My name is Mark Irwin. For many years I shared a classroom with a boy with an obvious stutter marked by repetitions and prolongations. This boy was teased but outwardly confident enough to ask questions in class. On the other hand I never voluntarily spoke in class knowing that if I tried to speak I would block. Occasionally I had to respond to questions and the occasional block would occur in spite of my attempts with substitution and circumlocution. My classmate was thought to have a severe stutter because he was heard to stutter often. I made sure no one heard me stutter often. I tried to speak as little as possible and substituted words whenever I could. Therefore my stutter was regarded as mild even though dealing with it was a constant preoccupation. If the other boy had a severe stutter, then what did I have? Certainly my stutter/stammer was not described in a dictionary then or now, nor is it currently clearly described on the websites of the various stuttering associations throughout the world.
Since this same situation affects many people who stutter, covert behaviour and associated phobic reactions need to be more closely connected to stuttering. Also it is also important to recognise that a covert stutterer’s speech pattern may remain even though there are no longer negative attitudinal and emotional reactions to stuttering. That is speech like other human activity becomes habitual and avoidance of certain words and sounds may remain even when there is no longer an inability to articulate them. It is clear an appreciation of covert stuttering by parents, teachers and speech language pathologists would also give guidance to the severity of the disorder, the consequent emotional impact and the need for counseling and therapy. A new definition of stuttering and the application of commonly used labels would go along way to achieving this awareness.
Contact Mark by emailing info [at] stutteredspeechsyndrome [dot] com
Dr. Mark Irwin is a past Board Chair of the International Stuttering Association (2001 -2007) having served on the board since 1998. He is a Past President of the Australian Speak Easy Association (1994-6) as well as a past president of his local Toastmasters public speaking club (2003). A Division finalist in several public speaking competitions, he has studied stuttering informally through involvement with stuttering self-help groups and has 2 years of formal tertiary education in psychology and anthropology. A father of 3, he works as a dentist in private practice in Adelaide, South Australia where he is the owner and managing partner of a large group practice. He states: “I still stutter but far less dramatically physically and emotionally. Significantly I am free and do not let the thought of stuttering interfere with my life. While I still occassionally stutter I no longer suffer Stuttered Speech Syndrome”. He descibes himself as “a man with too much life experience not to be an enthusiastic advocate for the empowerment process!”
Read more about Mark’s personal story and the strategies he has used for dealing with stuttered feelings, stuttered speech and stuttered communication (ie Stuttered Speech Syndrome).
- What is Stuttering and What to do About It? (video presentation), The First National Stuttering Congress of China & Beijing Stuttering Forum, 2008.
- What is Stuttering? — defining stuttering from the speaker’s viewpoint, International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference 11, 2008.
- Clarification of Stuttering Terminology, Oxford Dysfluency Conference, 2008.
- Stuttering and Social Anxiety Disorder: Oxford Dysfluency Conference 2008.
- Clarification of Stuttering Terminology: Australian Speak Easy Association Conference, Adelaide 2008
- 14 Strategies for Change: International Stuttering Association’s World Congress of People Who Stutter, Cavtat Croatia 2007.
- Stuttering as a Disability: International Fluency Association Congress, Dublin, Ireland 2006
- CD ROM PROJECT – A Resource for Children, Teachers and Parents
- Developing Relationships With Consumers: Speech Pathology Australia Conference, Adelaide, 2001.
Presentations to Undergraduate Classes
- Developing Relationships with Consumers: Flinders University South Australia, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
- Stuttering and Social Anxiety Disorder: Flinders University South Australia, 2008, 2009, 2010