Joseph Green Sheehan was born May 27, 1918, Battle Creek, Michigan. Sheehan “overcame a severe stuttering handicap,” and “was a noted authority on speech.” He was an educator, clinical psychologist and author. He established the Psychology Speech Clinic at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1949 and directed it until the time of his death, which occurred on November 14, 1983, in Santa Monica, California. (information from Contemporary Authors, volume III, p. 439)
A remembrance of Dr. Joseph Sheehan was shared by Bill Murphy on Stutt-L, August 28, 1997.
“I was in LA visiting Joe Sheehan. We had just finished lunch and Joe suggested we take a walk and talk more about stuttering. After 20 mins. or so, Joe remembered seeing an ice cream store in the area but couldn’t find the exact location. In his endearing but somewhat pushy manner he told me to go over to a street vendor and ask for directions to the”such and such” store ( he knew I still had trouble managing stuttering in these situations ). So with Joe behind me, I slowly approached this wild looking vendor and began to ask directions and of course it seemed like I was stuttering horribly on each word. The vendor began to laugh and imitate my stuttering. I had no idea what to do and just froze. Suddenly Sheehan moved up next to me near the vendor and in a loud voice with all kinds of head nodding, eye blinking, etc began to use pseudo-stuttering saying, “Well it sure the hell is easy for you to talk that way”. As the vendor stood there, wide eyed but quiet, we hurried away. I was shaking, Joe was laughing.
He told me if I did that a few times I’d never feel afraid again in that sort of situation. This was neither the first nor last situation Joe got me into. I learned this type of response worked well for Joe, but I couldn’t quite pull them off like he did. But I also learned I didn’t have to be an exact copy of Joe Sheehan. Joe’s lesson was that I was capable of taking charge. I could respond in many ways that put myself and others at ease. Joe taught me to take responsibility for my feelings and for defusing the tension in the stuttering situation if I was with friends or colleagues.”