As a former student at WMU (and one who was honored to be a student in Dr. Van’s stuttering class), I received the speech path dept journals for a time. This article is from one of those journals that I’ve carefully tucked away for over 30 years; it’s time to bring it out.
Dr. Van’s thoughts are honest, straightforward, and well-written. He’s not only dubbed “the father of articulation,” he was one of the genuinely good guys—smart, articulate, caring, and a major contributor to our field—although he would never admit to it. I remember reading a phrase he wrote, “Fame is for fruit-flies.” He was the very definition of a great and humble man.
I have just finished laboring through the last issue of the Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders. Hard reading it was, and it left a taste of meaningless sawdust in my mouth and mind. How can a journal of a profession so fascinating as ours be so deadly dull? In it I find no glimpse of the work we do day after day, no description of interaction between our workers and the people they’re trying to help, no mention of the problems they confront.
God help us, our profession seems to be in the hands of mad scientists investigating how many angels might stand on the head of a pin or something equally important. It would be difficult to distinguish between the content of JSHD and JSHR, or for that matter even ASHA much of the time. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools was originally designed as a *sop to clinicians interested in the actual work of the vineyard of speech pathology but even this little journal, though it often does address our concerns, is getting more and more like the others. A pox on all those tables! What are others of our tribe doing with their unwashed clients?
It wasn’t always thus. When Wendell Johnson was editor of our only journal, I served for a time as one of his associate editors and well remember his admonition to make sure that every article we accepted had to be readable and pertinent to the needs of our membership. While we published research articles we also presented case studies, yes, even quotations from classical authors that provided some of the philosophic insights we might need. I even remember instances of humor which seems to be completely absent from our present journals, although God knows we need as much of it as we can find to prevent burn out. One marvelous article by Hauser, for example, told about a laryngectomee who inserted a frog in his mouth and squeezed it to make it croak, then used the croak as a source of alaryngeal utterance. Yes, we’ve come a long way, baby, but we’ve come to far from the clinical activities that are the bread and butter of our profession.
I don’t think I’ll live long enough to enjoy reading our journals again or to find much profit in them. But who knows? Perhaps the working stiffs of our profession who provide the services that are its reason for being will rebel someday and elect clinicians rather than researchers and professors to the offices and committees and editorships. Perhaps then the monumental burden of our very busy national office might be curbed to more modest proportions and our fees reduced. Gad, what a dreamer, I.
But let me dream on because the lilacs got frosted and will not bloom this year, and Willie has run away to visit his beagle girl friend in the rich subdivision south of our farm. After the Great Rebellion I shall greet the new journal in the mailbox with real anticipation, even scanning it as I walk back up the lane. Ah, there’s an account of how some gifted clinician has mapped out all the transitional steps his client went through as his distorted /r/ was corrected. Here’s another describing how a clinician, by patiently and constantly doing everything an autistic child did finally was able to achieve a close and therapeutically successful relationship. And another about how a therapist managed to help an aphasic inhibit his perseverative jargon. Good! Here’s an article on pitch breaks and what to do about them. A case study of a sufferer from Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome. “A Letter to my Clinician” by a stutterer, telling her all the mistakes she’s been making. An “Analysis of Prompts and Operant Articulation Therapy.” The Dynamics of Voluntary Mutism.” Methods for Getting Stridency in That Lateral Lisp.” All these and a lot more. Good reading for me this evening after I’ve found my dog and tended what might yet be The Perfect Potato. Dream on, Van Riper, and may that dream come true!
What a delightful dream. Thank you, Dr. Van, for reminding us what truly matters.
Here’s to a wonderful week with great results, fellow working-stiff!
*Sop: a thing given or done as a concession of no great value to appease someone whose main concerns or demands are not being met. Example, "My agent telephones as a sop but never finds me work."
This article, “Spring Bellyache,” was extracted in its original form from the 1993 edition, Western Michigan University, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology Journal, Volume 20, Number 1.