pass—" No, I couldn't do it. So busying myself with the things that were near at hand and helping myself to those things which came my way, I made out the meal—but I got up from the table hungry and with a deeper consciousness of the awfulness of my affliction. Slowly it began to dawn on me that as long as I stammered I was doomed to do without much of the world's goods. I began to see that although I might for a time sit at the World's Table of Good Things in Life I could hope to have little save that which someone passed on to me gratuitously.
As long as I was at home with my parents, life went along fairly well. They understood my difficulty, they sympathized with me, and they looked at my trouble in the same light as myself—as an affliction much to be regretted. At home I was not required to do anything which would embarrass me or cause me to become highly excited because of my straining to talk, but on the other hand I was permitted to do things which I could do well, without talking to any one.
The time was coming, however, when it would be "Sink or Swim" for me, since it would not be many years until a sense of duty, if nothing else, would send me out to make my own way. This time comes to all boys. It was soon to be MY task to face the world—to make a living for myself. And this was a thing which, strangely enough for a boy of my age, I began to think about. I had some experience in meeting people and in trying to transact some of the minor business connected with our farm and I found out that I had no chance along that line as long as I stammered.
And yet it seemed as if I was to be compelled to continue to stammer the rest of my life, for my condition was getting worse every day. This was very clear to me—and very plain to my parents. They were anxious to do something for me and do it quickly, so they called in a skilled physician. They told him about my trouble. He gave me a cursory examination and decided that my stuttering was caused by nervousness, and gave me some very distasteful medicine, which I was compelled to take three times a day. This medicine did me no good. I took it for five years, but there was no progress made toward curing my stuttering. The reason was simple. Stuttering cannot be cured by bitter medicine. The physician was using the wrong method. He was treating the effect and not the cause. He was of the opinion that it was the nervousness that caused my stuttering, whereas the fact of the matter was, it was my stuttering that caused the nervousness.
I do not blame this physician in the least because of his failure, for he was not an expert on the subject of speech defects. While he was a medical man of known ability, he had not made a study of speech disorders and knew practically nothing about either the cause or cure of stammering or stuttering. Even today, prominent medical men will tell you that their profession has given little or no attention to defects of speech and take little interest in such cases.
Some time later, after the physician had failed to benefit me, a traveling medicine man came to our community, set up his tent, and stayed for a week. Of course, like all traveling medicine men, his remedies were cure-alls. One night in making his talk before the crowd, he mentioned the fact that his wonderful concoction, taken with the pamphlet that he would furnish, both for the sum of one dollar, would cure stammering. I didn't have the dollar, so I did not buy. But the next day I went back, and I took the dollar along. He got my dollar, and I still have the book. Of course, I received no benefit whatever. I later came to the conclusion that the medicine man had been in the neighborhood long enough to have pointed out to him "BEN BOGUE'S BOY WHO STUTTERS" (as I was known) and had decided that when I was in his audience a hint or two on the virtues of his wonderful remedy in cases of stammering, would be sufficient to extract a dollar from me for a tryout.
These experiences, however, were valuable to me, even though they were costly, for they taught me a badly-needed lesson, to wit: That drugs and medicines are not a cure for stammering.
Many of the people who came in contact with me, and those who talked the matter over with my parents, said that I would outgrow the trouble. "All that is necessary," remarked one man, "is for him to forget that he stammers, and the trouble will be gone."
This was a rather foolish suggestion and simply proved how little the man knew about the subject. In the first place, a stammerer cannot forget his difficulty—who can say that he would be cured if he did? You might as well say to a man holding a hot poker, "If you will only forget that the poker is hot, it will be cool." It takes something more than forgetfulness to cure stammering.
The belief held by both my parents and myself that I would outgrow my difficulty was one of the gravest mistakes we ever made. Had I followed the advice of others who believed in the outgrowing theory it eventually would have caused me to become a confirmed stammerer, entirely beyond hope of cure.
Today, as a result of twenty-eight years' daily contact with stammerers, I know that stammering cannot be outgrown. The man who suggests that it is possible to cure stammering by outgrowing it is doing a great injustice to the stammerer, because he is giving him a false hope—in fact the most futile hope that any stammerer ever had. I wish I could paint in the sky, in letters of fire, the truth that "Stammering cannot be outgrown," because this, of all things, is the most frequent pitfall of the stammerer, his greatest delusion and one of the most prolific causes of continued suffering. I know whereof I speak, because I tried it myself. I know how many different people held up to me the hope that I would outgrow it.
My father offered me a valuable shotgun if I would stop stammering. My mother offered me money, a watch and a horse and buggy. These inducements made me strain every nerve to stop my imperfect utterance, but all to no avail. At this time I knew nothing of the underlying principles of speech and any effort which I made to stop my stammering was merely a crude, misdirected attempt which naturally had no chances for success.
I learned that prizes will never cure stammering. I found out too, something I have never since forgotten: that the man, woman or child who stammers needs no inducement to cause him to desire to be cured, because the change from his condition as a stammerer to that of a nonstammerer is of more inducement to the sufferer than all the money you could offer him. I have never yet seen a man, woman or child who wanted to stammer or stutter.
The offer of prizes doing no good, I took long trips to get my mind off the affliction. I did everything in my power, worked almost day and night, exerted every effort I could command—it was all in vain.
The idea that I would finally outgrow my difficulty was strengthened in the minds of my parents and friends by the fact that there were times when my impediment seemed almost to disappear, but to our surprise and disappointment, it always came back again, each time in a more aggravated form; each time with a stronger hold upon me than ever before.
I found out, then, one of the fundamental characteristics of stammering—its intermittent tendency. In other words, I discovered that a partial relief from the difficulty was one of the true symptoms of the malady. And I learned further that this relief is only temporary and not what we first thought it to be, viz: a sign that the disorder was leaving.
MY SEARCH CONTINUES
My parents' efforts to have me cured, however, did not cease with my visit to the medicine man. We were still looking for something that would bring relief. My teacher, Miss Cora Critchlow, handed me an advertisement one day, telling me of a man who claimed to be able to cure stammering by mail. In the hope that I would get some good from the treatment, my parents sent this mail order man a large sum of money. In return for this I was furnished with instructions to do a number of useless things, such as holding toothpicks between my teeth, talking through my nose, whistling before I spoke a word, and many other foolish things. It was at this time that I learned once and for all, the imprudence of throwing money away on these mail order "cures," so-called, and I made up my mind to bother no more with this man and his kind.
So far as the mail order instructions were concerned, they were crude and unscientific—merely a hodge-podge of pseudo-technical phraseology and crass ignorance—a meaningless jargon scarcely intelligible to the most highly educated, and practically impossible of interpretation by the average stammerer who was supposed to follow the course. Even after I had, by persistent effort, interpreted the instructions and followed them closely for many months, there was not a sign of the slightest relief from my trouble. It was evident to me even then that I could never cure myself by following a mail cure.
Today, after twenty-eight years of experience in the cure of stammering, I can say with full authority, that stammering cannot be successfully treated by mail. The very nature of the difficulty, as well as the method of treatment, make it impossible to put the instructions into print or to have the stammerer follow out the method from a printed sheet.
As I approached manhood, my impediment began to get worse. My stuttering changed to stammering. Instead of rapidly repeating syllables or words, I was unable to begin a word. I stood transfixed, my limbs drawing themselves into all kinds of unnatural positions. There were violent spasmodic movements of the head, and contractions of my whole body. The muscles of my throat would swell, affecting the respiratory organs, and causing a curious barking sound. When I finally got started, I would utter the first part of the sentence slowly, gradually increase the speed, and make a rush toward the end.
At other times, when attempting to speak, my lips would pucker up, firmly set together, and I would be unable to separate them, until my breath was exhausted. Then I would gasp for more breath, struggling with the words I desired to speak, until the veins of my forehead would swell, my face would become red, and I would sink back, wholly unable to express myself, and usually being obliged to resort to writing.
These paroxysms left me extremely nervous and in a seriously weakened condition. After one of these attacks, the cold perspiration would break out on my forehead in great beads and I would sink into the nearest chair, where I would be compelled to remain until I had regained my strength.
My affliction was taking all my energy, sapping my strength, deadening my mental faculties, and placing me at a hopeless disadvantage in every way. I could do nothing that other people did. I appeared unnatural. I was nervous, irritable, despondent. This despondency now brought about a peculiar condition. I began to believe that everyone was more or less an enemy of mine. And still worse, I came to believe that I was an enemy of myself, which feeling threw me into despair, the depths of which I do not wish to recall, even now.
I was not only miserably unhappy myself, I made everyone else around me unhappy, although I did it, not intentionally, but because my affliction had caused me to lose control of myself.
In this condition, my nerves were strained to the breaking point all day long, and many a night I can remember crying myself to sleep—crying purely to relieve that stored-up nervous tension, and f ailing off to sleep as a result of exhaustion.
As I said before, there were periods of grace when the trouble seemed almost to vanish and I would be delighted to believe that perhaps it was gone forever—happy hope! But it was but a delusion, a mirage in the distance, a new road to lead me astray. The affliction always returned, as every stammerer knows—returned worse than before. All the hopes that I would outgrow my trouble, were found to be false hopes. For me, there was no such thing as outgrowing it and I have since discovered that after the age of six only one-fifth of one per cent. ever outgrow the trouble.
Another thing which I always thought peculiar when I was a stammerer was the fact that I had practically no difficulty in talking to animals when I was alone with them. I remember very well that we had a large bulldog called Jim, which I was very fond of. I used to believe that Jim understood my troubles better than any friend I had, unless it was Old Sol, our family driving horse.
Jim used to go with me on all my jaunts—I could talk to him by the hour and never stammer a word. And Old Sol—well, when everything seemed to be going against me, I used to go out and talk things over with Old Sol. Somehow he seemed to understand—he used to whinney softly and rub his nose against my shoulder as if to say, "I understand, Bennie, I understand!"
Somehow my father had discovered this peculiarity of my affliction—that is, my ability to talk to animals or when alone. Something suggested to him that my stammering could be cured, if I could be kept by myself for several weeks. With this thought in mind, he suggested that I go on a hunting and fishing trip in the wilds of the northwest, taking no guide, no companion of any sort, so that there would be no necessity of my speaking to any human being while I was gone.
My father's idea was that if my vocal organs had a complete rest, I would be restored to perfect speech. As I afterwards proved to my own satisfaction by actual trial, this idea was entirely wrong. You can not hope to restore the proper action of your vocal organs by ceasing to use them. The proper functioning of any bodily organ is the result, not of ceasing to use it at all, but rather of using it correctly.
This can be very easily proved to the satisfaction of any one. Take the case of the small boy who boasts of his muscle. He is conscious of an increasing strength in the muscles of his arm not because he has failed to use these muscles but because he has used them continually, causing a faster-than-ordinary development.
You can readily imagine that I looked forward to my "vacation" with keen anticipation, for I had never been up in the northwest and I was full of stories I had read and ideas I had formed of its wonders.
The trip, lasting two weeks, did me scarcely any good at all. The most I can say for it is that it quieted my nerves and put me in somewhat better physical condition, which a couple of weeks in the outdoor country would do for any growing boy.
But this trip did not cure my stammering, nor did it tend to alleviate the intensity of the trouble in the least, save through a lessened nervous state for a few days. Today, after twenty-eight years' experience, I know that it would be just as sensible to say that a wagon stuck in the soft mud would get out by "resting" there as it is to say that stammering can be eradicated by allowing the vocal organs to rest through disuse.
Shortly after my return from the trip to the northwest, my father died, with the result that our household was, for a time, very much broken up. For a while, at least, my stammering, though not forgotten, did not receive a great deal of attention, for there were many other things to think about.
The summer following my father's death, however, I began again my so-far fruitless search for a cure for my stammering, this time placing myself under the care and instruction of a man claiming to be "The World's Greatest Specialist in the Cure of Stammering." He may have been the world's greatest specialist, but not in the cure of stammering. He did succeed, however, by the use of his absurd methods, in putting me through a course that resulted in the membrane and lining of my throat and vocal organs becoming irritated and inflamed to such an extent that I was compelled to undergo treatment for a throat affection that threatened to be as serious as the stammering itself.
I tried everything that came to my attention—first one thing and then another—but without results. Still I refused to be discouraged. I kept on and on, my mother constantly encouraging and reassuring me. And you will later see that I found a method that cured me.
There are always those who stand idly about and say, "It can't be done!" Such people as these laughed at Fulton with his steamboat, they laughed at Stephenson and his steam locomotive, they laughed at Wright and the airplane.
They say, "It can't be done"—but it is done, nevertheless.
I turned a deaf ear to the people who tried to convince me that it couldn't be done. I had a firm belief in that old adage, "Where there is a will there is a way," and I made another of my own, which said, "I will FIND a way or MAKE one!"
And I did!
A STAMMERER HUNTS A JOB
After recovering from my sad experiment with the "Wonderful Specialist," I did not want to go home and listen to the Anvil Chorus of "It Can't Be Done!" and "I Told You So!" I had no desire to be the object of laughter as well as pity. So I tried to get a job in that same city. I went from office to office—but nobody had a job for a man who stammered.
Finally I did land a job, however, such as it was. My duties were to operate the elevator in a hotel. How I managed to get that job, I often wonder now, for nobody on whom I called had any place for a boy or man who stammered. I thought it would be easy to find a job where I wouldn't need to talk, but when I started out to look for this job, I found it wasn't so easy after all. Almost any job requires a man who can talk. This I had learned in my own search for a place. But somehow or other, I managed to get that job as elevator boy in a hotel.
For the work as elevator boy I was paid three dollars a week. Wasn't that great pay for a man grown? But that's what I got.
That is, I got it for a little while, until I lost my job. For lose it I did before very long. I found out that I couldn't do much with even an elevator boy's job at three dollars a week unless I could talk. My employer found it out, too, and then he found somebody who could take my place—a boy who could answer when spoken to.
Well, here I was out of a job again. I am afraid I came pretty near being discouraged about that time. Things looked pretty hopeless for me—it was mighty hard work to get a job and the place didn't last long after I had gotten it.
But, nevertheless, the only thing to do was to try again. I started the search all over again. I tried first one place and then another. One man wanted me to start out as a salesman. He showed me how I could make more money than I had ever made in my life—convinced me that I could make it. Then I started to tell my part of the story—but I didn't get very far before he discovered that I was a stammerer. That was enough for him—with a gesture of hopelessness, he turned to his desk. "You'll never do, young man, you'll never do. You can't even talk!" And the worst of it was that he was right.
I once thought I had landed a job as stock chaser in a factory, but here, too, stammering barred the way, for they told me that even the stock chaser had to be able to deliver verbal messages from one foreman to another. I didn't dare to try that.
Eventually, I drifted around to the Union News Company. They wanted a boy to sell newspapers on trams running out over the Grand Trunk Railway. I took the job—the last job in the world I should have expected to hold, because of all the places a newsboy's job is one where you need to have a voice and the ability to talk.
I hope no stammerer ever has a position that causes him as much humiliation and suffering as that job caused me. You can imagine what it meant to me to go up and down the aisles of the train, calling papers and every few moments finding out that I couldn't say what I started out to say and then go gasping and grunting down the aisle making all sorts of facial grimaces.
How the passengers laughed at me! And how they made fun of me and asked me all sorts of questions just to hear me try to talk. It almost made me wish I could never see a human being again, so keen was the suffering and so tense were my nerves as a result of this work.
I don't believe I ever did anything that kept me in a more frenzied mental state than this work of trying to sell newspapers—and it wasn't very long (as I had expected) until the manager found out my situation and gently let me out.
Then I gave up, all at once. Was I discouraged? Well, perhaps. But not exactly discouraged. Rather I saw the plain hopelessness of trying to get or hold a job in my condition. So I prepared to go home. I didn't want to do it, because I knew the neighbors and friends round about would be ready for me with, "I told you so" and "I knew it couldn't be done" and a lot of gratuitous information like that.
But I gave up, nevertheless, deeply disappointed to think that once again I had failed to be cured of stammering, yet all the while resolving just as firmly as ever that I would try again and that I would never give up hope as long as there remained anything for me to do.
And this rule I followed out, month after month and year after year, until in the end I was richly rewarded for my patience and persistence.
FURTHER FUTILE ATTEMPTS TO BE CURED
The next summer I decided to visit eastern institutions for the cure of stammering and determine if these could do any more for me than had already been done-which as the reader has seen, was practically nothing. I bought a ticket for Philadelphia, where I remained for some time, and where I gained more information of value than in all of my previous efforts combined.
I found in the Quaker City an old man who had made speech defects almost a life study. He knew more about the true principles of speech and the underlying fundamentals in the production of voice than all of the rest put together. He taught me these things, and gave me a solid foundation on which to build. True, he did not cure my stammering. But that was not because he failed to understand its cause, but merely because he had not worked out the correct method of removing the cause.
It was this man who first brought home to me the fact that principles of speech are constant, that they never change and that every person who talks normally follows out the same principles of speech, while every person who stutters or stammers violates these principles of speech. That is the basis of sound procedure for the cure of stammering and I must acknowledge my indebtedness to this sincere old gentleman who did so much for me in the way of knowledge, even though he did but little for me in the way of results.
After leaving Philadelphia, I visited Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, New York, Boston and other eastern cities, searching for a cure, but did not find it. I was benefited very little. These experiences, however, all possessed a certain value, although I did not know it at the time. They taught me the things which would not work and by a simple process of elimination I later found the things which would.
Finally, however, having become disgusted with my eastern trip, I bought a ticket for home and boarded the train more nearly convinced than ever that I had an incurable case of stammering.
Some time after trying my experiment with the eastern schools, I saw the advertisement of a professor from Chicago saying that he would be at Fort Wayne, Indiana, (which was 40 miles from my home), for a week.
He was there. So was I. But to my sorrow. I paid him twenty dollars for which he taught me a few simple breathing and vocal exercises, most of which I already knew by heart, having been drilled in them time and again. This fellow was like so many others who claimed to cure stammering—he was in the business just because there were stammerers to cure, and not because he knew anything about it. He treated the effects of the trouble and did not attempt to remove the cause. The fact of the matter is, I doubt whether he knew anything about the cause.
Then one Sunday while reading a Cincinnati Sunday newspaper, I ran across an advertisement of a School of Elocution, in which was the statement, "Stammering Positively Cured!" Whenever I saw a sign "Vocal Culture" I became interested, so I clipped the advertisement, corresponded with the school and not many Sundays later, being able to secure excursion rates to Cincinnati, I made the trip and prepared to begin my work.
The cost of the course was only fifty dollars and I thought I would be getting cured mighty cheap if I succeeded. So I gave this school a "whirl" with the idea of going hack home in a short time cured—to the surprise of my family and friends. But I was doomed to disappointment. I took the twenty lessons, but went home stammering as badly as ever. You can imagine how I felt as the Big Four train whistled at the Wabash river just before pulling into the Wabash station, where I was to get off.
Here was another failure that could be checked up against the instructor who knew nothing whatever about the cause of stammering. The whole idea of the course was to cultivate voice and make me an orator. That was very fine and would, no doubt, have done me a great deal of good, but it was of no use to try to cultivate a fine voice until I could use that voice in the normal way. The finest voice in the world is of no use if you stammer, and cannot use it. The school of elocution went the same way as all the rest—it was a total failure so far as curing my stammering was concerned.
By this time, my effort to be cured of stammering had become a habit, just as eating and sleeping are habits. I was determined to be cured. I made up my mind I would never give up. True, I often said to myself, "I may never be cured," but in the same breath I resolved that if I was not, it could never be said that it was because I was a "quitter."
My next experiment was with a man who claimed he could cure my stammering in one hour. Think of it. Here I had been, spending weeks and months trying out just ONE way of cure and here was a man who could do the whole job IN ONE HOUR. Wonderful power he must possess, I thought. Of course, I did not believe he could do it. I COULD not believe it. It was not believable. But nevertheless, in my effort to be cured, I had resolved to leave no stone unturned. I made up my mind that the only way to be sure that I was not missing the successful method was to try them all.
So I put myself under this man's hand. He was a hypnotist. He felt able to restore speech with a hypnotic sleep and the proper hypnotic suggestion while I was in the trance. But like all the fake fol-de-rol with which I had come in contact, he did not even make an impression.
I will say in behalf of this hypnotic stammer doctor, however, that he was following distinguished precedent in attempting to cure stammering by hypnotism. German professors in particular have been especially zealous in following out this line of endeavor and many of them have written volumes on the subject only to end up with the conclusion (in their own minds, at least) that it is a failure. Hypnotism may be said to be a condition where the will of the subject is entirely dormant and his every act and thought controlled by the mind of the hypnotist. I do not know, not having been conscious at the time, but it is not improbable that while in the hypnotic state, I was able to talk without stammering, since my words were directed by the mind of the professor, and not my own mind. But inasmuch as I couldn't have the professor carried around with me through the rest of my lifetime in order to use his mind, the treatment could not benefit me.
I next got in touch with an honest-looking old man with a beard like one of the prophets, who assured me with a great deal of professional dignity, that stammering was a mere trifle for a magnetic healer like himself and that he could cure it entirely in ten treatments. So I planked down the specified amount for ten treatments, and went to him regularly three times a week for almost a month, when he explained to me, again with a plenitude of professionalism, that my case was a very peculiar one and that it would require ten more treatments. But I could not figure out how, if ten treatments had done me no good, ten more would do any better. So I declined to try his methods any further. Once again I said to myself, "Well, this has failed, too—I wonder what next?"
The next happened to be electrical treatments. When I visited the electrical treatment specialist, he explained to me in a very effective manner just how (according to his views) stammering was caused by certain contractions of the muscles of the vocal organs, etc., and told me that his treatment surely was the thing to eliminate this contraction and leave my speech entirely free from stammering. I knew something about my stammering then, but not a great deal—consequently his explanation sounded plausible to me and appealed to me as being very sensible and so I decided to give it a trial. I was glad after it was over that I had received no bad effects—that was ALL the cause I had to be glad, for he had not changed my stammering one iota, nor had he changed my speech in any way to make it easier for me to talk. Thus, had I found another one of the things that will not work and chalked up another failure against my attempts to be cured of stammering.
By this time, the reader may well wonder why I was not discouraged in my efforts to be cured. Well, who will say that I was not? I believe I was—as far as it was possible for me to be discouraged at that time. But despite all my failures, I had made up my mind never to give up until I was cured of stammering. I set myself doggedly to the task of ridding myself of an impediment that I knew would always hold me down and prevent any measure of success. I stayed with this task. I never gave up. I kept this one thing always hi mind. It was a life job with me if necessary—and I was not a "quitter." So failures and discouragements simply steeled me to more intense endeavors to be cured. And while these endeavors cost my parents many hundreds of dollars and cost me many years of time, still, I feel today that they were worth while—not worth while enough to go through again, or worth while enough to recommend to any one else—but at least not a total loss to me.
I REFUSE TO BE DISCOURAGED
After I had tried the electric treatment and found it wanting, I heard of a clairvoyant who could, by looking at a person, tell his name, age, occupation, place of residence, etc., and could cure all diseases and afflictions including stammering. So I thought I would give him a trial. He claimed to work through a "greater power"—whatever that was—and so I paid him his fee to see the "greater power" work—and to be cured of stammering, as per promise. But there was nothing doing in the line of a cure—all I got in trying to be cured, was another chapter added to my book of experience.
Following this experience, I tried an osteopath, whose methods, however good they might have been, affected merely the physical organs and could not hope to reach the real cause of my trouble. I do not doubt that this man was entirely sincere in explaining his own science to me in a way that led me to build up hopes of relief from that method. He simply did not understand stammering and its causes and was therefore not prepared to treat it.
I was told of another doctor who claimed to be able to cure stammering. When I called to see him, he had me wait in his reception room for nearly two hours, for the purpose, I presume, of giving me the impression that he was a very busy man. Then he called me into his private consultation room, where he apparently had all of the modern and up-to-date surgical instruments. He put me through a thorough examination, after which he said that the only thing to cure me was a surgical operation to have my tonsils removed. I was not willing to consent to the use of the knife, so therefore the operation was never performed.
Since that time, however, the practice of operating on children especially for the removal of adenoids and tonsils has become very popular and quite frequently this is the remedy prescribed for various and sundry ailments of childhood. In no case must a parent expect to eradicate stuttering or stammering by the removal of the tonsils. The operation, beneficial as it may be in other ways, does not prevent the child from stammering—for the operation does not remove the cause of the stammering—that cause is mental, not physical.
THE BENEFIT OF MANY FAILURES
I had now tried upwards of fifteen different methods for the cure of my stammering. I had tried the physician; the surgeon; the elocution teacher; the hypnotic specialist; the osteopath; a clairvoyant; a mail-order scheme; the world's greatest speech specialist—so-called, and several other things. My parents had spent hundreds of dollars of money trying to have me cured. They had spared no effort, stopped at no cost. And yet I now stammered worse than I had ever stammered before. Everything I had tried had been a worthless failure. Nothing had been of the least permanent good to me. My money was gone, months of time had been wasted and I now began to wonder if I had not been very foolish indeed, in going to first one man and then another, trying to be cured. "Wouldn't it have been better," I asked, "if I had resigned myself to a life as a stammerer and let it go at that?"
My father before me stammered. So did my grandfather and no less than fourteen of my blood relations. My affliction was inherited and therefore supposedly incurable. At least so I was told by honest physicians and other scientific observers who believed what they said and who had no desire to make any personal gain by trafficking in my infirmity. These men told me frankly that their skill and knowledge held out no hope for me and advised me from the very beginning to save my money and avoid the pitfalls of the many who would profess to be able to cure me.
But I had disregarded this honest advice, sincerely given, had spent my money and my time—and what had I gotten? Would I not have been better off if I had listened to the advice and stayed at home? Everything seemed to answer "Yes," but down in my heart I felt that things were better as they were. Certainly some good must come of all this effort—surely it could not all be wasted.
"But yet," I argued with myself, "what good can come of it?" Stammering was fast ruining my life. It had already taken the joy out of my childhood and had made school a task almost too heavy to be undertaken. It had marked my youth with a somber melancholy, and now that youth was slipping away from me with no hope that the future held anything better for me than the past. Something had to be done. I was overpowered by that thought—something had to be done. It had to be done at once. I had come to the turning point in my life. Like Hamlet, I found myself repeating over and over again,
"To be or not to be, That is the question."
Was I discouraged? No, I will not admit that I was discouraged, but I was pretty nearly resigned to a life without fluent speech, nearly convinced that future efforts to find a cure for stammering would be fruitless and bring no better results.
It was about this time that I stepped into the office of my cousin, then a successful lawyer and district attorney of his city, later the first vice-president of one of the great American railroads with headquarters in New York, and now retired. He was one of those men in whose vocabulary there is no such word as "fail." After I had talked with him for quite a while, he looked at me, and with his kindly, almost fatherly smile asked, "Why don't you cure yourself?"
"Cure myself?" I queried. "How do you expect me, a young man with no scientific training, to cure myself, when the learned doctors, surgeons and scientists of the country hare given me up as incurable?"
"That doesn't make any difference," he replied, "'while there is life, there is hope' and it's a sure thing that nobody ever accomplished anything worth while by accepting the failures of others as proof that the thing couldn't be done. Whitney would never have invented the cotton gin if he had accepted the failures of others as final. Columbus picked out a road to America and assured the skeptics that there was no danger of his sailing 'over the edge.' Of course, it had never been done before, but then Columbus went ahead and did it himself. He didn't take somebody else's failure as an indication of what he could do. If he had, a couple of hundred years later, somebody else would have discovered it and put Columbus in the class with the rest of the weak-kneed who said it couldn't BE done, just because IT NEVER HAD BEEN DONE.
"The progress of this country, Ben," continued my cousin, "is founded on the determination of men who refuse to accept the failures of others as proof that things can't be done at all. Now you've got a mighty good start. You've found out all about these other methods—you know that they have failed—and in a lot of cases, you know WHY they have failed. Now, why don't you begin where they have left off and find out how to succeed?"
The thought struck me like a bolt from a clear sky: "BEGIN WHERE THE OTHERS LEAVE OFF AND FIND OUT HOW TO SUCCEED!" I kept saying it over and over to myself, "Begin where the others leave off—begin where the others leave off!"
This thought put high hope in my heart. It seemed to ring like a call from afar. "Begin where the others leave off and find out how to succeed." I kept thinking about that all the way home. I thought of it at the table that evening. I said nothing. I went to bed—but I didn't go to sleep, for singing through my brain was that sentence, "Begin where the others leave off and find out how to succeed!"
Right then and there I made the resolve that resulted in my curing myself. "I WILL do it," I said, "I will begin where the others leave off—and I WILL SUCCEED!!" Then and there I determined to master the principles of speech, to chart the methods that had been used by others, to find their defects, to locate the cause of stammering, to find out how to remove that cause and remove it from myself, so that I, like the others whom I so envied, could talk freely and fluently.
That resolution—that determination which first fired me that evening never left me. It marked the turning point in my whole life. I was no longer dependent upon others, no longer looking to physicians or elocution teachers or hypnotists to cure me of stammering. I was looking to myself. If I was to be cured, then I must be the one to do it. This responsibility sobered me. It intensified my determination. It emphasized in my own mind the need for persistent effort, for a constant striving toward this one thing. And absorbed with this idea, living and working toward this one end, I began my work.
BEGINNING WHERE OTHERS HAD LEFT OFF
From the moment that my resolution took shape, my plans were all laid with one thing in mind—to cure myself of stammering. I determined, first of all, to master the principles of speech. I remembered very well, indeed, the admonition of Prof. J. J. Mills, President of Earlham College, on the day I left the institution. "You have been a hard-working student," he said, "but your success will never be complete until you learn to talk as others talk. Cure your stammering at any cost." That was the thing I had determined to do. And having determined upon that course, I resolved to let nothing swerve me from it.
I began the study of anatomy. I studied the lungs, the throat, the brain—nothing escaped me. I pursued my studies with the avidity of the medical student wrapped up in his work. I read all the books that had been published on the subject of stammering. I sought eagerly for translations of foreign books on the subject. I lived in the libraries. I studied late at night and arose early in the morning, that I might be at my work again. It absorbed me. I thought of the subject by day and dreamed of it by night. It was never out of my mind. I was living it, breathing it, eating it. I had not thought myself capable of such concentration as I was putting in on the pursuit of the truth as regards stammering and its cure.
With the knowledge that I had gained from celebrated physicians, specialists and institutions throughout this country and Europe, I extended my experiments and investigation. I had an excellent subject on which to experiment—myself. Progress was slow at first—so slow, in fact, that I did not realize until later that it was progress at all. Nothing but my past misery, backed up by my present determination to be free from the impediment that hampered me at every turn, could have kept me from giving up. But at last, after years of effort, after long nights of study and days of research, I was rewarded by success—I found and perfected a method of control of the articulatory organs as well as of the brain centers controlling the organs of speech. I had learned the cause of stammering and stuttering.
All of the mystery with which the subject had been surrounded by so-called specialists, fell away. In all its clearness, I saw the truth. I saw how the others, who had failed in my case, had failed because of ignorance. I saw that they had been treating effects, not causes. I saw exactly WHY their methods had not succeeded and could never succeed.
In truth I had BEGUN WHERE THE OTHERS LEFT OFF AND WON SUCCESS. The reader can imagine what this meant to me. It meant that at last I could speak—clearly, distinctly, freely, and fluently, without those facial contortions that had made me an object of ridicule wherever I went. It meant that I could take my place in life, a man among men; that I could look the whole world in the face; that I could live and enjoy life as other normal persons lived and enjoyed it.
At first my friends could not believe that my cure was permanent. Even my mother doubted the evidence of her own ears. But I knew the trouble would not come back, for the old fear was gone, the nervousness soon passed away, and a new feeling of confidence and self-reliance took hold of me, with the result that in a few weeks I was a changed man. People who had formerly avoided me because of my infirmity began to greet me with new interest. Gradually the old affliction was forgotten by those with whom I came into daily contact and by many I was thought of as a man who had never stammered. Even today, those who knew me when I stammered so badly I could hardly talk, are hardly able to believe that I am the same person who used to be known as "BEN BOGUE'S BOY WHO STUTTERS."
For today I can talk as freely and fluently as anybody. I do not hesitate in the least. For years, I have not even known what it is to grope mentally for a word. I speak in public as well as in private conversation. I have no difficulty in talking over the telephone and in fact do not know the difference. In my work, I lecture to students and am invited to address scientific bodies, societies and educational gatherings, all of which I can accomplish without the slightest difficulty.
Today, I can say with Terence, "I am a man and nothing that is human is alien to me." And I can go a step further and say to those who are afflicted as I was afflicted: "I have been a stammerer. I know your troubles, your sorrows, your discouragements. I understand with an understanding born of a costly experience."
Man or woman, boy or girl, wherever you are, my heart goes out to you. Whatever your station in life, rich or poor, educated or unlettered, discouraged and hopeless, or determined and resolute, I send you a message of hope, a message which, in the words of Dr. Russell R. Conwell, "has been affirmed and reaffirmed in the thousands of lives I have been privileged to watch. And the message is this: Neither heredity nor environment nor any obstacles superimposed by man can keep you from marching straight through to a cure, provided you are guided by a firm driving determination and have normal health and intelligence." To that end I commend to you the succeeding pages of this volume, where you will find in plain and simple language the things which I have spent more than thirty years in learning. May these pages open for you the door to freedom of speech—as they have opened it for hundreds before you.
STAMMERING AND STUTTERING
The Causes, Peculiarities, Tendencies and Effects
SPEECH DISORDERS DEFINED
In the diagnosis of speech disorders, there are almost as many different forms of defective utterance as there are cases, all of which forms, however, divide themselves into a few basic types. These various disorders might be broadly classified into three classes:
(1)—Those resulting from carelessness in learning to speak; (2)—Those which are of distinct mental form; and (3)—Those caused by a physical deformity in the organs of speech themselves.
Regardless of under which of these three heads a speech disorder may come, it is commonly spoken of by the laymen as a "speech impediment" or "a stoppage in speech" notwithstanding the fact that the characteristics of the various disorders are quite dissimilar. In certain of the disorders,
(a)—There is an inability to release a word; in others, (b)—A tendency to repeat a syllable several times before the following syllable can be uttered; in others, (c)—The tendency to substitute an incorrect sound for the correct one; while in others, (d)—The utterance is defective merely in the imperfect enunciation of sounds and syllables due to some organic defect, or to carelessness in learning to speak.
While this volume has but little to do with speech disorders other than stammering and stuttering, the characteristics of the more common forms of speech impediment—lisping, cluttering and hesitation, as well as stuttering and stammering—will be discussed in this first chapter, in order that the reader may be able, in a general way at least, to differentiate between the various disorders.
This is a very common form of speech disorder and one which manifests itself early in the life of the child. Lisping may be divided into three forms:
(1)—Negligent Lisping (2)—Neurotic Lisping (3)—Organic Lisping
NEGLIGENT LISPING: This is a form of defective enunciation caused in most cases by parental neglect or the carelessness of the child himself in the pronunciation of words during the first few months of talking. This defective pronunciation in Negligent Lisping is caused either by a FAILURE or an INABILITY to observe others who speak correctly. We learn to speak by imitation, and failing to observe the correct method of speaking in others, we naturally fail to speak correctly ourselves. In Negligent Lisping, this inability properly to imitate correct speech processes, results in the substitution of an incorrect sound for the correct one with consequent faulty formation of words.
ORGANIC LISPING: This results from an organic or physical defect in the vocal organs, such as hare-lip, feeble lip, malformation of the tongue, defective teeth, overshot or undershot jaw, high palatal arch, cleft palate, defective palate, relaxed palate following an operation for adenoids, obstructed nasal passages or defective hearing.
NEUROTIC LISPING: This is a form of speech marked by short, rapid muscular contractions instead of the smooth and easy action used in producing normal sounds. Neurotic Lisping is often found to be combined with stammering or stuttering, which is quite logical, since it is similar, both as to CAUSE and as to the presence of a MENTAL DISTURBANCE. In Neurotic Lisping, the muscular movements are less spasmodic than in cases of stuttering, partaking more of the cramped sticking movement, common in stammering.
Stuttering may be generally defined as the repetition—rapid in some cases, slow in others—of a word or a syllable, before the following word or syllable can be uttered. Stuttering may take several forms, any one of which will fall into one of four phases:
(1)—Simple Phase (2)—Advanced Phase (3)—Mental Phase (4)—Compound Phase
Simple stuttering can be said to be a purely physical form of the difficulty. The Advanced Phase marks the stage of further progress where the trouble passes from the purely physical state into a condition that may be known as Mental-Physical. The distinctly Mental Phase is marked by symptoms indicating a mental cause for the trouble, the disorder usually having passed into this form from the simple or advanced stages of the malady. Stuttering may be combined with stammering in which case the condition represents the Compound Phase of the trouble.
CHOREATIC STUTTERING: This originates in an attack of Acute Chorea or St. Vitus Dance, which leaves the sufferer in a condition where involuntary and spasmodic muscular contractions, especially of the face, have become an established habit. This breaks up the speech in a manner somewhat similar to ordinary stuttering. Also known as "Tic Speech."
SPASTIC SPEECH: This is often the result of infantile cerebral palsy, the characteristic symptom of the trouble being intense over-exertion, continued throughout a sentence, the syllables being equal in length and very laboriously enunciated. In spastic speech, there is present a noticeable hyper-tonicity of the nerve fibers actuating the muscles used in speaking as well as marked contractions of the facial muscles.
UNCONSCIOUS STUTTERING: This is a misnomer because there can be no such thing as unconscious stuttering. It appears that the person afflicted is not conscious of his difficulty for he insists that he does not s-s-s-s-tut-tut-tut-ter. Unconscious Stuttering is but a name for the disorder of a stutterer who is too stubborn to admit his own difficulty.
THOUGHT STUTTERING: This is an advanced form of stuttering which is also known as Aphasia and which is caused by the inability of the sufferer to recall the mental images necessary to the formation of a word. Stuttering in its simpler forms is usually connected with the period of childhood, while aphasia is often connected with old age or injury. The aphasic person is excessively nervous as is the stutterer; he undergoes the same anxiety to get his words out and the same fear of being ridiculous. In aphasia there is, however, no excessive muscular tension or cramp of the speech muscles. In these cases, the stutterer will sometimes repeat the first syllable ten or fifteen times with pauses between, being for a time unable to recall what the second syllable is. It is, in other words, a habitual, but nevertheless temporary, inability to recall to mind the mental images necessary to produce the word or syllable desired to be spoken. This condition is more commonly known as Thought Lapse or the inability to think of what you desire to say.
One investigator shows that the diagnosis of "insanity" with later commitment to an asylum occurred in the case of a bad stutterer. When excited he would go through the most extreme contortions and the wildest gesticulations in a vain attempt to finally get all of the word out, finally pacing up and down the room like one truly insane. This tendency to believe that the stutterer is insane because of the convulsive or spasmodic effort accompanying his efforts to speak, is a mistaken one, although there can be little doubt of the tendency of this condition finally to lead to insanity if not checked.
Hesitation is marked by a silent, choking effort, often accompanied by a fruitless opening and closing of the mouth. Hesitation is a stage through which the sufferer usually passes before he reaches the condition known as Elementary Stammering.
Stammering is a condition in which the person afflicted is unable to begin a word or a sentence no matter how much effort may be directed toward the attempt to speak, or how well they may know what they wish to say. In stammering, there is the "sticking" as the stammerer terms it, or the inability to express a sound. The difference between stammering and stuttering lies in the fact that in stuttering, the disorder manifests itself in loose and hurried (or in some cases, slow) repetitions of sounds, syllables or words, while in the case of stammering, the manifestation takes the form of an inability to express a sound, or to begin a word or a sentence.
ELEMENTARY STAMMERING: This is the simplest form of this disorder. Here, the convulsive effort is not especially noticeable and the marked results of long-continued stammering are not apparent. Most cases pass quickly from the elementary stage unless checked in their incipiency.
SPASMODIC STAMMERING: This marks the stage of the disorder where the effort to speak brings about marked muscular contractions and pronounced spasmodic efforts, resulting in all sorts of facial contortions, grimaces and uncontrolled jerkings of the head, body and limbs.
THOUGHT STAMMERING: This, like Thought-Stuttering, is a form of Aphasia and manifests itself in the inability of the stammerer to think of what he wishes to say. In other words, the thought-stammerer, like the thought-stutterer, is unable to recall the mental images necessary to the production of a certain word or sound—and is, therefore, unable to produce sounds correctly. The manifestations described under Thought Stuttering are present in Thought Stammering also.
COMBINED STAMMERING AND STUTTERING: This is a compound form of difficulty in which the sufferer finds himself at times not only unable to utter a sound or begin a word or a sentence but also is found to repeat a sound or syllable several times before the following syllable can be uttered. Any case of stuttering or stammering in the Simple or Elementary Stages may pass into Combined Stammering and Stuttering without warning or without the knowledge, even, of the stammerer or stutterer.
THE CAUSES OF STUTTERING AND STAMMERING
One of the first questions asked by the stutterer or stammerer is, "What is the cause of my trouble?" In asking this question, the stammerer is getting at the very essence of the successful method of treatment of his malady, for there is no method of curing stuttering, stammering and kindred defects of speech that can bring real and permanent relief from the affliction unless it attacks the cause of the trouble and removes that cause.
Inasmuch as this book has to do almost entirely with the two defective forms of utterance known as stuttering and stammering, we will at this time drop all reference to the other forms of speech impediments and from this time forth refer only to stuttering and stammering.
These forms of defective speech are manifested by the inability to express words in the normal, natural manner—freely and fluently. In other words, there is a marked departure from the normal in the methods used by the stammerer in the production of speech. It is necessary, therefore, before taking up the discussion of the causes of stuttering and stammering, to determine the method by which voice is produced in the normal individual, so that we can compare this normal production of speech with the faulty method adopted by the stutterer or stammerer and learn where the fault is and what is the cause of it.
Let us now proceed to do this: In other words, let us ask the question: "How is speech produced in the normal person not afflicted with defective utterance?"
Voice is produced by the vocal organs much in the same manner as sounds are produced on a saxophone or clarinet, by forcing a current of air through an aperture over which is a reed which vibrates with the sounds. The low tones produced by the saxophone or clarinet result from the enlargement of the aperture, while the higher tones are produced by contracting the opening. Variations of pitch in the human voice are also effected by elongation and contraction of the vocal cords with comparative slackness or tension, as in the violin.
It would be of no value, and, in fact, would only serve to confuse the layman, to know the duties or functions of the various organs or parts entering into the production of speech. Suffice it to say that in the "manufacture" of words, there are concerned the glottis, the larynx, thorax, diaphragm, lungs, soft palate, tongue, teeth and lips. In the production of the sounds and the combination of sounds that we call words, each of these organs of speech has its own particular duty to perform and the failure of any one of these organs properly to perform that duty may result in defective utterance of some form.
BRAIN CONTROL: It must be borne in mind that for any one or all of the organs of speech to become operative or to manifest any action, they must be innervated or activated by impulses originating in the brain.
For instance, if it is necessary that the glottis be contracted to a point which we will call "half-open" for the production of a certain sound, the brain must first send a message to that organ before the necessary movement can take place. In saying the word "you," for instance, it would be necessary for the tongue to press tip against the base of the lower row of front teeth. But before the tongue can assume that position, it is necessary that the brain send to the tongue a message directing what is to be done.
When the number of different organs involved in the production of the simplest word of one syllable is considered (such as the word "you" just mentioned), and when it is further considered that separate brain messages must be sent to each of the organs, muscles or parts concerned in the production of that word, then it will be understood that the process of speaking is a most complicated one, involving not only numerous physical organs but also intricate mental processes.
When all of the organs concerned in the production of speech are working properly and when the brain sends prompt and correct brain impulses to them, the result is perfect speech, the free, fluent and easy conversation of the good talker. But when any or all of these organs fail to function properly, due to inco-ordination, the result is discord—and defective utterance.
CAUSE OF DEFECTIVE UTTERANCE: Now, let us consider the cause of defective utterance. What is it that causes the organ, muscle or parts to fail properly to function? The first and most obvious conclusion would be that there was some inherent defect in the organ, muscle or part which failed to function. But experience has proved that this is usually not the case. An examination of two thousand cases of defective utterance, including many others besides stuttering and stammering, revealed three-tenths of one per cent. with an organic defect—that is, a defect in the organs themselves. In other words, only three persons out of every thousand afflicted with defective utterance were found to have any physical shortcoming that was responsible for the affliction.
Take any of these two thousand cases—say those that stammered, for instance. What was the cause of their difficulty, if it did not lie in the organs used in the production of speech? This is the question that long puzzled investigators in the field of speech defects. Like Darwin, they said: "It must be this, for if it is not this, then what is it?" If stuttering and stammering are not caused by actual physical defects in the organs themselves, what then can be the cause?
DUE TO A LACK OF CO-ORDINATION: Cases of stammering and stuttering where no organic defect is present are due to a lack of co-ordination between the brain and the muscles of speech. In other words, the harmony between the brain and the speech organs which normally result in smooth working and perfect speech has been interrupted. The brain impulses are no longer properly transmitted to and executed by the muscles of speech.
This failure to transmit properly brain messages or this lack of co-ordination may take one of two forms: it may result in an UNDER-innervation of the organs of speech, which results in loose, uncontrolled repetitions of a word, sound or syllable, or it may take the form of an overinnervation of the vocal organ with the result that it is so intensely contracted as to be entirely closed, causing the "sticking" or inability to pronounce even a sound, so common to the stammerer.
Suppose that you try to say the word "tray." Do not articulate the sounds. Merely make the initial effort to say it. What happens? Simply this: The tip of the tongue comes in contact with the upper front teeth at their base and as you progress in your attempt to say "t," the tongue flattens itself against the roof of the mouth, moving from the tip of the tongue toward its base. If you are a stammerer, you will probably find in endeavoring to say this word, that your vocal organs fail to respond quickly and correctly to the set of brain messages which should result in the proper enunciation of the word "tray." Your tongue clings to the roof of your mouth, your mouth remains open, you suffer a rush of blood to the face, due to your powerful and unsuccessful effort to articulate, and the word refuses to be spoken.
Now, in order to dissociate "lack of co-ordination," from stammering and to get an idea of its real nature, let us imagine an experiment which can be conducted by any one, whether they stammer or not.
You see on the table before you a pencil. You want to write and consequently you want to pick up the pencil. Therefore, your brain sends a message to your thumb and forefinger, saying, "Pick up the pencil." Your brain does not, of course, express that command in words, but sends a brain impulse based upon the kinaesthetic or motor image of the muscular action necessary to accomplish that act. But for our purpose in this experiment, we can assume that the brain sends the message in terms which, if interpreted in words, would be "pick up the pencil." Suppose that when that brain message reaches your thumb and forefinger, instead of reaching for the pencil, they immediately close and clap or stick, refusing to act. Your hand is unable to pick up the pencil. That, then, is similar to stammering. The hand is doing practically what the vocal organs do when the stammerer attempts to speak and fails. But, on the other hand, if, when the message was received by your thumb and finger, it made short, successive attempts to pick up the pencil, but failed to accomplish it, then you could compare that failure to the uncontrolled repetitions of stuttering. This inability to control the action of the thumb and forefinger would be the result of a lack of co-ordination between the brain and the muscles of the hand, while stuttering or stammering is the result of a lack of co-ordination between the brain and the muscles of speech.
WHAT CAUSES LACK OF CO-ORDINATION: But even after it is known that stuttering and stammering are caused by a lack of co-ordination between the brain and the organs of speech, still, the mind of scientific and inquiring trend must ask, "What causes the lack of co-ordination?" And that question is quite in order. It is plain that the lack of co-ordination does not exist without a cause. What, then, is this cause?
An inquiry into the cause of the inco-ordination between brain and speech-organs leads us to an examination of the original or basic causes of stammering. These original or basic causes in their various ramifications are almost as numerous as the cases of speech disorders themselves, but they fall into a comparatively few well-defined classes.
These original causes in many cases do not appear to have been the direct and immediate cause of the trouble, but rather a predisposing cause or a cause which brought about a condition that later developed into stuttering or stammering.
Let us set down a list of the more common of these causes, not with the expectation of having the list complete but rather of giving facts about the representative or more common Basic Predisposing Causes of Stuttering and Stammering.
A little more than 96 per cent. of the causes of stammering which the author has examined can be traced back to one of the five causes shown below:
1—Mimicry or Imitation 2—Fright or severe nerve shock 3—Fall or injury of some sort 4—Heredity 5—Disease
Let us take up these familiar causes of stuttering or stammering in the order in which we have set them down and learn something more of them.
The first and one of the most common causes is Mimicry, or, as it is probably more often called, Imitation. Mimicry or Imitation is almost wholly confined to children. After reaching the age of discretion, the adult is usually of sufficient intelligence to refrain from mimicking or imitating a person who stutters or stammers.
The average small boy, however, (or girl, for that matter) seems to find delight in mocking and imitating a playmate who stutters or stammers, and so keen is this delight that he persists in this practice day after day until (as its own punishment) the practice of mockery or mimicry brings upon the boy himself the affliction in which he found his fun.
It may be noted, however, that Imitation is not always conscious, but often unconscious. The small child begins to imitate the stuttering companion without knowing that he engages in imitation. This practice, notwithstanding the fact that it is unconscious, soon develops into stuttering, without any cause being assignable by the parent until investigation develops that unconscious and even unnoticed imitation is the basic cause of the defective utterance.
It has been definitely determined that stuttering may be communicable through contagious impressions, especially among children of tender age whose minds are subject to the slightest impressions.
For this reason, it is not advisable for parents to allow children to play with others who stutter or stammer, nor is it charitable to allow a child who stutters or stammers to play with other children who are not so afflicted.
So far-reaching are the effects of Imitation or Mimicry that in certain cases, children have been known to contract stuttering from associating with a deaf-mute whose expressions were made chiefly in the form of grunts and inarticulate sounds.
FRIGHT OR SEVERE NERVE SHOCK: Another common cause of stammering is fright or nervous shock, which may have been brought about in countless ways. One boy who came to me some time ago stated that he had swallowed a nail when about six years of age and that this was the cause of his stammering. The logical conclusion in a case like this would be that the nail had injured the vocal organs, but an examination proved that there was no organic defect and that the stammering was caused, not by injury directly to the vocal organs but by the nervous shock occasioned by swallowing the nail.
Another case was that of a stammerer who reported that he had been given carbolic acid, by mistake, when a child and that he had stammered ever since. This, like the case of the boy who swallowed the nail, might be expected to prove a case of absolute physical injury or impairment of the vocal chords, but once again, it was clear that such was not the case and that the stammering was brought about solely from the nervous shock which came as a result of taking carbolic acid.
There is still another case of a boy who felt that he was continually being followed. This was of course merely a hallucination, but the fright that this boy's state of mind brought on soon caused him to stutter and stammer in a very pronounced manner.
Fright is a prolific cause of stuttering in small children and may be traced in a great many cases to parents or nurses who persist in telling children stories of a frightful nature, or who, as a means of discipline, scare them by locking them up in the cellar, the closet or the garret. To these scare-tales told to children should be added the misguided practice of telling children that "the bogey-man will get you" or "the policeman is after you" or some such tale to enforce parental commands. An instance is recalled of a woman who created out of a morbid imagination a phantom of terrible mien, who abode in the garret and was constantly lying in wait for the small children of the household with the professed intention of "eating them alive."
Such disciplinary methods of parents savor much of the Inquisition and the Dark Ages and should, for the good of the children and the future generation they represent, be totally abolished. While these methods do not, in every case, result in stuttering or stammering, they make the child of a nervous disposition and lay him liable in later years to the afflictions which accompany nervous disorders. In some cases "tickling" a child has caused stammering or stuttering. Care should be exercised here as well, for prolonged tickling brings about intense muscular contraction especially of the diaphragmatic muscles, which contraction is accompanied by an agitated mental condition as well as extreme nervousness, all of which approaches very closely to the combination of abnormal conditions which are found to be present in stammering or stuttering.
FALL OR INJURY AS A CAUSE: Step into any gathering of average American parents for a half-hour and if the subject of the children should come up, you are sure to hear one or more dramatic recitals of the falls and injuries suffered by the junior members of the household, from the first time that Johnny fell out of bed and frightened his mother nearly to death, to the day that he was in an automobile crash at the age of 23. And these tales are always closed with the profound bit of confided information that these falls are of no consequence—"nothing ever comes of them."
While in a great measure this is true, there are many falls and injuries suffered in childhood which are responsible for the ills of later life, although it is seldom indeed that they are blamed for the results which they bring about.
Injuries and falls are a frequent cause of stuttering and stammering. Usually, however, an injury results in stuttering or stammering, not because of any change in the physical structure brought about by the injury but rather by the nervous shock attending it. In other words, cases of stammering and stuttering caused apparently by injury might, if desired, be traced still further back, showing as the initial cause an injury but as a direct cause the fright or nervous shock resulting from that injury.
A good example of this is found in a case of a young man who came to me some years ago. He said: "When I was about five years old, my brother and I were playing in the cellar and I wanted to jump off the top step. When I jumped, I hit my head on the cross-piece and it knocked me back on the steps and I slid down on my back, and ever since, for ten years, I have stammered."
Here is a case where the blow on the head, or the succession of blows on the spinal column as the boy slid down the stairs, might have been the cause of the trouble. More probably, it was the combined injury, undoubtedly resulting in a severe nervous shock from which the boy probably did not recover for many days.
Another man said, in describing his case during an examination: "At the age of 16, I was hit on the head with a ball. I lost my memory for one week and when I regained it, I was a stammerer." This is a plain case of injury resulting in immediate stammering.
Still another case is that of a boy who, at the age of three, was shot in the neck by a rifle, the bullet coming out of his chin, which resulted in his becoming an immediate stammerer. Here, as in the case of the boy who swallowed the nail, it might be expected that the cause was a defect in the organs of speech, but I found stammering was brought on by the nervous shock.
From these few cases of actual occurrences, it will be seen that practically all cases of stammering caused by injury can be traced to the NERVOUS SHOCK brought about by the injury.
HEREDITY AS A CAUSE: There is little that need be said on the subject of heredity as a cause of stuttering and stammering, save that heredity is a common cause and that children of stuttering or stammering parents usually stammer. In this, as in the case of any malady hereditarily transmitted, it is difficult to say whether the trouble is caused by inheritance or by constant and intimate association of the child with his parents during the period of early speech development.
THE RESULT OF DISEASE: Many cases of both stammering and stuttering may be traced back to disease as the basic or predisposing cause. Acute Chorea (St. Vitus Dance) is frequently the cause of stuttering of a type known as Choreatic Stuttering or "Tic Speech." Infantile Cerebral Palsy sometimes brings about a condition known as "Spastic Speech," while whooping cough, scarlet fever, measles, meningitis, infantile paralysis, scrofula and rickets are sometimes responsible for the disorder.
Disease may cause stuttering or stammering as an immediate after effect or the speech trouble may not show up for considerable time, depending altogether upon the individual. But regardless of the length of time elapsing between the disease which predisposes the individual to the speech disorder and the time of the first evidence of its presence, diagnosis reveals but an insignificant percentage of organic defects in these cases resulting from disease, indicating that even here the predominant causative factor is a mental one.
THE PECULIARITIES OF STUTTERING AND STAMMERING
Each individual case of stuttering or stammering has its own peculiarities, already more or less developed—arising from structural differences (but not necessarily defects) in the organs of speech, as well as differences in temperament, health and nervousness; or peculiarities arising from habit—which is the result of previous training or neglect, as the case may be.
SING WITHOUT DIFFICULTY: Almost without exception, the stutterer or stammerer can sing without any difficulty, can talk to animals without stuttering or stammering, can talk when alone and in some cases can talk perfectly in a whisper. Some stammerers have less difficulty in talking to strangers than in talking to friends or relatives while in other cases, the condition is exactly reversed. A stutterer or stammerer almost always experiences difficulty in speaking over the telephone. One experimenter has shown, however, that a stammerer can talk perfectly over the telephone so long as the receiver hook is depressed and there is no connection with another person at the other end of the line. This experimenter shows that immediately the receiver hook is released and a connection is established, the halting, stumbling utterance begins.
These peculiarities of stuttering and stammering for many years puzzled investigators and were, in fact, finally responsible for arriving at the true cause of stammering.
Almost every stammerer seeks for an explanation of these peculiar manifestations. Why is it, for instance, that a stammerer can sing without difficulty, although he cannot talk? This is one of the best evidences that could be produced to show that stammering is the result of a lack of mental control. The stammerer who can sing without difficulty has no organic or inherent defect in the vocal organs, that is sure. If the stammerer can sing, and if this proves that he has no organic defect, then it follows logically that the cause of his trouble is mental and not physical.
TALK WHEN ALONE: The fact that a stammerer can talk without hesitation when alone and that he can talk to animals may be explained by a very simple illustration—any stammerer can try this experiment on one of his friends who does not stammer. He can prove that the reflex, or what might be termed subconscious movements of the bodily organs are more nearly normal than the same movements consciously controlled. Take, for instance, the regular beating of the pulse. Let anyone who does not stammer (it makes no difference in trying this experiment whether the person stammers or not, save that we are trying to prove that the condition may be brought about in one who is not a stammerer) feel his own pulse for sixty seconds. Let him be thoroughly conscious of this effort to learn the rapidity of its beating. If a disinterested observer could record the pulse as normally beating and the pulse under the conscious influence of the mind, it would be found that the pulse under the conscious effort is beating either more rapidly or more slowly or that it is not beating as regularly as in the case of unconscious or reflex action.
This same condition may be noticed in another unconscious or reflex action—breathing. The moment you become conscious of an attempt to breathe regularly, breathing becomes difficult, restricted, irregular, whereas this same action, when unconscious, is thoroughly regular and even.
In the average or normal person who has learned to talk correctly, speaking should be practically an unconscious process. It should not be necessary to make a conscious effort to form words, nor should a normal individual be conscious of the energy necessary to create a word or the muscular movements necessary to its formation and expression.
This will explain why the stutterer or stammerer can talk without difficulty to animals or when alone—there is no self-consciousness—no conscious effort—no thinking of what is being done.
Another of the peculiarities of stammering is that the stammerer in many cases seems to be able to talk perfectly in concert. This has long baffled the investigator in this field, no reason being assignable for this ability to talk in connection with others. The baffling element has been this—that the investigator has assumed that the stammerer talked well in concert, whereas a very careful scientist would have discovered the stammerer to be a fraction of a second or a part of a syllable behind the others.
You have doubtless been in church at some time when you were not entirely familiar with the hymn being sung, yet by lagging a note or two behind the rest, you could sing the song, to all appearances being right along with the others.
When you talk over the long-distance telephone, the voice seems instantly to reach the party at the other end of the line, yet we know that a period of time has had to elapse to allow the voice waves to move along the telephone wire and reach the other end. The elapse of time has been too slight to be noted by the average human mind and the transmission seems instantaneous. This is what happens in the case of the stammerer who seems able to talk in concert—he is merely a syllable or part of a syllable behind the rest, all the while giving the impression nevertheless, that he is talking just as they are.
There are many other individual peculiarities which can be described by almost every stammerer. These different peculiarities are more numerous than the cases of stammering and it would be useless to attempt to discuss them in detail. I will take up only two as being typical of dozens which have come under my observation in twenty-eight years' experience.