How the ‘FLORENCE MYERS FUND FOR RAISING CLUTTERING AND STUTTERING AWARENESS’ came to be
In 2023 I was recording my presentation for the third World Conference on Cluttering with Joanna Szymczakowska, a member of the Logopedic Centre Foundation (Fundacja Centrum Logopedyczne from Katowice in Poland). Afterwards we chit-chatted about her professional background as well as all that professor Katarzyna Węsierska has been doing over the years. In passing she indicated that professor Węsierska and her husband were instrumental in setting up the foundation. I asked Joanna to send me the link to the foundation as I was, at that point, simply curious about the nature of this endeavor. When I opened the foundation website, I was much impressed. I spoke with my husband about making a donation to the foundation. This decision was solidified the past few days—while we were trekking the gorges in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York. I emailed the founders of our donation, at first thinking it should be anonymous or at least conveyed in a very understated way. The founders let me know, however, that they wished to name one of the major facets of the foundation – raising awareness of cluttering and stuttering – after me. I am deeply humbled and certainly did not expect this honor.
‘A simple but wholesome feed is not to be despised. It paves the way for a future speech pathologist.’ My father had these words inscribed when he gave me a small token PhD graduation gift forty-seven years ago. He had my baby spoon encased and framed with the inscription.
These five decades went by all too quickly. This happens when one is doing what one does fueled by passion and surrounded by wonderful colleagues. Yet the life journey began unexpectedly. After hitching a ride in my mom’s tummy when my parents’ university Yale-in-China trekked the 2,000 miles back from Yunnan (near the Burma Road) to Wuhan when Japan surrendered, we thought peace had finally come in 1946. Not to be. (Yale-in-China held classes during their 2,000 mile trek to escape the Japanese bombing in the late 1930s, led by professors many of whom were Anglican-American missionaries who also held academic degrees.)
My mother and I fled from Communist China in 1949, on a leaky junk boat from Canton to Hong Kong in the stealth of the night. We were undocumented, homeless, and did not have my father at our side. He came to America for his PhD in physics, set to return to China to teach. But the Communists stood in the way. Mother and I waited for eight years to join my father due to the highly restrictive immigration policies toward Asians. The wait would have been longer had it not been for a local pastor and the dean of my dad’s college who joined forces to write a letter to the Senator from Indiana to allow us to come to America.
We came, Tao-Hua not knowing the English alphabet, in lower steerage on a slow boat from China. Fast forward seventy years, Dr. Myers just gave her swan’s song about cluttering at this conference in Katowice.
How did Ling Tao-Hua ( 林 陶 華)
come to know about cluttering? It was love at first sight, in learning about Van Riper’s Track II subgroup of individuals with have fluency issues. Her instinct even as a graduate student was the wonder and complexity of it all—why Van Riper described cluttering (based on 300+ case studies from his university clinic) as individuals who may have issues encoding their intentions through the medium of language and speech, who often exhibit disfluencies that are different from (yet at some level may be related to) stuttering. Van Riper spoke about stuttering as issues in transitioning from syllable to syllable of intended words. Those who clutter tell us that they are still formulating what they want to say—often not in silence. The disfluencies may mirror the organizational issues of trying to get through the ‘linguistic mazes’ in the quest to circumnavigate their narrative.
Sorting out the similarities and differences between stuttering and cluttering is a lifelong pursuit engaged by the best minds in this audience. Here is a toast to all of you–the consumers and family who enlighten us about this narrative from the inside out, to the clinicians/researchers who take that narrative to gain further data and clinical insights and in turn give back to the consumers/clients and fund our collective repository of knowledge about fluency. We are a community driven by symbiosis. And it is this symbiotic spirit that is the infrastructure of the Logopedic Centre Foundation that was formed last year.
Florence Myers has devoted the past thirty-five years toward an understanding of cluttering and its relation to stuttering. She helped to organize the First World Conference on Cluttering in Katarino, Bulgaria (2007). The International Cluttering Association was ‘born’ at that conference. Dr. Myers is a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and Recipient of the Deso Weiss Award for contributions to the field of cluttering. Her works have been translated into multiple languages and she has presented at various national and international conferences on cluttering. She spearheaded the assessment protocol Three-Pronged Approach to the Conceptualization of Cluttering (TPA-CC) endorsed by ICA’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Defining Cluttering, available on the ICA Website.
About the pioneers of cluttering Van Riper and Deso Weiss:
In correspondence with Van Riper when he wrote the forward to a book by Myers and St. Louis, Professor Van Riper hand typed a short letter to me even as he was experiencing congestive heart failure, saying he may not see the dawning of next spring. He said he had the Dickens of a time getting Deso Weiss to agree to write the classic volume on cluttering published by Prentice-Hall in 1964. Deso declined the invitation but finally acquiesced, only to learn at the next turn that the publisher withdrew their invitation. After all, cluttering has come to be known as an orphan in those early decades.
Van was the successful broker, finally. His commission for brokering the union was that he opened the window to the cluttering world, even as he himself had been and continues to be the father of fluency in America.
I wanted to seek out Deso Weiss when Ken and I were preparing for our book, but wondered if Deso was even with us and if he were, where he was. I wanted to pay homage to this remarkable speech language pathologist from Budapest, Prague then Vienna. Van in his characteristic direct way replied that I should look in the vineyard in my own backyard. You see, Deso Weiss worked at Creedmoor State Hospital in New York, only a stone’s throw from my university, after he escaped the Holocaust, by way of Mozambique, then Havana, then New York.
Obituary of Deso Weiss
Dr. Weiss, a native of Budapest, was a courtly, white haired man with a irrepressible fondness for punning. He was graduated from the University of Prague and received his medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1932. He headed the medical college’s speech and voice laboratory until 1938, and during that period treated many prominent actors and singers, among them Boris Chaliapin.
After the Anschluss, Dr. Weiss became associated with the University of Brussels. In 1940, a few steps ahead of the Nazis, he made his way to Mozambique and from there to Havana, where he worked in his specialty at the Hospital Mazorra and was a leader of the Jewish refugee community.
He came to the United States in 1947, and was an assistant neurologist at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center before joining the Creedmore staff in 1952. Dr. Weiss, who spoke eight languages, had been in his youth a noted fencer and pianist.
Florence L. Myers, Ph.D.
Fellow – American Speech Language and Hearing Association
Recipient – Deso Weiss Award
Those who want to contact professor Florence Myers the Fund Creator can email her at: FlorenceMyers617@gmail.com