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Review of Letters to a Desperate Stutterer

This article first appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of the CSA Newsletter.

This is a review of the on-line paper “Letters to a Desperate Stutterer” (called “Letters...” in this review). This text is promoted on the website, www.desperatestutterer.com, by Bob Bodenhamer, and he writes an introduction to the paper. “Letters...” is the correspondence written by Linda Rounds who claims to have cured her stuttering by methods very similar to those of NLP. It is a series of letters from Linda to a young man known as Dan, after he wrote to her for help with his own stuttering. The letters describe what she calls her personal journey to cure her own stuttering.

Whether you agree with her or not, Linda’s personal initiative and determination in mapping out her own recovery is remarkable. Stuttering, she determines, has more to do with a communication and relationship problem than a physical impairment. This is, of course, a controversial notion.

After feeling let down by traditional therapy, Linda starts her personal journey by recording all her speech interactions in a journal and analysizing her problem – looking for patterns, thoughts and feelings that coincided with blocking. The problem, she determines, is not the blocking itself but the fear of blocking – a fear that causes a person to hide who they really are, resulting in a deep-seated identity crisis and a failure to interact authentically with other people. The solution is a personal journey of self reflection and analysis.

Mainstream therapy

While “Letters...” offers some good ideas, many of Linda's conclusions are spurious at best –overly simplistic and judgemental. Linda Rounds puts down traditional therapy as a whole, criticising speech therapists for “running around for hundreds of years trying to fix a speech problem and coming up empty”, and that they “have been proving ...through the centuries that they are unable to come up with a solution.” Really? Centuries? Hundreds of years? I thank my lucky stars that I was not born in a time when I might have bled to death as a child after having parts of my tongue cut out with scissors, or diagnosed a mentally deficient neurotic and thrown into a mental institution. Speech therapy is not above criticism, but certainly a thinking person must stop short of lumping together all treatment methods from the dark ages forward.

Downloaded PDF?

Another thing that perturbs me about “Letters...” is the price. $29.95 CAD for a downloadable pdf is exorbitant. (I refuse to call it a “book” as Bob Bodenhamer does, as it is more like a “paper” or “document”). Thirty bucks is more than I pay for most stuff I order from Amazon or Chapters – real bound books delivered to my door. Contrary to the raves for the writing in the foreword, “Letters...” is competent, but not excellent, and sometimes not even that. At 151 pages the paper suffers from a gross lack of selectivity, and a good editor could pare this tome down to 50.
Linda has read just about every self help book under the sun, and refers to them all, presuming, I suppose, that reading self help books enhances her credibility. Too much of her writing is rambling and repetitive. Halfway through she doesn’t even seem to be talking to her young supplicant, but embarking randomly on whatever entertains her – artificial intelligence, neurology, eastern mysticism, transcendental meditation, cybernetics, neuroplasticity, emotional intelligence and general speculations on the nature of reality. Yes, she is well read. Unfortunately she has never picked up a book on editing.

Another weakness is the letters format itself, which works best when there is correspondence from both sides. The reader is supposed to be able to extract a story from the correspondence, otherwise the writing lacks continuity and synthesis. Who is this Dan person anyways, and do Linda’s letters help him? We never know.

The mysterious Ms. Rounds

My advice to the writer would be to get a good editor or co-writer, especially seeing as she is charging money for the product. Also, it is disappointing that, while charging for “Letters...”, Linda Rounds is not promoting the pdf herself, and does not even offer an email or contact information to obtain feedback or to dialogue with PWS. I managed to get her email from Bob Bodenhamer who warned me that she was “busy” (as opposed to the rest of us, I guess), and emailed her asking her for some more information, but she did not respond. Please, Linda, why be such a mystery? At least put a friendly photo on the site so your customers can put a face to the voice! If you don't... people might wonder if you may have relapsed, which is why you have publicly backed out of promoting the document.

Put your heart in it

Neuro Linguistic Processing as a treatment for stuttering is highly controversial. Yet in one sense the message of “Letters...” is one we could all take to heart: to be aggressive in our own treatment and recovery, whatever we are doing. Often we are too passive, waiting for instruction from therapists, aiming to please during sessions but faltering when we have to rely on our own motivation – because our hearts were never really in it. One thing we can say – rigorous attention and self awareness is needed to progress in overcoming any problem or habit. Although sometimes buried in verbose and unnecessary diatribe (and some outright falsehoods), Linda Rounds’ paper delivers this message.
“Letters to a Desperate Stutterer” is available as a pdf download at www.desperatestutterer.com. It costs $29.95 Canadian.

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