STAMMERING AND STUTTERING : CHAPTER IV
THE INTERMITTENT TENDENCY
Paradoxical as the statement may seem,
it is nevertheless true that one of the symptoms of
least seeming importance marks one of the most dangerous
aspects of both stuttering and stammering.
This is the alternating good-and-bad
condition known as the Intermittent Tendency or the
tendency of the stutterer or stammerer to show marked
improvement at times.
This seeming improvement brings about
a feeling of relief, the unreasoning fear of failure
seems for the time to have left almost entirely; the
mental strain under which the sufferer ordinarily labors
seems to be no longer present; there is but little
worry about either present condition or future prospects;
the nervous condition seems to have very materially
improved, self-confidence returns quickly and with
it the hope that the trouble is gone forever or is
at least rapidly disappearing. With these manifestations
of improvement come also a greater ease in concentration,
a greater and more facile power-of-will and an ambition
that shows signs of rekindling, with worth-while accomplishments
Hope now burns high in the breast
of the stutterer or stammerer. They go about
smiling inwardly if not outwardly, happy as the proud
father of a new boy, at peace with the world.
The sun shines brighter than it has for months or
years. Every one seems much more pleasant and
agreeable. Things which the day before seemed
totally impossible seem now to come within their range
of accomplishment. Such is the feeling of the
confirmed stutterer or stammerer during the time of
this pseudo-freedom from his speech disorder.
In his own mind, the sufferer is quite
sure that his malady has disappeared over-night, like
a bad dream and that freedom of speech has been bestowed
upon him as a gift from the gods on high.
The higher the hopes of the sufferer
and the greater the assurance with which he pursues
the activities of his day, the greater is his disappointment
and despair when the inevitable relapse overtakes him.
For disappointment and despair are
sure to come just as sure as the sun is
to rise in the heavens in the morning. The condition
of relief is but temporary, and will soon pass away
to be followed by a return of his old trouble in a
form more aggravated than ever before.
Fate seems to play with the stammerer’s
affliction as a cat plays with a mouse, allowing him
to be free for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks
as the case may be, only to drag the dejected sufferer
back to his former condition or, as is
true in many cases, worse than before.
The recurrence: With
the return of the trouble, the bodily and mental reaction
are almost too great for the human mechanism to withstand.
Hope seems to be a word which has been lost from the
life of the stammerer. The fear of failure returns
with an overwhelming force mocking the sufferer with
the thought of “Oh, how I deceived you!!”;
the mental strain is exceedingly great so
great, in fact, that it seems as if the breaking point
has almost been reached. The nervous condition
is alarming, the sufferer noting in himself an inability
to work, to play, to study or even to sit still.
An observer would note the stammerer or stutterer
in this condition fingering his coat lapels, putting
his hands in his pockets and removing them again, biting
his finger nails, constantly shifting eyes, head,
arms and feet about. If at home, the sufferer
in this condition would probably be seen walking about
the house, unable to read, to play or listen to music
or to follow any of the accustomed activities of his
life. If in business or in the shop, he would
be noticed making frequent trips to the wash room,
to the drinking fountain, to the foreman, picking up
and laying down his tools, looking out the window,
shifting from one foot to another, all of which symptoms
indicate an acute nervous condition, brought about
by the return of his trouble.
At this stage, the stammerer’s
confidence is hopelessly gone, so it seems, and this
feeling is accompanied by one of depression which finds
an outlet in the expression of the firm belief and
conviction on the part of the stutterer or stammerer
that the disorder can never be cured, by any
method, although just the day before the same sufferer
would have insisted that his stuttering or stammering
had cured itself and left of its own accord.
These conditions, both at the time
of the so-called improvement and at the time of the
recurrence of the trouble, will appear in greater or
less degree in the case of every stutterer or stammerer
whose trouble is of the intermittent type.
The dangers of this
tendency: This period of recurrence is accompanied
by almost total loss of the power-of-will, a marked
weakening in the ability to concentrate, and if it
does not result in insomnia (inability to sleep) puts
the mind in such a state as to make sleep of little
value in building up the body, replacing worn-out tissue
cells and restoring vital energy.
The chief danger, however, resulting
from these periods of temporary improvement, is the
belief that it instills into the mind of the sufferer
and more frequently into the minds of the parents of
stuttering or stammering children, that the trouble
will cure itself a fallacy greater than
which there is none.
Stuttering and stammering are destructive
maladies. They tear down both body and mind but
they have not the slightest power to build up.
And until a strong mental and physical structure has
been built up in place of the weakened structure (which
results in stammering and stuttering) a cure is out
of the question.