Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Transfer-Wk 3,Wed.-Toastmasters Best Table Topics Ribbon

While it is probably not too big of a deal for many others, this evening was definitely a step in the right direction for me. Tonight, I was awarded with the Best Table Topics ribbon at my local Toastmasters.

As I explained in my post last week; there is a part of Toastmasters meetings called Table Topics. Basically, topics are thrown out, and you can stand up and discuss it for a minute. This week, I was able to successfully get past the 25 second mark, and didn’t fill most of it with; “wow .. this is harder than I thought … ahhhhh …. No really … it’s not easy. … ahhhhh …. I’ve run out. …. Ahhhh …. Thanks, I’m done.” ;-)

By the way; other than a few misses, I executed my targets consistently in tonights meeting.

I’ve committed to join next week. I’ve heard of how great Toastmasters is for years, but it really is an understatement. You have plenty of speaking opportunities, and it is unbelievably supportive.

Also today, I had a follow up at the Stuttering Center. Basically; I need to continue to tweak my evaluations, record keeping, and work on my self corrections. I also need to practice more. I still have a lot of emotional baggage around the telephone and speaking to people.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Transfer-Wk 2, Thurs-Demosthenes Society, Follow up, & Toastmasters

On Saturday, I went to a Demosthenes Society meeting (a PFSP support group). I wasn’t sure if I would like it, since I was a member after my therapy in 1993, and really didn’t find it very helpful. To my surprise; this time I found it very helpful to be immersed into an environment where fluency shaping targets are the main focus and spontaneous speech is frowned upon.

Actually, the rest of the day, after the Demosthenes Society meeting, was the best day I’ve had since finishing at the clinic. I also volunteered to help fix a problem on their website and call people before the next meeting. I feel, helping to call people before the next meeting will be a good transfer opportunity. Although, it has crossed my mind, I may not still feel that way in January and then I’ll be in trouble. But hey! …. That’s loser talk! Since the only way I would not still feel the same in January, is if I lost control of my speech. So I’m pretty comfortable with my decision to volunteer.

Yesterday, I took one of my clients and a few members of his staff for lunch as a thank you for allowing me to work from their office while in therapy. It saved me a lot of time, and he wouldn’t accept rent or even a discount on future work, so it was the least I could do. As a derived benefit, lunch would also be a good transfer for my targets, but alas, my target execution was poor.

After lunch, I went to the clinic, where we had our weekly follow up. I went in there feeling pretty lousy … a bit embarrassed and ashamed actually, since I have not been using my controlled fluency all the time. I frequently forget to use my new skills, and my record keeping has been weak due to a lack of organization. Also, my weak target execution over lunch didn’t help either.

But once the meeting got going, I realized the need to just put it behind me and make sure the next week is better. I’ve got to go to the dollar store and buy a notepad, since I quickly forget my missed targets, 2 minutes after a transfer.

And last night, I went to a Toastmasters meeting, where I stood up in front of 15-20 people and spoke several times. The members were very welcoming and immediately helped me feel at ease. I was not at all nervous, although it did take me a while to get my head around what was going on.

My target execution was successful for the most part, and I felt comfortable using my targets. But I have to admit, I felt weird self-correcting poorly executed targets, and even when I did it, I was unable to self-correct to the point of excellence.

If you are not familiar with Toastmasters, there is a part of the meeting called Table Topics, and from what I can gather, topics are thrown out, and you can stand up and discuss it for a minute. Well I tried it, and was unable to go longer than 25 seconds. Further proof that my stutter is not my only communication liability.

I didn’t join Toastmaster last night, but probably will next week.

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

Friday, November 11, 2005

Transfer-Wk 1,Fri.-Few speaking opportunities

This post is really going to highlight just how unsocial my life is.

Have I alluded previously to the fact that I work from home? Well I do, and when I have a good project, I usually don’t go anywhere for days. So most of my human interaction is with my wife and 3 year old, who are home and awake only for about 4 hours per day. So most of the time I’m alone.

Although that sounded pathetic, I actually like it, since I can concentrate on what I’m doing. However, as far as my speech therapy goes; being alone isn’t helpful and I’d probably be a lot better off if I could be using my targets all day in an interactive environment.

I suppose this means; I need to be extra diligent with my practice.

Because I’m not speaking very often, I find that the longer I’m out of the intensive therapy, the more I forget to use my skills. I need to find something to help me remember. Lori suggested one of those rubber wristbands, which are trendy right now, but it’s not really my style. Dr. Kroll suggested carrying our stopwatches in our pockets and every time we put out hand in our pockets it will remind us, but it’s too heavy and bulky. Lori, also suggested having some kind of watch timer beep every 15 minutes, which sounds good, but I tried this previously to help my time management / productivity, but found that after a while I started blocking it out. I need to find something a little better.

The best reminder I seem to have is my stutter … but if I’ve lost control so bad that I’m stuttering again … then it’s a pretty weak reminder system now isn’t it? It’s as effective as using the unemployment line to remind you to save money when you’re working. ;-)

I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should get a 3 person golf score keeper, you know those ones that you click every time somebody takes a shot. Well, I could use each score for; spontaneous speech (fluent or disfluent), failed targets, and successful targets. This wouldn’t give enough information to track with failed targets, but at least I could keep track of the overall daily trend of my control levels. It would also serve the same purpose as the stop watch that Dr.Kroll suggested.

At the beginning of the week, I had a pretty good grip on my speech. I was successful in using my targets with a key client both on the phone and in person. But yesterday, I had lunch with a colleague, and my targets were sketchy at best. I tried to self correct a problem I was having, and repeated the word about 6 times before I stopped thinking it may be making him uncomfortable.

But, the telephone transfers are not going too well, and for some reason I can’t seem to say “thank you”, at the end. I block on every one. I am also unable to identify the targets I am missing. When this happened in the clinic, Lori pointed out that I was not breathing before saying thank you. But I have been watching this, and I am breathing before saying thank you. But then I block! Normally blocking means that I missed the Gentle Onset, which I dismissed as not being the problem, since I’m blocking on the soundless TH. But in writing this, it has occurred to me that there is still air in the TH, and if my vocal folds are closing, then maybe I am blocking on it!

This blog is great! Explaining things is sometimes exactly what you need to break you through a mental barrier.

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Transfer-Wk 1,Tues.-Fitting practice into my life

Since the intensive portion of my therapy ended on Friday, I’ve been struggling to incorporate the practice into my life.

On Saturday I made the huge mistake of trying to organize my shaping around somebody else’s schedule. Shaping is a 20 minute exercise to practice the targets, starting at the ultraslow 2 seconds per syllable, then speed it up to my normal speaking rate. The exercise is then followed by a 5-10 minute conversation.

My problem is that I was waiting until I knew my wife would be home to do my shaping, so I could do the conversation with her. Big mistake, she went out first thing in the morning to pick something up, but through a series of unforeseen “shopping opportunities”, she didn’t get back until 2:00 in the afternoon. Since I had no food in the house, I then had to go buy lunch. Then as soon as I got back, we scurried out the door to a party.

Soooo …. the party I was planning to use as practice for my targets wasn’t really effective, since I didn’t do my shaping before going. I tried to use my targets, but wasn’t as accurate as I was the day before.

I’ve done my shaping every day since, but this morning was the first time I did it optimally. I’m going to attempt to do it right before my first speaking opportunity, but if I don’t know when it will be, I’ll just do it without the follow up conversation.

I’m also having a difficult time remembering to do my review. By re-reading the manuals for 10-15 minutes per day (repeating when finished), my skills will not deteriorate. In order to resolve that, I think I may put my manuals beside my bed, or in the TV room.

I also need to figure out some way to record my spontaneous transfers. Either carry a transfer sheet around with me always, or start using my Palm V again. But I find without writing them down immediately, I am quickly forgetting which targets I’m missing.

One target I am having serious problems with is full breath. Basically, I continuously attempt to speak without breathing. As if the 16 year old kid working at Wal-Mart, has a demanding schedule and can’t afford to wait. ;-)

Also, I planned to do another video and write a summary of what I learnt in therapy, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Possibly later in the week.

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

Friday, November 04, 2005

PFSP-Day 15-Last day of the program

Above is a picture of my class mates and therapists. Top row left to right; Dr. Kroll who runs the Stuttering Centre, Sabir, Nicole, and Aygul. Lower row; left to right; myself, Payman, Lori Scott-Sulsky (our therapist).

Today was the last day of the program. And we’ve all learnt a lot, but our work is just beginning. The next month will prove critical.

Wish us luck.

PS-I may post a summary of our therapy over the weekend.

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

PFSP-Day 14-Talk about maintenance

Maintaining our new skills will require 24hr self-monitoring, plus another 90 minutes per day for structured practice. This will be necessary for at least the next year.

Our daily practice will include

  • Shaping – Morning target review.

  • Structured practice – Creating situations to use the targets.

  • Spontaneous practice – Using existing situations as practice sessions.

  • Daily Review – Reviewing our daily hits & misses.

We wound up at the mall again, approaching strangers to initiate speaking opportunities. I am again trying to speak without breathing first, even when I try to self correct, I often panic and use the old pattern. Most of my targets were off in that transfer session.

Speaking of missing my targets, I had a discussion with Lori about why it’s happening. Lori doesn’t feel that I’m being objective, where as I don’t feel that I’ve communicated my thoughts accurately. She might be right though, since objectivity is like sanity and intelligence, in that it’s impossible to tell when it’s missing.

After my course, I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow PFSP student from a 2002 class. When he found my blog, and told me that he has been transferring his skills to the world, I asked to meet him.

It was great to meet with him, we have a lot in common, he even shares a passion I alluded to earlier .. financial market analysis. However, we also have exact opposite problem areas; he loses his targets after a few minutes of speaking, I start out rough, but can usually get a grip on them, once I self correct. He also has very strong telephone skills, but feels face-face is a problem area, where as I’m the exact opposite.

But the one thing I really got out of meeting him, is the effort to maintain the skills and transfer them into the real world. However, apparently, once you’ve successfully gotten through a rough situation a few times with your targets, the anxiety caused by those situations quickly dissipate.

Also, it would appear, that the new tonality focus in program which I said is new since 1993, wasn’t even in the program in 2002. I’m very happy it has it now. Lori, always points it out when I start chanting. But maybe it’s just be me, since she knows it’s a very important topic for me.

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

Thursday, November 03, 2005

PFSP-Day 13-Mental garbage and face to face transfer

Today we discussed the regions of the brain, which we use in speaking. Lots of highly technical jargon was thrown around, which I won’t get into here. We also discuss how our negative associations and conditioning affect our ability to apply our new skills.

For example, I have serious issues with the telephone. To me it’s an embarrassment machine, which I’m forced to use everyday just to get by. It causes major anxiety whenever I need to call anybody and I will procrastinate with a phone call for as long as I can get away with it. Sometimes it will take an entire day just to get up the nerve to make the call, and I’m exhausted at the end of the day.

As Lori, my therapist, would put it; “See, all that above … well that’s not helping.”. Basically, Lori says if you are doing your covert practice while waiting to speak, there is no room for any of the negative mental stuff. This makes total sense, but I find it really difficult to do it. Using this with the phone would be really helpful.

Also, I made an observation yesterday. I was talking to Lori, about how sometimes I can’t feel my targets, as I get faster. And that when I completed the course in 1993, I couldn’t really feel them at all. I realized what I was doing; I was simulating my controlled fluency voice like you might mimic an accent! That’s exactly what I was doing! That would also explain why sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, since personally, I can’t just do a fake accent on the fly without getting in the mode first.

At about 11:00, we went to the Mall, where we proceeded to approach people working in the mall, and initiate speech. This would be in the form of a question, where the preferred answer is a simple easily completed answer .. like ‘No’.

My question was “Is there a CIBC in this mall?”. There wasn’t, so it was a good queston. It went smoothly, with a few exceptions. It really didn’t bother me too much.

By 1:00, I was in The Bay, buying a new hat, having a conversation with the cashier. I was even talking to other people in line. I was having my own little party. ;-) It felt damn good … I will say that! Normally, I keep my mouth shut and eyes on the floor, so nobody will initiate speech with me.

Unlike the phone transfer, which is not something I enjoy doing at all. Refer to paragraph 2. ;-)

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

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

PFSP-Day 12-Telephone transfer lows

Today started off ok, with the usual shaping, review, and speeches. I’m not sure if I mentioned them yesterday, but I think we will be starting the day like that for the rest of the program. Then we talked about how important the maintenance phase is, and how we’ll be doing it for a full year following the course.

But then over break, I’m not sure what happened, but my mood took a downswing and I stopped using my targets optimally. Then after break, we started the phone transfers, and I couldn’t get a grip on my targets at all. Usually I can turn them on just by walking through the clinic doors.

My first handful of, transfer, telephone calls were unsupportive. Because I wasn’t spoon fed as I was yesterday; I wasn’t unsure who to call and what to ask. My first few calls went unanswered, then I got somebody who answered after their answering machine started, then they didn’t understand the question even though my speech was clear. It actually sounded like they just rolled out of bed, and weren’t fully functional just yet. They asked “what?” 3 times, and finally answered me.

What the other person does, or doesn’t do is largely insignificant in this practice, since I can only control my own actions. Also, when a call goes bad, I shouldn’t be dwelling on it, not only because it’s counter productive, but because my thoughts should be consumed by my targets. The problem was, I just couldn’t concentrate on my targets.

I told Lori I needed a pep talk. I did need one, but didn’t expect one … actually I didn’t even really want one. Lori doesn’t exactly hold your hand, it’s not her style, and wouldn’t really benefit me anyways. She’s pretty good at knowing when providing support makes you stronger, and when it will make you weaker … then acts accordingly.

By 12:00, I just wanted to leave, but I managed to pull off a few acceptable calls.

After the course I went for lunch and successfully used my targets half way through the order. Then I noticed I was speaking without air when I ordered a coffee. Just recognizing this is a huge accomplishment.

After going to the office and getting a couple hours of work in, I was again able to successfully use my targets. One of my clients even commented on how much I’ve improved. I asked if my voice sounded odd, and he told me it didn’t. Normally, I’d be skeptical, but he’s a long time friend and client who has been frankly honest with me before. So I knew it was genuine.

While at the office, I attempted to use my targets in a phone call to one of my clients web hosting companies; it didn’t go well. But on my way home, I grabbed a bite for dinner, and successfully used my targets again.

Admittedly, I’m not using my targets all the time, but am having a bit of success.

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