Progression to Fluency
The Steps of Fluency. Many PWS become so irritated with themselves for not becoming fluent in all areas and situations at one time. They should not allow themselves to become discouraged. Any and all improvements are a sign that complete fluency CAN be theirs, IF they will keep at it. Why is this true? Few PWS can leap from stuttering to complete fluency in one bound. We become fluent in stages or steps. To understand these steps, we should analyze what is “pressure speech” to us? It varies, to some degree, with every PWS. Typically, pressured speech varies, from least to most pressured, as follows:
(1) self (talking when alone)
(4) strangers and the work environment
(5) authority figures
(6) conversations with groups and
(7) formal presentations to individuals or groups
You likely knew the above, BUT you are not likely accepting the fact that becoming fluent, for most, will and must pass through these stages, likely in the above order, from the easiest to the most difficult FOR YOU. (You may or may not have some of the above problems.) Some of our students need help only with level 6 and 7 or only with 5 or only with 4, but most need help from level 2 through 7. It doesn’t matter. You can still do it. The above levels and your specific levels are not my point. My point is that there are levels and that your fluency will be achieved by levels (but not necessarily in the order above listed). Being aware of the levels will help you succeed, because you will not expect yourself to freakish leapfrog from level to 2 to 5 or 6 or 7. “Divide and conquer,” goes the aphorism. Let’s attack stuttering at all levels but concentrate on the easiest levels first and celebrate all successes.
Some will accomplish multiple levels at one time. Your personal list of pressured areas likely deviates somewhat from the above norms and/or includes levels or categories of difficulty not even above listed. That’s fine.
The important point is that you need to be patient with yourself and try to become fluent, by steps, from the least pressured to the most. Do not obsess over these levels. Just keep in mind that your fluency will likely evolve from the easiest level progressively through the most difficult. You will still achieve fluency.
Sometimes, we leap ahead of ourselves and suffer bad incidents (appearing clearly speech-disabled to a stranger), and that hurts. This is easy to do. On April 24th, we had a speaker, Shuozhi, who is Chinese, age 34, a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering doing post-doctoral work at the University of California, who has stuttered since age 6 to half his words. He came to us in November 2020 and posted a Success Story in January 2021. He kindly and bravely agreed to do a SAM Talk three months later. He chose not to practice it with his Certified Speech Coach. When he gave his talk he was largely fluent, but the pressure of addressing a group got to him, and he began to have blocks. Even so, he finished his talk and received much praise from his audience. I, and all his speech mates, were proud of him and told him so in no uncertain terms!
What’s my point? Shuozhi was and is fluent in the first 5 levels but not in levels 6 and 7. This does make him a detectable stutter anywhere else, and he can and will learn to address groups but how? By GRADUAL exposure to addressing groups. The more that he talks, asks questions, and makes comments at SAM Meetings, the sooner he will feel comfortable addressing the group in a SAM Talk. To learn to swim, we must swim. This does not mean that we should learn by trying to swim the Atlantic ocean unassisted.
In sum, PWS need to accept that there are levels of pressured situations, and that it is easiest to defeat all of them by attacking the easiest ones first. Then, as we move to the more difficult levels, we continue to celebrate all of our accomplishments to date. We can and will our speech-battles, first against stuttering in all situations, and, second, against fear. All of the above demonstrates the importance of STAYING ON THE PROGRAM until you are finished. “Finished” means (1) no bad incidents, (2) loving to speak in all situations, (3) adopting mind-training as a lifelong, daily regimen to attack all negative thinking, and (4) thus, being able to say, “I converted stuttering into a blessing in my life.”