Stuttering: A Short History of a Curious Disorder

By Marcel E. Wingate | Go to book overview
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vantage, 35 and so efforts were made to change this preference. The most compelling reports of concurrence between stuttering and left-handedness involved instances of "forced" change in handedness. Often it was reported that a child began to stutter after being required to abandon his native left-hand preference and to learn right-hand usage. Further, many instances were reported in which a child stopped stuttering when allowed to return to his left-hand preference.

Travis' espousal of the cerebral dominance basis for stuttering evoked much professional excitement, stimulated a great deal of research, and aroused considerable controversy. Research addressed to some facet of the issue continued actively through the 1930s, yielding corroborative data, contradictory evidence, and findings that were equivocal. Then, by the early 1940s, attention to the issue subsided quite rapidly. This decline in interest may have resulted in part because of the equivocal and contradictory findings that had emerged. A major problem attending laterality research, not adequately recognized in this early work, is that laterality and its assessment are complex matters (see, for example, Annett 1978). However, the most likely reason was that, in 1938, Travis left Iowa, his laboratories, and his research program. After Travis' departure a much different ambience surfaced there.

Travis moved to southern California, where he held positions in several institutions until his death in 1987. However, after leaving Iowa his era of productive and stimulating research was over. In fact, some of his later writings ( Travis 1940, 1957) were in the genre of dynamic psychology, in which he revealed a creative imagination and a verbal flair comparable to others who have written in that vein. 36 In shifting ground so dramatically, Travis implicitly repudiated his earlier outstanding research. Nonetheless, during the fifty years following his departure from Iowa, he never abandoned the "evidence of disturbed cerebral dominance in stutterers" ( Moeller 1976: p. 75). In fact, late in life ( Travis 1978a, 1978b) he reaffirmed his conviction that cerebral laterality is somehow involved in stuttering.

Since the time Travis left Iowa occasional expressions of interest in cerebral dominance have appeared, but only intermittently. Nonetheless, some sources continue to be impressed by evidence that indicates some link between laterality and stuttering (e.g., Blood 1985; Records et al. 1977; Sussman and MacNeilage 1975; Webster 1986; Wingate 1988.) However, beginning in approximately the mid-1930s, professional attention to this linkage was overwhelmed and deflected by a movement that even then was under way at the University of Iowa. The foundations and early developments of this movement are the major subject of Chapter 6.

The source of O'Hara's inspiration remains obscure. A short-lived "reply" to K-K-K-Katy,


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Stuttering: A Short History of a Curious Disorder


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