Most speech-language pathology graduate programs include a course that has a title like "Fluency Disorders", "Disorders of Speech Fluency", or even simply "Fluency". The content of these courses is actually comprised almost entirely of stuttering, but for some reason this word rarely makes it into actual titles.
Inspired by a recent StutterTalk Facebook post on this topic, I got to thinking...if a graduate course was actually centered around the concept of "fluency", versus stuttering, what might it include?
And so, I present: a graduate-level clinical course in FLUENCY.
CSD 565: Fluency (Fall 2015, 3 credit hours)
This course provides advanced theoretical and clinical instruction in the area of communication fluency. This course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive overview of the historical, scientific, and clinical issues surrounding fluency. In the second half of the course, students will be assigned a fluency client for hands-on experience connecting theory to practice.
Unit 1: Terminology
This unit introduces the historical, social, and scientific contexts of the term “fluency” in relation to speech and communication. The unrelated acts of oral reading, foreign language ability, and idealistic expectations for human speech performance being lumped together under a random terminology umbrella will be explored as an afterthought.
This unit will culminate in a 6-question multiple-choice exam focusing on facts and issues related to fluency. All questions will reference “fluency” but provide no context as to which interpretation of the word is being used. A score of 85% or higher is required to pass.
Unit 2: Anatomy and Physiology of the Fluent Mechanism
This unit is intended to introduce students to the neurophysiological underpinnings of speech fluency, with detailed study on areas of the brain responsible for fluency.
However, since there is no actual area of the brain responsible for “fluency”, this unit will be structured as an independent study in which students are responsible for conducting research into the relationship between motor speech processing (covered in CSD 315 Motor Speech Disorders) and language processing (covered in CSD 492 Language Disorders). Students will be expected to report on how these two complex systems interact to create the effect of speech fluency.
Students will not be graded on this paper, since most practitioners prefer to assume that fluency is its own phenomenon independent of these others systems, and it's not like this is something that is really considered when planning treatment.
Unit 3: Religious Moralizing
This unit covers the moral and philosophical principles of speech fluency. Students will learn how to identify, measure, and shoehorn quantitatively observable fluency-focused behaviors into their speech. This unit requires that students complete a classic fluency exercise of going out in public and ensuring that their speech is perfectly fluent.
By the end of this unit, students with no diagnosed speech or language disorders will have gained hyperawareness of any speech behavior that could possibly be considered a disfluency, and subsequently experience high levels of stress, anxiety, and shame when communicating in daily interactions. Students with previously existing speech or language disorders will no longer present with their former diagnosis because they will now be selectively mute.
Unit 4: Fluency Disorders
This highly efficient 1-week unit will provide students with comprehensive, in-depth instruction on the nature and treatment of disordered fluency conditions (e.g. “stuttering” and cluttering).
Students will develop an evidenced-based treatment plan for a disfluent client. This assignment will be evaluated according to how tightly the student incorporates seminal research and theory from the field of fluency disorders, such as the 1877 “Beetlejuice” study on the long-term effect of saying the word "stuttering" too many times.
Unit 5: Counseling, Psychology, and Other Psychosocial Myths
This final unit explores sociocultural issues associated with the concept of “fluency”. Contemporary emphasis on non-quantifiable “life experience” will be contrasted with historical behavioral studies and canine training methods.
As a final project, students will be assigned a counseling client with severe speaking anxiety (students must meet a counseling prerequisite of consoling their BFF after being ghosted by a guy they really liked, or in a former career as a licensed psychologist). At the end of five counseling sessions, clients must demonstrate at least 99% fluency in all speaking situations over the course of one week for the student to earn a passing grade.
COURSE COMPLETION REQUIREMENTS
Students must complete all tests and assignments within the evaluation parameters described above. Students who fail to meet these requirements will be required to repeat the entire course until these criteria are met. No modifications to course content, assignments, or evaluation criteria are permitted.