UCF professor developed treatments for stuttering
Mar 11, 2013 (Orlando Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
There were two sides to Professor Gene Brutten. There was Gene: outgoing, articulate, talkative. And there was Dr. Brutten: strict, serious, studious. Together, they comprised a man who devoted his life to unlocking the debilitating condition of stuttering.
A man never at loss for words helped multitudes to overcome their fear of speaking. Speech therapists in more than 20 countries use the assessment test and techniques he developed to treat stuttering.
"Stuttering is an extremely debilitating and complex disorder. This impacts a person's social, academic and professional life," said Martine Vanryckeghen, his wife and colleague.
A retired University of Central Florida professor, Brutten died March 4 of heart failure. He was 84.
Brutten was a graduate student at Brooklyn College in 1952 when he took a course in stuttering while working at a hearing and speech clinic. The class propelled him into the lifelong pursuit of understanding, diagnosing and treating the affliction of stuttering.
He had the intellect to break down the components that contributed to stuttering and the compassion to understand the stutter's perspective.
"It is one thing for us clinicians to observe our clients, but it's also extremely important to get an inside view: what do you think, how do you feel " said his wife, a UCF professor and speech-language pathologist.
He understood the effort it took to construct an alternative vocabulary to avoid words that start with B, the anxiety of answering a telephone, the reoccurring fear of places that trigger the stutter, the frustration of coping tricks that no longer worked.
With another researcher, Donald Shoemaker, Brutten broke the affliction into two components: the stuttering behaviors themselves and the coping mechanisms the person uses to avoid stuttering. They developed their findings into the Two Factor Theory.
Brutten and Shoemaker then devised treatments which they published in the book The Modification of Stuttering. To overcome the fear of talking on a telephone, for example, Brutten had the client hold a disconnected telephone receiver while carrying on a conversation with the therapist. From there, the client would move progressively farther from the therapist while talking on the phone.
Brutten, who taught at UCF's Department of Communication Sciences and Disordersfrom 1994-2000, was recognized for his lifelong achievements by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
His work helped those who stutter regain control over their minds, their speech and their lives. But his treatments and techniques ever were a cure for the affliction.
"We can do a lot to make it better, but we had no cure for stuttering," said Vanryckeghen, his wife of 20 years.
Dr. Brutten couldn't give to his clients what came so easily for Gene -- the glibness that could start a conversation with anyone, anywhere.
"He was a talker -- very outgoing, very social," Vanryckeghen said. "He would talk to anyone, people we don't know, the person sitting next to you in a restaurant."
But he knew too when to keep quiet.
On the days when it was his turn to cook, Gene Brutten would most likely have something Italian on the stove in their Winter Springs home, and some crooner on the stereo. To the smells in the kitchen and the voice of Tony Bennett, he liked to take Martine in his arms and dance around the big kitchen like it was a cruise ship ballroom.
Besides his wife, Brutten is survived by his son Mark Brutten, of San Francisco; and his daughter Lori Brutten, of Washington D.C.
National Cremation & Burial Society, Oviedo, is handling arrangements.
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