The Miraculous Easy Iowa Bounces

The Miraculous Easy Iowa Bounces

Many of us start to talk with easy repetitions like, “ma-ma” and “da-da”. So did I in my pre-stuttering days. Because of genetical predisposition I was rather slow to start talking without the easy repetitions now called Iowa bounces*. *[see explanation in footnote] My parents became concerned over my speech and gently asked me to “slow down, little Gunars”, “take your time”. Being an overly sensitive tyke, and growing impatient with my inability to move on from the repetitions to fluent speaking, I needlessly upset myself over-activating the right brain so it interfered all the more with my left-brain speech forming activities. Unhappy experiences! The outcome was logical. The limbic system in brain, amygdala in particular, started to associate speaking situations, especially those with authority figures, as dangerous. This further interfered with fine motor control of the speech forming functions in brain. I frequently got stuck in my speech.

My brain being that of a smart little dude, was desperately was searching how to get unstuck. And various messages from the environment got twisted “Take your time” became “I should become aware of how much time it takes”; “breathe in slowly” was turned into something like “there is something wrong with your breathing” and as the result I became aware of time urgency and stopped breathing naturally often holding my breath at the wrong places.  

On occasion forcing a sound would be coupled with becoming unstuck. So I developed a habit of forcing sounds. At other times various other tricks and crutches helped and remained as habits when they no longer worked. A full blown set of secondary symptoms (also called ancillary behaviors) appeared.

Now stepped in a series of untrained and trained therapists. Both had one thing in common-they proclaimed in no uncertain terms that stuttering, as my condition was called, had to be, HAD TO BE ELIMINATED. It was bad. No it was AWFUL. It should be unbearable. It made me a defective human being. Oh, crap! I told myself I had to hide it. Hide it how? Changing feared words for those I thought I could say easier. Avoiding some speaking situations altogether. Making career choices because I believed that I could not operate in that environment.

After 17 therapies I almost fell into the other trap. That was the trap of believing that nothing could be done about stuttering. Dr. Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and I decided this is not so. Although the goal of perfect fluency and the focusing on fluency per se might be ridiculous there were things that I could do. Through systematically desensitizing myself, I could acknowledge my stuttering and work on making me feel less anxious about my speech. So I stuttered, so what if I stuttered?

Stuttering was not awful only damn inconvenient if I kept struggling and forcing. But was there any reason to keep struggling and forcing? And having those secondary symptoms? This is where I said to myself, exaggerate your secondary symptoms so you become aware of doing them. And then calmly peel them off one by one. So I did that.

It took some real deep thinking to start to understand that I can learn to replace the struggling and forcing speech with easy bounces. The same repetitions that I had in saying ma-ma and da-da. Technically one might still call the disfluencies, but who in the hell cares if they are. The speech keeps moving forward and I learn to accept my disfluencies. All the while I kept on using Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy techniques to change my unhelpful beliefs and attitudes into more helpful ones. For example, I refused to classify myself as deficient just because I stuttered. I did not think any longer that working on my speech was too hard because it caused discomfort. It was merely hard, not too hard. No longer did I believe that I could not change. [“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t-you’re right.” ― Henry Ford This quote applies to a very large area of human behaviors.] I never expected to be cured, whatever that means. But I saw that I could use easy repetitions, also known as easy Iowa bounces. I used them in voluntary stuttering, I used them to get sound into a block, I used them to hold onto a disfluency until I no longer felt vulnerable to it. In the end I pre-empted some words with easy Iowa bounces. Click here for my demonstration of Iowa bounce.

The morale of the story is that using Iowa bounces I did not demand that I escape stuttering, but I provided myself a way how to stutter more easily. All said had Wendell Johnson had more time on this earth, I probably would not have had to write this blog. Wendell Johnson’s thoughts on General Semantics were incorporated in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. And I hope that some young scholar will pick up and run with the use of voluntary easy Iowa bounces as a way to overcome stuttering and make it more main stream. Until that time I will have to carry the torch.


·       These are easy repetitions. Wendell Johnson one of the greats in stuttering therapy who, probably because he died early, was not able to leave a General Semantics based stuttering therapy heritage. He told Charles Gage Van Riper that he was not going to use Van Riper method of curing stuttering with all the preparatory sets and pull-outs, but go ahead and let the stuttering rip. Wendell Johnson in his final days hardly stuttered at all, whereas Van Riper is reported to have relapsed into stuttering.