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'The Stutterer's Survival Guide', by Nicholas Tunbridge

David Preece | 01.06.1995

Book review by David Preece.

'The Stutterer's Survival Guide' coverMany stammerers, myself included, have found short-term fluency both through individual and group therapy when using one or other of several fluency techniques. How many of us, I wonder, go on to achieve any long-term relief from our speech problems?

Australian Nicholas Tunbridge certainly seems to have achieved his goal and describes in a very positive and inspiring way how we too could have similar success. He is a realist, however, and is not offering a cure. His rout to maintaining fluency has come from sheer persistence in carrying over what he learned in therapy into the "real" world outside. In every situation he encounters the author tries to be aware of what he should be doing in speech. There are no short-cuts to success in his case, only continual daily practice and endless working out of speaking situations - work and social - that he is constantly faced with.

The later chapters go into some detail on how to achieve, for example, a fluent presentation at work. His advocacy of detailed preparation for this with calls to, and practice with, his "speech buddies" (fellow stammerers to you and me), may seem excessive - and resulting inexpensive telephone bills - but the end result justifies the means.

Tunbridge's single-minded approach covers many other predicaments such as dealing with interviews, telephone calls and public speaking in its various forms. He is also very honest, yet optimistic, on key issues such as desensitisation, seeing this as an important first step on the road to accepting and improving our speech. He is very positive in this section, and elsewhere, in trying to draw out our negative feelings and experiences and replace them with a more positive, planned approach to whatever we face.

Like all of us, he has his "off" days and identifies a coping strategy for times of illness, stress, fatigue or the delightfully phrased "feeling stuttery"days which we all experience. At these times, especially, we may need more than our normal support from loved ones and the author rightly recognises the vital part family and friends (and speech buddies!) play in encouraging us towards improved speech. The real answer seems to be awareness in each and every situation we face, mundane as well as important, and that we use a technique to help us through at all times. To attain this,we must apply ourselves to practice, and more practice, if we aim to improve, as the author has obviously done.

The book is stimulating, very readable and in a pocket-sized format that would be easy to carry around as a "dip-in" reference when required. I enjoyed Mike Spoor's light-hearted occasional illustrations which complement the text quite well.

From the Summer 1995 issue of 'Speaking Out'.