Neuropatterning is a nuts and bolts approach to achieving and maintaining fluency in your own natural way of speaking. It works at the source of the problem by repatterning neural pathways for fluent speech–thus offsetting or diminishing the neurologic block component of stuttering. Neuropatterning may work to repair or bypass the flaw or glitch in the brain’s speech production circuitry.
Work with brain-injured individuals has shown that the brain responds best to “over-stimulation” in certain key ways. The course combines the best of fluency shaping with the brain repatterning techniques of frequency, duration, and intensity to gain rapid and meaningful results. Your brain wants to right itself, but because of the innate flaw, it can’t without your help. Your realistic goal will be to achieve chronic natural fluency without the need to monitor “targets.”
Neuropatterning techniques don’t care which view of stuttering you ascribe to.
In the 1940s and 1950s, it became obvious that rehabilitation programs for brain-injured children and adults weren’t working. Paralyzed limbs were massaged and moved to keep them limber, heat was applied, but nobody ever got any better. Many got worse. Finally, it was realized that the reason therapy didn’t work was that therapists were focusing on the external muscles. The cause of the problem was inside the brain, not in the muscles. To treat a brain-injured person, you had to treat the injured brain, where the cause was, rather than the external body parts where the symptoms were reflected. If you could successfully attack the problem in the brain itself rather than merely the symptoms, the symptoms would disappear spontaneously.
“We concluded that a child could not have his speech problem solved by dealing with his tongue, mouth, lips, and larynx any more than a child could have his walking problems solved by dealing with his feet, knees, ankles, and hips, if the reason for both of these problems existed within the brain…There are three ways of insuring the transmission of CNS stimuli. You must increase the stimuli in frequency, duration, and intensity. Repatterning in a sense is a sort of closed brain surgery.” 21
That’s where the neuropatterning principles used in this course originated.
Motor output function is based on sensory input. Neuropatterning synchronizes sensory input and motor output. As you speak the word sounds, sensory input involves auditory, tactile, and visual feedback to the brain, and motor output involves coaxing the brain to output word sounds/words fluently.
Traditional fluency-shaping courses focus on the external apparatus and muscles involved in the production of speech. However, the cause of stuttering is a step farther back–in the brain. The problem is that words are sabotaged in the brain before they ever get to the external speech apparatus.
As you gain fluency, you’ll begin to interact more with other people, thus also desensitizing yourself to the effects of excitation feedback (see The two components of stuttering), which further enhances fluency.
Neuropatterning sessions take you through a carefully orchestrated, sequential progression from simple to more complex word sounds and techniques. The course progresses to multi-syllable words using the basic repatterning techniques.
Soon, you’ll become a word sound expert–you will be able to identify and speak each of the basic sounds used to form words. The techniques quickly become second nature.
As repatterning progresses, other techniques are worked into the routine, such as mirror reading. This further ingrains the repatterning and also works to help desensitize you to the excitation feedback component of stuttering. There may have been something after all to the teacher’s advice to read before a mirror–it’s the closest you can get to simulating a situation in which another person is present when you speak. You’ll work up to word lists to be used in maintenance sessions to retain the new fluency pathways. Specific techniques are provided to get the most out of these sessions.
For effective repatterning, you must put in the time and effort. When you do that, the brain has no choice but to respond–it’s a captive audience. It doesn’t matter whether you believe it will work or not. If you put in the time, you will change your brain.
With this method, you don’t have to monitor “targets.” In conversational speech, away from the repatterning sessions, concentrate on what you want to say rather than the mechanics of speaking–and let your brain do what it does best: handle the details automatically.
Theoretically, once you’ve dug adequate new neurologic ruts that can maintain their independence from old ones (i.e., you’ve been fluent in conversational speech for a long period of time), you might be able to disengage somewhat from repatterning and only occasionally or rarely have a need to go back to it. Or perhaps you might need regular brief maintenance sessions. It will be an individual thing–you’ll come to have a sense of what works best for you.
I’ve gone through periods of several months straight without repatterning and have kept a high degree of fluency during those times. However, when I start feeling that neurologic block sliding back in, I know it’s time to go back to the exercise sessions to push it back away. If I’d stayed with repatterning–perhaps for just one or two days a week–rather than taking a complete break once I achieved consistent fluency, might I have had no need to go back into regular repatterning? I don’t know, because I’ve deliberately exposed myself to different strategies to find out what happens in order to learn ways to make this course as effective as possible. I’ve currently settled in to doing maintenance sessions five days a week for about 20 minutes per session, which seems to work best for me.
Neuropatterning might be thought of as an enhanced form of practice. Practice (repetitive action) is used to help the brain learn and make automatic a particular skill or ability. Since speech function appears to be more fundamental than classically learned skills, neuropatterning carries practice a step further by incorporating specialized techniques to aid in ingraining into the speech brain circuitry what you practice. It might be thought of as almost a form of “brainwashing.” Intensive repatterning is essential to achieve fluent speech and keep it. This idea will become clearer as you progress.
The neuropatterning techniques of frequency, duration, and intensity are designed to help the brain form new pathways more quickly and more effectively. The course includes sound clips demonstrating these techniques.
The term “speech articulators” refers to the muscles used in speech production–mouth, lips, tongue, vocal folds, etc.