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ASIA: Shinji Ito

Shinji Ito established the first self-help group of persons who stutter in Japan in 1965. Since then he has been actively involved with its activities for 42 years. After leaving his post at a national university of education to train students to become speech therapists in public school systems he opened his private clinic in Osaka. As well as serving as the Executive Director of the Japan Stuttering Project he gives lectures and workshops on stuttering, teaches courses on stuttering at universities and vocational schools and has also been supervising speech therapists in school systems. In 1986 he served as the chairperson of the first International Conference on Stuttering in Kyoto. Later on he was involved with the founding of the ISA as a member of the board of directors. He has published 10 books on stuttering.

From "Fighting against Stuttering" to "Living with it": Learning from Oriental thought and 42 years of self-help group activities

During my 63 years of life as a person who stutters, I have been involved with self-help group activities of persons who stutter for 42 years including 17 summer camps I organized for children who stutter and their parents. Through these activities I learned ways to deal with my stuttering and to live with it. This philosophy of "not fighting against stuttering but finding ways to live with it" comes from the teachings of Buddhism and Taoism.
  1. Until age 21 my life was focused on tackling my stuttering, hiding the fact that I stuttered and avoiding speaking situations. During the summer when I was 21 I experienced a four-month course of intensive speech therapy. 300 people who stuttered were also there, and we ended up facing the fact that complete recovery from stuttering was not possible.

  2. In 1965 I organized the first self-help group of people who stutter in Japan. I raised an issue that the fantasy for the cure of stuttering and consuming all the energy in the efforts to attain fluency prevents us from accepting ourselves as persons who stutter and living with stuttering. I was able to verify my approach that "the cure is not most important for us but how we live with it is more important" through my contact with persons who were seriously affected by the condition as well as those who stuttered but led significant lives when I visited many parts of Japan in order to present lectures, workshops and consultation to persons who stuttered. These experiences gave me an insight into the fact that not all those who stuttered were adversely affected by their stuttering. Through many years of self-help group activities I have seen many people who stuttered have new perspectives on stuttering and gain strength. Some of them found jobs which required public speaking situations, such as school teachers, even though their stuttering symptoms still remained unchanged. They never imagined earlier this would be possible for them. These new perspectives changed their lives and helped them to increase their self-esteem.

  3. In 1986 when our group organized the first International Conference on Stuttering in Kyoto many participants from overseas asked for specific approaches to stuttering. Since then our group, drawing upon Sheehan's iceberg theory, has been working on the approaches to emotions (anxiety and fear), behavior (hiding and avoidance), thought (to regard stuttering as inferior or bad) and body (tension in the body while speaking). We found that these approaches also work effectively for children who stutter.