Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Crackpot Award for Dr Miriam Stoppard

TheStutteringBrain awards a Crackpot Award for Dr Miriam Stoppard for the outrageously uninformed article Stop stammering ruining your big speech in the Daily Mail.

Here is the laudatio:
According to Dr Stoppard's website, she "has been at the forefront of the revolution in health information since she began her writing and broadcasting career in the early 1970s." Her article on stuttering shows that she has not even made the effort to consult wikipedia on the causes and treatments of stuttering. Nor has she consulted with any expert on the field. But why should she? She is known by millions, and she is a real medical doctor.

She has acted in a highly irresponsible manner, which in our opinion has violated her own standards of ethics as a medical doctor, and misinformed the general public, parents, and patients on stuttering. As we do not want to waste our time on explaining line by line why she is terribly wrong, we refer to a response by the British Stammering Association.

We speculate that the only reason she wrote this article, despite her very glaring lack of insight or expertise on the matter, is an effort to keep in the limelight to sell her books and services.

Ask yourself: How can I trust Dr Stoppard for any advice on any health issue, if she got her advice so clearly wrong on stuttering. If she is sloppy on stuttering, is she sloppy on other issues as well? She has lost her credibility.

Crackpot Awards are given to people who make claims about stuttering that clearly violate scientific facts and express these views with crackpot-like confidence.

We are very grateful to The King's Speech for giving us the wonderful opportunity to out those unprofessional professionals.

NOTE on BSA's response:
Stammering is acquired - but we do know from recent genetics research that people who stammer are born with the predisposition and that it is highly unlikely that without this predisposition a child would begin to stammer.

I don't agree that "Stammering is acquired". Stammering occurs (or shows itself) at a certain point in development like you only notice that your engine has a flaw when driving at high speed. The neurobiological basis for stuttering was either already there from the start (i.e. genes), or in the course of development due to an incident, but well before the actual onset. It's like saying traffic jam is acquired in a city that has been growing too fast with appropriate planning.


Anonymous said...

It is sooo scary that she is a doctor. This has to be dumbest thing I have ever read in my entire life! I wonder how many patients she's killed.

"In the film, Winston Churchill tells the king he had a speech impediment. He was tongue-tied, which means the tongue is stuck to the bottom of your mouth, but doctors snipped it."

Ora said...

Tom - I agree with your reaction to Norbert's comment that "stuttering is acquired". (In fact, I read his letter before I finished reading your posting, and stumbled over his words at this place. I had exactly your reaction.)

Here's the definition in an online medical dictionary: "In medicine, the word acquired means new or added. New in the sense that it is not genetic (inherited) and added in the sense that is was not congenital (present at birth) but came along later. " (http://medical-dictionary.com/)

Other dictionaries have similar definitions, for example http://www.merriam-webster.com/medlineplus/acquired.

In fairness, it's possible that there's not a true disagreement here. It might be that Norbert's understanding of the underlying process is sound, and he's just relying on an incorrect understanding of what "acquired" means.

Ora said...

Here's what Wikipedia says about "tongue-tied":


You can see it here - http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&safe=active&biw=1045&bih=724&gbv=2&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=ankyloglossia&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq= . (But don't click if you don't want to see a lot of pictures of people's tongues. It's not gross, but it's certainly a bit odd.)

Norbert said...

"It might be that Norbert's understanding of the underlying process is sound, and he's just relying on an incorrect understanding of what "acquired" means."

It might also be that Norbert is aware of the context the term was used, esp in it's juxtaposition to its perceived opposite ("born with it")and that therefore he used the term 'acquired' appropriately in the context he was dealing with. Which wasn't a research paper.
Responding appropriately in context is not linked to high IQ, I gather.

Tom Weidig said...

@Norbert: ITS juxtaposition not it's juxtaposition. ;-)

The use of "acquired" should be avoided when explaining stuttering, because it confuses and obscures the fact that

Stuttering as the disorder does not start at the first overt symptoms. You are a stutterer long before the world (and yourself) knows that you are one.

But you can say that a child acquired secondary symptoms or psychosocial maladaptation due to stuttering.

Say you buy defective water-proof shoes. You would not say that the shoes have acquired water-soaking the moment you walk through rain.

Pam said...

Yes, poor article, I was so disappointed reading it and seeing that people will probably believe what she says "just because she is as doctor".
At least she could have done a perfunctory check of research just like brand new reporters do!

Xav said...

Hello Tom,

The use of the word "acquired" is absurd here. Stammerring being a default of the speech, that new-born babies don't use, this would lead to say as well that "speech is acquired", "walking is acquired", "washing is acquired", etc.

Actually, we can say concerning Dr Stoppard that "unscientific thinking is acquired". Her article sounds like advertising. She doesn't explicit what is "the new skill needed to overcome a stammer". Nor how George VI's "psychological trauma" could have crystalize his stammer.

I'm afraid that this film, although it gives an appropriate attention to stuttering, will lead again to meaningless advertising from so-called professionnals Motto: "if you have a stutter, you have to see a speech therapist. she knows what she is doing. and this will always work".