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Recovery from Stuttering, by Peter Howell

Dr David Ward | 01.12.2010

Reviewed by: Dr David Ward, University of Reading.

Cover of Recovery from StutteringAt 341 pages excluding references, Peter Howell's book 'Recovery from Stuttering' represents a heavyweight contribution to the literature on stuttering in more ways than one. The book differs from existing 'core text' type accounts of stuttering in that the focus is limited solely to those issues contained within the title. From the outset, Howell makes it clear that the book does not attempt to cover the range of issues that, say, a practising speech and language therapist would need to know. There is very little, for example, on therapy, although the relevance of the theories and evidence to assessment and therapy are outlined in later chapters. Since recovery from stuttering after the teenage years is very rare, the book concentrates mostly on the early years.

Comprising 15 chapters, the book is divided into four sections: General Aspects of Developmental Stuttering, Factors Related To Developmental Stuttering Based On Experimental Studies, Theoretical Frameworks On Developmental Stuttering and General Practical Issues in Developmental Stuttering. This format means that chapters on linguistic and motor issues are followed by a chapter on environmental issues, before linguistic matters are again returned to in the following chapter, but this time under a different section heading, and now covering theory, rather than evidence. The later sections which serve to link the theories and evidence to issues relating to clinical practice are shorter than earlier ones which argue the case for the various evidence bases. Each chapter ends with 'Exercises', although these mostly take the form of exam-type questions, where the reader is invited to reflect on aspects of the information provided in the chapter.

Throughout, the book is highly impressive in its level of detail. Subject matter that necessarily gets limited treatment in most text books, in many places goes well beyond what would be expected as material necessary for, say, an undergraduate disorders of fluency class. To take one of many such examples, the opening chapter begins to examine the literature on recovery, but in doing so also includes a particularly detailed and clear explanation on the methodological and statistical difficulties involved in coming to secure conclusions on the subject matter. Howell is also unusual in taking as a starting point Marcel Wingate's interesting and provocative perspective on a number of key issues regarding stuttering1. Throughout the book Howell attempts to remain neutral in his position, leaving Wingate, though often regarded as something of a maverick in his thinking on stuttering, to provide a refreshingly different starting point from which arguments and counter arguments are generated.

My grumbles are few and far between. There are just one or two areas where I was hoping for a little more discussion; for example, given the focus on development of stuttering, I was looking forward to rather more than the very short section on later onset stuttering. This is a subject matter that I believe is worthy of greater consideration than it generally receives in the stuttering literature. There are also places where chapter structure strikes me as slightly odd; the motivation for a chapter which combines generalised theories on speech production together with theories that relate auditory feedback to stuttering is unclear to me. Surely, it would have been better to separate these two aspects of theory?

None of these are serious complaints. This is a book of the highest quality that will appeal to anyone, whether student, clinician, consumer, or other, wanting detailed and up to the minute knowledge on development and (particularly) recovery in stuttering. It is superbly written; complex theories and the evidence that underpins them are all laid out clearly and succinctly. Those who are interested specifically in therapeutic aspects of stuttering (or issues relating to acquired stuttering) will want to look elsewhere. For everyone else, this is an excellent read, and one that, as Howell hopes, encourages the reader to challenge their perceptions and beliefs about recovery from stuttering in a constructive and inclusive way.

Footnote 1, There is a review of Marcel Wingate's book 'Foundations of Stuttering' on this website (ed.)

Book published 2010, Psychology Press.

Review from the Winter 2010 issue of 'Speaking Out', page 17