top of page
  • Writer's pictureStop Holding Back

Why you should 'Cancel' Words You Struggle on - Chris Jackson

Cancellation – Healthy or Unhealthy?

“When stuttering, there is a pause and the word is said a second time using an easy stutter”.

The above is the official definition of the stuttering modification tool, Cancellation. But who came up with this?

Well, regardless of what you may think or which program you may have heard of or which is more commercialised in the modern stuttering era, it was actually Charles Van Riper who created it. Let me just stress this is one part of the program that he created but can play quite a vital role in the journey of someone working on their speech to overcome their stutter.

Over a period of 22 years, Van Riper developed his method to ‘overcoming stuttering’ (1936 to 1958). The basis of the technique was for stutterers to unlearn maladaptive behaviours, which was, of course, struggling, to then learn new adequate behaviours, which was then being able to speak with ease.

22 years it took for him to create what he felt to be satisfactory in tackling a stuttering pattern of behaviour and still we, the stuttering community, are trying to make improvements and modify these techniques in 2020. Wow…. This just shows how complex an issue this is.

I’d like to modify (and perhaps simplify) the definition and say ‘when a word is spoken with dysfluency, the word is then repeated with good technique.’

As a person who has used cancellation, I have found this technique to be both a beneficial and a counterproductive tool. You may be asking yourself how does that work? it either helps or it doesn’t? Well no, not necessarily, and this is why stuttering is such a complex topic and we will always struggle to make complete sense of it because of its complexity. Why would one person find this technique helpful and another wouldn’t? why would some people use it for a period of time and then abandon it?

Here is my take on Cancellation...

When you first start to work on your speech it is all about replacing negative experiences with positive experiences. This is exactly what Cancellation gives us. A reinforced positive experience instantly after we have struggled. We are searching for these positive experiences in the early part of our development. However, when we reach a point that we have been through the desensitisation stages and we now fully self-accept, I have not heard a compelling argument that supports us cancelling every little minor stumble we have.

My view is we have stutters but we are still human beings. Human beings, whether fluent or stutterers, stumble on words all the time. It is part of everyday speech. This doesn’t even register in the fluent speaker’s thought process so why should we? As stutterers, who are desensitised to the worry of stuttering, why should we have to cancel every small stumble and completely reinforce to ourselves that we had blocked and are still stuttering? This is where I find it to be counter-productive. If we are too lenient we will be focusing on cancellation forever and there has to be a time where you have earned the right to let, go.

There are also situations when you just wouldn’t cancel. For example, if you pass a person injured on the side of the pavement and you are the only person available to call the emergency services for them, are you going to worry about cancelling? Probably not, you would just want to get that task over with and get the person the help they need.

I am however, in full agreement that when we block harshly and we really struggle to get a word out, it is absolutely imperative that we cancel. This allows us to analyse why this went wrong and gives us a chance to learn from what helped us to say the word more efficiently. This is worlds away from a minor stumble. I’ve even heard fluent people get completely scrambled when saying a sentence. They stop, regroup and carry on talking once they have got themselves together again. There is no harm in this and if it is beneficial for a fluent speaker then why can’t be beneficial for us?

The questions you have to ask yourself are,

1) Are you big enough to admit that you experienced a harsh block rather than a minor stumble?

2) Will you remember that block when you go to say that word again or has that stumble not even registered?

3) Are you level headed enough or honest enough with yourself to determine whether you have removed your worry or anxiety around stuttering to be able to let go and still feel in control?

4) Are you at the stage of your development you think you are at or are you trying to run before you can walk?

Remember, there is no rush to reach the point of letting go. Enjoy the journey. This will determine, in my opinion, whether or not cancelling will be healthy or unhealthy for your mental state as a stutterer.

I hope this helps you where you are on your personal journey.


24 views0 comments


bottom of page