Jane Leigh and Christopher Yates

Jane Leigh and Christopher C. Yates developed what became well known as "The American method' or the "Yates-Leigh method" for curing stuttering. The method involved having the patient keep the tip of his tongue in contact with his palate on the upper alveoli just behind his upper teeth while speaking (Bobrick, 1995, p. 92).

The method was described in the journal Athenaeum as follows:

The stammerer is to press the tip of his tongue as hard as he can, against the upper row of teeth; is to draw a deep breath every six minutes, and is to keep perfect silence for three days, during which this pressing of the tongue and deep inspirations are to be continued without interruption. During the night, small rolls of linen are placed under the tongue in order to give it the required direction even during sleep. When three days have expired, the patient is to read aloud slowly to the physician for an hour. During this exercise, care is taken that the stammerer is never in want of breath, and he must, therefore, be made to stop frequently, and inspire deeply. The patient is to admonished to keep the tip of the tongue floating when he speaks, and never to allow it to sink into the interior cavity of the lower jaw. (From Schoolfield, 1938, p. 106-107)

E. S. Warner described the origin of the method as follows:

Yates was an Albanian living in Albany, New York. His daughter stuttered and he, along with his daughter's governess Jane Leigh, devised their treatment approach. The tongue placement method, intended as a self cure, required those who stuttered to hold their tongue against their teeth for three days. They suppressed their voice during this time to avoid spasmodic closures of the glottis. Mrs. Leigh trained specialists in their approach and schools were begun in America and Europe. The schools were short term residential programs in which students were kept in the house of the instructor for a fortnight, during the treatment period. (From The Voice, 1882?, vol 4, #11, p. 163).

Paragraph from Fletcher (1928) describing the Leigh Method (p. 99):

In the earlier and cruder forms of this theory (anatomical conception of stuttering) attention seems to have centered upon a particular organ or groups of organs, the inadequate functioning of what was thought to have caused the trouble. As an illustration of this we have what was called the "American method" of treatment, which was "discovered" in 1825 by Mrs. Leigh of New York. She seems to have been called upon to treat a case of stuttering, and in the course of her efforts to bring about a "cure," she stumbled upon the observation that the stutterer pressed his tongue against the lower incisor teeth in his efforts to talk. Instantly she seized upon this as the cause of the trouble, and drew the conclusion that the remedy for stuttering would be simply to change this situation by pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth instead of pressing it against the teeth. Not realizing that this form of tongue movement in her patient was but one of many kinds of accessory movements found in almost unending variety among stutterers, Mrs. Leigh put her "cure" on the market. The Frenchman, Malebouche, is said to have paid a large sum for it. In the Netherlands and in Prussia the governments gave those who knew and could use the secret professional standing at public institutions. Naturally the "American cure," whatever may have been its financial success, did not survive.

Writings on the Leigh-Yates Method of Curing Stammering

Bobrick, B. (1995). Knotted tongues: Stuttering history and a quest for a cure. NY: Simon & Shuster.

Fletcher, J. (1928). The problem of stuttering: A diagnosis and a plan of treatment. NY: Longmans, Green and Co.

Leigh, J. (1826). Facts in relation to Mrs. Leigh's system of curing stammering and other impediments of speech. NY: W. Grattan.

Schoolfield, Lucille, D. (1938). The development of speech correction in America in the 19th century. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 24, 101-116.