Several years ago I was invited to a fluency shaping practice group. The group leader suggested that I have my clients join the group, so I went to see what it was all about. As we sat in a circle, each person spoke about what he (they were all males, except me) had done about speaking during the week. As one young man spoke, I wondered what he was doing in the group. He spoke with natural fluency and apparent ease. When he finished talking, the group leader and other participants came down on him quite hard. He was doing it all wrong. His fluency was spontaneous. He wasn’t monitoring. One would think he hadn’t learned a thing. Later another person who I would roughly rate as being in the 88th percentile of stuttering with a lot of secondary symptoms was praised for his exceptional monitoring. This might make sense to some, but I felt that I had entered the world of the mad hatter.
This experience is not out of the ordinary. Many people believe that spontaneous fluency is a negative, while controlled fluency is the gold standard. I think I understand why they feel this way. Controlled fluency gives you something to do. Our ethic is that if you try hard, you will succeed. After all, we’ve all heard it time and again, “Get control of yourself; keep it under control” People really believe that their hope for speaking fluently lies in doing some technique i.e. stretching syllables, taking a full breath, making light articulatory contacts, and pulling out of blocks, etc. They believe that there is power in control. The hope is that by controlling your speech every time you talk, you will be fluent. The problem is that monitoring and using speech controls takes lots of effort, sometimes even more effort than it takes to stutter. It is too bad that most people don’t realize that spontaneous fluency also means doing something. It means letting go, giving up the monitoring. Conceptually, this may seem strange, but when my clients do give up trying to control their speech, they do have the spontaneous fluency that comes from doing what everyone else does to produce speech.