He called an engineer at the telephone company, who told him it would be easy to produce the effect deliberately. That was all he needed to know. Kehoe gave himself a crash course in electronics and built an experimental device, using a guitar effects pedal to generate the delay. "I called all my friends and family using it," he says. "Everyone was amazed."
Kehoe then went to the library and learned that science had proven what he had experienced firsthand-the phenomenon was called frequency-shifted auditory feedback, and it could reduce stuttering by 80 percent. He also discovered that no company had commercialized the technology.
With only $700 in his check-ing account Kehoe started his own business, Casa Futura Technologies. Seven years later, he manufactures four models of anti-stuttering telephones, wearable anti-stuttering devices, and clinical speech therapy devices. He's written a book, Stuttering: Science, Therapy, & Practice: The Most Complete Book About Stuttering, and his inventions are used in schools and speech therapy centers across the country. He's done numerous TV and radio interviews, been interviewed on National Public Radio, and even appeared on the Howard Stern Show (although Stern refused to let him tell any of his stuttering jokes).
Along the way, Kehoe's unorthodox theories about the developmental origins of stuttering have ruffled feathers among speech pathologists. Like many Reedies, Kehoe has never been reluctant to challenge conventional wisdom. But he's also run up against a more difficult obstacle: the peculiar psychology of stutterers, many of whom choose to accept or ignore their disability rather than try to overcome it.
"No idea how severely I stuttered"
I first met David Kehoe sometime in 1984, during my sophomore year at Reed. Although he had graduated two years before, he was a familiar figure on campus. I remember him vividly-not because we were particularly close, but because he had the worst stutter I had ever encountered.
Talking with Kehoe in those days was, well, to be honest, an excruciating experience. Beset by facial grimaces and violent head jerks, he gacked and sputtered like an overfilled kettle choking on its own whistle. His most fluent speaking rate averaged two seconds per syllable-roughly ten times slower than normal speech. It was almost impossible to resist the temptation to finish his sentences for him (usually guessing wrong) or to cut short a conversation through sheer impatience. Sometimes I even avoided eye contact, worrying that a simple exchange of pleasantries might make me late for class.