Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We must get a text scroll into The King's Speech

That's what we are all afraid of, from Pam's facebook post:
A co-worker just came to me. She: "I saw The King's Speech last night". Me: "how did you like it?" She: "people may come away with wrong ideas, like my husband. He thought it was an emotional problem. I corrected him. Maybe there needs to be a dialogue about the myths".
Actually, I have a brilliant brilliant idea. We should lobby the producers to include a text scroll down on stuttering after the movie.

Three very simple messages STRAIGHT INTO THE MINDS OF MILLIONS!
Stuttering affects 5% of all children and 1% of all adults across all cultures.

Most stuttering has a genetic or neurological origin, and gets accentuated by strong emotions, stress, and mood.

There is no cure but good treatment reduces frequency and severity of stuttering, avoidance of speaking, emotional suffering, and improves self-esteem.
Of course, I am an idiot. I should have come up with this idea months ago! It might not be possible any more. Maybe for the DVD or foreign language release.

In any case, write to your association with the request!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Peter and Nan on Lidcombe at StutterTalk

The Larry Kings of stuttering discussed Lidcombe's academic claim of treatment success, i.e. the Emperor's New Clothes. When I say to the king: "Wake up! You are naked", they would say: "My Lord you might want to consider the possibility that other people have more clothes on than your Highness."

They made many important points that are frightfully close to the ones I made on my blog. ;-) Therapists should definitely listen to the podcast. Nan made the interesting point that the Lidcombe group needs to publish a lot to get funding. I'll get back to this points in relation to the wwwikileaks documents in a future post.

Here are a few extra comments on their debate:
  • Taking a theoretical perspective bypasses all this esoteric debate on statistics and empirical data: Stuttering starts due to a neurobiological cause due to either genetics and/or developmental issues. So the questions become: Can operand conditioning undo the neurobiological cause? How does natural recovery undo the neurobiological cause? My answer to the second question is: the neurobiological cause is just temporary, e.g. different development schedule. I would answer the first question with a moderate NO. Brain plasticity is a myth. Sure, targeted practise can increase or decrease the brain resources used, and optimizing occurs. But operand conditioning is about learning, which means changing memory to have new behaviour. Kids can speak more fluently, and the conditioning tells the brain to use this behaviour. It does not work on the general structure of the brain.

    It can change your behaviours but not the neurobiological cause. So I would expect kids who undergo Lidcombe to change their behaviours and decrease stuttering behaviours with a better control over stuttering moments. But the neurobiology is not affected. Either the brain naturally recovers or the brain stays. If it stays, the critical question is whether the kids who have shaped their behaviours via operand conditioning relapse or not. But it is clear to me that the neurobiological cause is not going away.
  • Nan Ratner needs to decide whether she wants "1000 kids to get decent statistics" or claims that there is some evidence for success. How do the two square up?
  • They did not talk about the children's version of relapse after stuttering therapy. Rightfully, the dogma states that the majority of adult patients relapse after therapy. It is the norm and not the exception. But I rarely hear people talk about it for Lidcombe. We should expect that a treatment with operand conditioning to be very vulnerable to relapse. Why? Because the cause that led to maladaptive behaviours is still present, because the neurobiological cause is still there. This cause leads to temporary speech initiation delays, which lead to reactions which leads to learning.
  • Peter made the interesting point that decades ago parents were blamed for the stuttering of their kids and now some within Lidcombe blame parents for not properly implementing the treatment. In a sense Mark Onslow is right, with perfect parents you can probably keep shaping the behaviour in such a way that stuttering is minimal. But we do not live in a perfect world. Parents loose influence once kids go to school.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book on choral singing and stuttering.

I found a wikipedia entry for Who Asked the First Question? The Origins of Human Choral Singing, Intelligence, Language and Speech, a book authored by Joseph Jordania, a ethnomusicologist and evolutionary musicologis. Part of the book deals with stuttering:

Cross-cultural studies of stuttering and dyslexia

Cross-cultural studies of the stuttering prevalence is widely discussed in the book. It is claimed that there is a positive correlation between the presence of choral singing traditions and the higher prevalence of stuttering in a population. The book surveys the existing literature on the cross-cultural study of stuttering and it is suggested that on one hand European and particularly Sub-Saharan African populations have higher stuttering prevalence, and on another hand Native American, Australian Aboriginal and East Asian populations have much lower stuttering prevalence. Cross-cultural studies were very active in early and middle of the 20th century, particularly under the influence of the works of Wendell Johnson, who claimed that the onset of stuttering was connected to the cultural expectations and the pressure put on young children by anxious parents. Johnson claimed there were cultures where stuttering, and even the word "stutterer", were absent (for example, among some tribes of Native Americans). Later studies found that this claim was not supported by the facts, so the influence of cultural factors in stuttering research declined. It is generally accepted by contemporary scholars that stuttering is present in every culture and in every race, although the attitude towards the actual prevalence differs. Some believe stuttering occurs in all cultures and races at similar rates, about 1% of general population (and is about 5% among young children) all around the world. A US-based study indicated that there were no racial or ethnic differences in the incidence of stuttering in preschool children.[3][4] At the same time, there are cross-cultural studies indicating that the difference between cultures may exist. For example, summarizing prevalence studies, E. Cooper and C. Cooper conclude: “On the basis of the data currently available, it appears the prevalence of fluency disorders varies among the cultures of the world, with some indications that the prevalence of fluency disorders labeled as stuttering is higher among black populations than white or Asian populations” [5]
Different regions of the world are researched very unevenly. Understandably, the largest number of studies had been conducted in European countries and in North America, where the experts agree on the mean estimate to be about 1% of the general population (Bloodtein, 1995. A Handbook on Stuttering). African populations, particularly from West Africa, might have the highest stuttering prevalence in the world—reaching in some populations 5%, 6% and even over 9%.[6] Many regions of the world are not researched sufficiently, and for some major regions there are no prevalence studies at all (for example, in China). Some claim the reason for this might be a lower incidence in general population in China.[7] Jordania suggested that the differences in stuttering prevalence may have a genetic basis

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

WWWikileaks: Who has written the PhD thesis?

A few months ago, I received wikileaks-quality documents with the request that I should make the documents public. I have been hesitating ever since, but wikileaks has lowered my threshold. People who stutter and unaffected academics should know what issues exist in the stuttering research academia. So I am starting wwwikileaks.

The documents shed an interesting light on an unreported and rarely discussed aspect of the academic world of stuttering, namely the quality of the training of PhD students.

Remember the presented documents are only one aspect of an actual event that has happened (or it is a very convincing and mischievous forgery).

Why should we not know? If everything is to acceptable academic standards, the people mentioned in the documents should be comfortable with their actions and its release.

The leaker sent me scanned documents which, according to the leaker, led her to come to the following conclusion:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Research Symposium at NSA in July2011

A reader has pointed me to the up-coming research symposium at the NSA conference beginning of July.

Here is a list of the speakers:

Gayle Beck, Ph.D. – University of Memphis (keynote speaker)
Deryk S. Beal, Ph.D – Boston University
Courtney Byrd, Ph.D. – University of Texas
Dennis Drayna, Ph.D. – National Institutes of Health
Jennifer Kleinow, Ph.D. – LaSalle University
Gerald A. Maguire, M.D. – University of California, Irvine School of Medicine
Walt Manning, Ph.D. – University of Memphis
Laura Plexico, Ph.D. – Auburn University
Nan Bernstein Ratner, Ed.D. - University of Maryland
Jennifer Watson, Ph.D – Texas Christian University
Mandy Hampton Wray, M.S. (doctoral candidate) - Purdue University
Scott Yaruss, Ph.D. – University of Pittsburgh

I know a few of them. I have never heard of others. The key speaker seems to be a psychotherapist. Ask yourself why these have been invited but not others? How do we know that these are the brains? Or are they just the best adapters conforming to the US academic landscape? For example, I would bet that Mandy who is a doctoral candidate and who I don't know is on the list because she has some relationship with the organizers. Just a guess. Not saying she is bad, but there are so many doctoral candidates.

My first impression is that each is speaking about their own research. I hope they have a structure in place for cross-disciplinary debates.

The reader also asked whether I will be there. The answer is: NO. I don't know the organizers which is nearly a requirement if you want to be invited as an non-academic. They probably consider me a kind of crackpot or eager amateur until they debate with me. And they want to keep the quality level high. Second, from those academics who know me, some don't want to have me, because I ask lots of annoying questions and commit faux-pas. Some don't want to have me, because I have publicly criticized their work. Some don't want me, because I have not behaved as they wish I should have behaved and so don't want to support an invitation.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Apologies to John Harrison for deleting his comments

My apologies to John Harrison, and possibly others. Your comments went into my Spam Comments folder, and, instead of Not Spam, I hit the Delete button! I have moderation on for comments on posts older than 15 days, and comments with links sometimes go into the spam folder. And only check them from time to time.

I only briefly read through his defence of Bodenhamer, and would be happy to respond.

Can you please repost? Sorry, I know it was a rather long comment.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Bodenhamer is probaby a creationist!

I have been taken to task by several people, the followers of Bodenhamer and people who agree with my arguments, with me mixing in religion. Some even talk about an ad ad hominem attack.

First of all, I have not committed an ad ad hominem fallacy, because I did not say that Bodehamer's statements on stuttering are wrong because he is what he is. I actually presented counterarguments.

Second, I have started to move from looking at his arguments to the person himself. I mention religion, because I want to understand his and his follower's inability to engage in an intellectual debate, and actually change their views based on arguments and empirical facts. And, he reminded me of the mindset I have experienced in my personal talks with creationists some months ago. He and they exhibit religious beliefs.

And guess what! Bob Bodenhamer is mostly likely a creationist, and he certainly works for such a church. He writes in his biography:
Dr. Bodenhamer has served four Southern Baptist churches as pastor. He is presently serving as pastor of a mission church called Christ Fellowship Community Church. His time in the pastorate spans 44 years.
Southern Baptist is infamous for its inability to absorb scientific knowledge and rationality into religion, unlike the Catholic or European Protestant churches. So I found a FAQ on creation on the website of Christ Fellowship Community (note he is pastor in a small church in North Carolina). And here is what they write:
If one takes the Bible at face value, Genesis 1:1-31 seems to suggest that God created everything in six literal days. There is no reason to think that a being as great as God could not accomplish such a feat within this time frame.
People need to know where Bodenhamer comes from. He can believe what he wants to believe. But people, and the BSA who invite him for conference calls, need to understand that they cannot trust him to change his views based on science. In fact, he is an enemy to science.