Wednesday, October 26, 2005

PFSP-Day 8-Amplitude Contour & Full Articulatory Movement

Do you know who Mel Tillis is? I sure do.

When I was a kid, it was constantly pointed out to me that the popular 1970s country singer, Mel Tillis, stuttered. Good ole Mel would go on talk shows and stutter just like me, but when he sang, he was as fluent as the next guy. As a result of this, I was often, and occasionally now, advised to just sing it.

So why can Mel Tillis sing without stuttering? Because most stuttering happens when you are starting your voice, and when you sing, it never stops, so there’s no stutter.

[After reading one of the comments on this post, I asked my therapist about the singing relationship. She basically told me that while there are similarities, the above text may be misleading. I am leaving this in the blog, to emphisize that this is not an educational blog, but a record of my experience in therapy. It includes my understanding, limited-understanding, and mis-understanding.]

On Monday, we learnt a target, which is similar in nature to singing. Unfortunately, I was so excited about the insights I had with regards to Plosives and moving to the 1 second stretch, that I forgot to mention it.

The new target is called Amplitude Contour, and it’s basically, chaining your syllables together so your voice doesn’t stop. You may notice this came with the move from a 2 second stretch syllable to a 1 second stretch syllable. Since the pattern is; 2 seconds speak, 1 second inhale, 2 seconds speak, 1 second inhale, etc…, it is necessary to join the 2, 1 second, syllables. And in the spirit of the program, a controlled joining target only makes sense.

So with the Amplitude Contour target, we lower the volume, but never stop our voice. We only turn our voice off to inhale.

The target we learnt today is called Full Articulatory Movement (F.A.M.). Essentially FAM is fully articulating our vocal tract in pronouncing the syllable sounds. Some stutterers deal with stuttering by reducing their articulation, this target helps to deal with that problem. I don’t believe FAM is part of the original program, and Dr. Kroll of the Stuttering Centre, added it.

Also, remember the video Dr. Kroll made of us the first day of the program? Well today we got to watch it and analyze the missing targets in our (soon to be) old speech pattern. This is a great idea, as it gives us that personal touch of dealing specifically with the problem areas each of us has.

Fortunately, I’ve seen myself on video before, so the stutter was not that much of a shock.

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


At Wednesday, October 26, 2005 11:04:00 PM, Anonymous Geoffrey said...

I think there is more to the singing than just the continuity of the sound. After all, singers do take breaths, and clearly there are other breaks and pauses.

I think it has something to do with the nature of communication. While I know that you stutter while alone, most stutterers do not, and my hypothesis is that stuttering does not occur during singing for the same reason it does not occur while speaking alone. You are not really communicating a message. While singing, you are just using your voice as an instrument. For this reason, I theorize that telling a stutterer to "sing it" is not good advice, as then he will be attempting to communicate, and will therefore stutter.

At Thursday, October 27, 2005 3:12:00 AM, Anonymous Yasser said...

John, I just stumbled on your blog and I have to say that I'm so glad you decided to share your experiences as a person who stutters. I can relate to much of what you've written because I myself stutter and I'm an alumnus of the same PFSP program you are currently taking in Toronto. I completed the program in 2002 and Lori was my clinician.

Unfortunately, I didn't practise the speech targets as much as I should have in the years that followed, and my speech deteriorated significantly. In retrospect, I didn't realize that maintaining my fluency would require an incredible amount of vigilance and hard work. That may not be the case for a mild stutterer, but for a person with a severe stutter such as myself, one simply cannot expect to "wing it" once the program is over. You have to practise everyday, consciously apply the targets in *every* speaking situation, and assess where you went wrong on a continual basis - otherwise, the targets will never become internalized.

Last year, with my fluency at an all-time low, I started practising the targets again after a long hiatus. I joined Toastmasters for People Who Stutter, the Demosthenes Society, and went for private speech therapy sessions with Dr. Kroll. In addition, I did hours of telephone practise each week, read countless books on stuttering, and forced myself to be more voluble in social situations.

The results have been very promising. I no longer have any difficulty when ordering food at restaurants, my fluency on the telephone is excellent, and when I do encounter blocks, they are milder and shorter in duration. That said, I still have considerable difficulty in high-stress situations, particularly interviews and presentations, where I feel people will be more judgmental. I'm considering joining a regular Toastmasters group (one for people who don't necessarily stutter), to desensitize myself to situations of this kind.

I should point out, however, that the prognosis for you is probably much better than it was for me because you are not a covert stutterer. Believe it or not, I was covert even when I stuttered on 85% of my words, because I was so fearful of what others might think if they saw me block. On the downside, this hypersensitivity to what others might think also made me very reluctant to use the speech targets in public - I thought they sounded strange to the listener (perhaps true, but it goes without saying that stuttering sounds far worse!). These irrational fears were a huge obstacle in my road to fluency, and it's something I have yet to fully overcome.

Best of luck,


At Thursday, October 27, 2005 3:20:00 AM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

Thanks for the comments Geoffrey,

I don't think the 'just sing it' is good advice either. Although people always mean well when they give me this advice, I politely decline.

BTW-I really hope I didn't communicate that therapists have told me this. Because none have.

Also, I'm going to ask Lori about this today. The singing relationship is my pre-therapy understanding. Many of my pre-therapy understandings have proved incorrect ... perhaps this one is also.


At Thursday, October 27, 2005 3:32:00 AM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

Hi Yasser,

Wow, being covert on 85% is difficult! I gave up even trying to be covert a long time ago. ;-)

The transfer will take alot of work, that's for sure. I'm under no illusion as I was in 93. The transfer to the real world is the majority of the effort.

Actually, one thing about this blog, is that it will force me to successfully transfer the program to the real world ... or look stupid for blogging it. ;-)

Thanks for the comments. I suspect we will meet if I join the Demothenese society after completing the course.


PS-If you like my blog, I hope you will pass it along to other members of the Demothenese Society and/or the Toastmasters for PWS.


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