The 30-Year Journey
with 1000 Children
How Communicating Partners Came About
In 1971, I took an assistant professorship at the Ohio State University after completing a Ph.D. in Communication Disorders at the University of Minnesota. The program at Minnesota was an equal combination of speech pathology and psychology. The prevailing approaches then were behavioral psychology and cognitive child psychology as applied to a wide range of communication disorders. Some find the two schools of B.F. Skinner (the “father of behaviorism”) and Jean Piaget (the “father of cognitive psychology”) incompatible. I found them perplexing but eventually very compatible. While the functional analyses of behavior showed me the strength of environmental influences on behavior, the cognitive child analyses introduced me to the mind of the child and the critical issue that children live in a distinctly distinct world from adults.
My dissertation was a study of how very differently people perceive and evaluate the speech behaviors of persons identified as stutterers. The study confirmed the clinical finding that regular people differ widely in what they consider the problem of stuttering. This work suggested that a communication disorder is as much a function of the observer as it is of the behavior of the speaker (Macdonald 1972). At that time, I had two most intriguing problems: first, the effects of a speaker's partner on his communication, and second, the gnarly problem of getting newly learned behaviors to generalize into the child's daily life. One thing I learned from my adviser, Richard Martin, is that it is much more accurate to describe what a speaker is doing than to label him