Saturday, October 29, 2005

PFSP-Day 10-Slow Normal & Shaping

Friday we moved from the ½ second Stretched Syllable to Slow Normal.

Slow Normal is our new speaking voice. If you’ve been reading this blog, you will have noticed; we started with 2 second Stretched Syllables (SS), moved to 1 sec. SS, then ½ sec. SS, now Slow Normal.

How fast is slow normal? It’s the rate at which I can maintain control and feel my targets execute properly. For me right now, it’s probably about 0.4 seconds per syllable, roughly half the speed of normal speech.

We should not speak faster than our Line of Safety, as Lori, our therapist, put it. Basically the Line of Safety is the speed at which we can accurately use our targets and feel in control. Knowing my Line of Safety will be critical in executing my new speech pattern long term. However, there is the temptation to trade long term control for a short term relief in awkwardness, since just beyond the Line of Safety is spontaneous fluency, in which I can speak fluently without “sounding funny”. I expect staying slower than the Line of Safety will be very difficult with the constant temptation to push beyond it.

Saying my speech is spontaneously fluent just beyond my Line of Safety, is not totally accurate. I expect with the completion of this course, my fluency just beyond my line of safety will be spontaneously fluent. However, as I lose control of my new skill, and time passes, my fluency beyond this line will only become increasingly random.

We also talked about speech chains again. With Slow Normal, comes the ability to emphasize certain words, in order to add tonality. This is HUGE for me. When I did the program in 1993, I was released into the world with a very monotone voice. This caused a few bad experiences when attempting to use it in public. This is something I had planned to do differently, by practicing my tonality, but I hadn’t expected it to be incorporated right into the program. Just another example of how the program has been improved over the past 10 years.

The method we discussed for adding tonality is to give the syllable or word to be emphasized a longer duration than the others. The big trap is not to shorten everything else, as I immediately started doing unconsciously, but to expand the syllable or word to be emphasized.

We also discussed Shaping. Shaping is our daily practice, which we will be using every day for the next Year. We need to do it just before our speaking day begins, and periodically throughout the day if necessary. It’s 20 minutes and goes like this:
1 minute spent monitoring our Full Breath target
3 minutes spent reading out loud at 2 second Stretched Syllable
4 minutes spent reading out loud at 1 second Stretched Syllable
6 minutes spent reading out loud at ½ second Stretched Syllable
6 minutes spent reading out loud at Slow Normal

Then we should immediately engage in a conversation for 5-10 minutes using our targets.

Because my new voice “sounds funny”, I expect it to get some strange reactions from people when I use it. I started using it with my family as soon as I got home on Friday, and although I felt comfortable using it in my “safe” environment, my 3 year old son kept asking me to stop talking funny and to use my “daddy” voice. I started explaining, why I was talking funny, but he was quickly distracted with a balloon and took off. So, I guess it didn’t bother him that much. ;-)

I also attempted to use it in the real world a few times, but none of my attempts were successful ... not that, I’m discouraged. I mostly mention it for the record. In the post-therapy part of this blog, I expect there will be plenty of times where my transfer fails and / or I receive less than accepting reactions from others. I intend to blog about these experiences. Actually, the post-therapy part of my blog will probably be the most interesting.

I am eager to master this skill and refine it to the point where it doesn’t sound “that” funny, and use it regularly. On the other hand, perhaps I should embrace the odd sounding voice. Powerful people throughout history have had oddities about them, which only intensified their persona. But then again, I don’t know if I have the character to back up an oddity. ;-)

Not meant as advice, please find a qualified therapist if you are interested in similar therapy.


At Sunday, October 30, 2005 12:45:00 AM, Anonymous Yasser said...

Don't get discouraged if your attempts at using slow-normal speech fail in the real world. It will take time - more time than you might think - to internalize the targets so that using them in public comes naturally.

It took me almost 6 months before I could consistently use slow-normal when ordering a coffee at Tim Hortons. Although I would constantly remind myself of the targets as I stood in line, I invariably reverted to my old speech and stuttered badly when the moment of truth arrived. As a result, there were countless times that I ended up ordering tea instead! It was discouraging, to be sure, but one day it finally came together and I haven't had any trouble ordering coffee ever since.

If you can successfully apply your targets in a feared situation just once or twice, the fear of that situation will quickly evaporate, and it'll be much easier for you to apply your targets in future.


P.S. I'll be sure to spread the word about this blog the next time I'm at Toastmasters for PWS.

At Sunday, October 30, 2005 8:57:00 AM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

Thanks a lot Yasser, for both offering to plug the blog at your next Toastmasters meeting, and for the insights in this comment.

I haven't actually spoken to anybody who has successfully transfered thier skills to the real world.

Could I buy you lunch one day and talk to you about your transfer? If so, email me from my contact page at
I don't put my email address on the web in order to prevent email harvesting software.

Thanks again,

At Tuesday, January 08, 2008 3:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey John

I have been suffering from stuttering for more than 10 years now and have had so much anxiety trying to hide it from everybody in family and at work. Reading your blog has been very informative & illuminating and has given me a great deal of relief. I have a problem with starting of plosive sounds in the beginning or middle of a sentence. I have been reading articles on stuttering for more than 4 years now but none has had more practical information and experience than your blog.

I salute you for the initiative you took and the content description to the minutest detail.



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