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Thursday, July 28, 2011


In the late 1940s a man walked into a laboratory of a major photographic
manufacturer in America to demonstrate a new photographic process. But
he didn't bring along a camera or film. He brought along a red box with a
shiny steel plate, a charging device, a light bulb and a container of black
powder. The picture he created was faint but discernible.

"But where's the film?" they asked. "Where's the developer? Where's the
darkroom? Why, that's not really photography!" And so the company
passed up an opportunity to acquire the process for electrostatic
photography, or xerography...a process that has grown into a multi-billion
dollar industry.

Why did they pass up such a great opportunity? Because the people who
saw the process were suffering from PARADIGM PARALYSIS.

What is paradigm paralysis? Or more basically, what is a paradigm?

As you probably know, a paradigm is a model or a pattern. It's a shared
set of assumptions that have to do with how we perceive the world.
Paradigms are very helpful because they allow us to develop expectations
about what will probably occur based on these assumptions. But when
data falls outside our paradigm, we find it hard to see and accept. This is
called the PARADIGM EFFECT. And when the paradigm effect is so strong
that we are prevented from actually seeing what is under our very noses,
we are said to be suffering from paradigm paralysis.

That's where I think many of us have been stuck when it comes to figuring
out how to treat stuttering. We rigidly follow a cognitive approach. Or a
behavioral approach. Or a psychotherapeutic approach. And our paradigm
paralysis causes us to exclude valuable information that doesn't fit our
particular model.

But if what I have come to believe about stuttering is true, we already
know what we need to know. We just need to draw this information
together into a paradigm that integrates these many different approaches.
However, to do this, I propose that the professionals need the cooperation
and collaboration of the stuttering self-help community.

Why do I say this?

In his book "Paradigms: the Business of Discovering the Future" Joel Barker
describes how the person who develops a new paradigm is often an
outsider. Someone who really doesn't understand the prevailing paradigm
in all its subtleties...and sometimes doesn't understand it at all. The
PARADIGM SHIFTER, because he or she is not imbued with the prevailing
beliefs, is able to see the situation with a fresh eye.

This describes some of us in the stuttering self-help community. Because
we did not train as speech-language pathologists, we were not formally
programmed in the classic ideas about stuttering. Many of us, of course,
did acquire the traditional points of view through involvement in speech
therapy. But there are others who have made meaningful discoveries
through independent study and observation...and just through the process
of living.

But are these discoveries with worth paying attention to? After all, we're
not trained in speech pathology. We don't have Ph.D.'s What can we know
that would really be of use to the professional community?


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