Thursday, February 23, 2006

Transfer-Wk 16,Fri.-It's not just us

I have a page on stuttering on my professional website titled “Stuttering and why I hate telephones”. There are a few links to stuttering related resources and blogs (great ones like mine). ;-)

Anyway, at least twice a month, I will get a hit from somebody searching the phrase “I hate telephones”. As soon as I see this, I assume it’s a stutterer doing the search. I also assume that the other 904 matches this search finds, would be about stuttering also.

But to my surprise, they aren’t. At least not any I’ve looked at.

This kind of blows my mind … it’s like non-stutterers being afraid of public speaking. I just don’t get it. But it is kind of comforting to know, it’s not only stutterers who dislike telephones. ;-)

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

Transfer-Wk 16,Thurs.-Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

There hasn’t been too much activity on my blog this week has there?

Ironically, life has gotten in the way of my efforts to improve my life. Stuttering has, for the time being at least, become irrelevant when compared to a baby on the way, and being under the gun on a project I’m working on. Also, due to my working from home, stuttering with people outside is not even very intrusive.

Obviously, my stuttering is devastating at times, like when I’m unemployed. But at other times, like when I’m programming in ‘the zone’, under a deadline, or playing soccer with my son, it doesn’t even occur to me to think about it.

So why is that? While thinking about this, I remembered hearing about Abraham Maslow, and his hierarchy of needs, in our communications class in vocational school. At the time, I couldn’t understand why I was learning basic psychology, or how it would help me in my "soon to be" failed plumbing career. But 15 years later, I’m glad my communications teacher took the initiative. Thanks Mr. Fraser.

So why is it, my stutter is so devastating at times and not others? Could it be related to which need I was currently focusing on, and its effect on each level of the hierarchy? Where does Stuttering fit into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

Physical needs & safety levels
I think it may have an effect when you are unemployed since it hits you right at the physical needs & safety levels. At these levels, being disadvantaged by a stutter can be especially devastating. Stuttering can be a impossible barrier between you and your needs rather than a minor obstacle.

Love/Belonging needs
While feelings of rejection may be hurtful, they are not as bad as the feeling that you may never find another job. However, these feelings may cause reclusive behavior, anti-social habits, and a generally incomplete lifestyle. The stutterer may chose to live alone since basic courtship rituals can be so demoralizing.

Esteem needs
At the next higher level, a stutterer may suffer from esteem issues and/or an inferiority complex. Health, career, finances, and personal relationships may suffer because of it. Recognition may not be sought, because the spotlight (even praise) brings with it the fear of embarrassment. Others may capitalize on this at the stutterers expense.

A stutterer may not follow their passion into the industry which would capitalize on their best strengths. As a result they may feel unfulfilled for a lifetime.

Personally, I did not pursue my passion into the industry, which I have the strongest interest in, because of my stutter. Ironically, the of computer programming which has a stereotype of being a solitary endeavor, has left me unemployed many times because I couldn’t get past the interview scheduling phone call.

I suppose the effects of stuttering can be felt at every level, with the lowest levels being the most detrimental. Recently, I’ve seen darker things where a stutterer has felt absolutely overwhelmed with depression and suicide. How could these extreme effects fit into Maslows Pyramid?

Disclaimer – I’m not a psychologist (not even an amateur), please take anything I’ve said above with a grain of salt. It will likely be revised later.

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

Monday, February 20, 2006

FYI: 13 Observations about people who stutter

I just ran across this list of character traits observed about people who stutter. Much of what he says accurately reflects how I feel about my own feelings (not other stutterers).

by John Harrison

I am a bit conflicted about trait number 2 though.

In my early 20's I had just graduated from vocational school into a recession, with construction training (aka-no jobs). Welcome to the working world, I'd have been just as far ahead if I quit high school and spent the last 5 years pumping gas. And my speech deteriorated to the worst ever. [so I agree]

But within a year, I discovered something else, resulting in; more drive, passion, and purpose than any other time in my life. But my speech was still really bad, and has never improved to the point where it was before finishing school. Even now, where I have some control, if I don't control it, it's bad. [so I disagree]

However, having said all this, it's a Canadian generalization that we will appologise to somebody who bumps into us. Unless we're on skates, of course, then it's the butt end of a hockey stick to the ribs. ;-)

So maybe the passivity mentioned above is a Canadian thing. Maybe John Harrison was surrounded by Canadian stutterers. ;-)

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

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Transfer-Wk 15,Sun-Eleven Timbits

Yesterdays Drive Thru transfer was a lot more time consuming than I could ever imagine. In over 3 hours, I only did 9. Most of the time was spent trying to locate Tim Hortons restaurants with Drive Thru’s. Because I needed to do other things with my family yesterday, I wound up doing this in Toronto. And as I drove around, I noticed, the closer to the center of the city I got, the harder it was to find a drive thru. At one point, I actually got on the highway, drove back out to the edge of Toronto, and started working my way back in again.

I was unable to do one successful transfer yesterday. So due to the fact that I was actually practicing with bad skills, I thought I should try to attack this activity again at a later date. I’m not giving up, but what I started doing may have been counter productive.

I’ve highlighted my missed targets in the chart below. You may notice from the included audio, that I was having an amazing amount of trouble with the word 'One'. All I can really figure out from this is that I'm missing the slow change target perhaps. Moving too quickly from one sound to the next. Or quite possibly a Stretched Syllable, problem where I’m not stretching enough. This was especially aggravating as I never had a problem with this when I did it on my own. But I'm sure I don't have to explain that to anybody else who stutters right? ;-)

2     Listen
3    Listen
4      Listen
5     Listen
6      Listen
7    Listen
8     Listen
9    Listen

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

Friday, February 17, 2006

Transfer-Wk 15,Wed.-Toastmasters speech contest

Yesterday was actually a pretty busy day for me speech wise. I thought I had therapy follow up, although what I really had was a poorly entered calendar appointment. But Lori saw me for 20 minutes anyway. We discussed my problem with the phrase PHP, where I always bomb on the last ‘P’. She agreed with my analysis that it may be an air problem, and focusing more on a full breath should resolve it.

After my therapy, I went through another drive thru. So this would be drive thru #4. I was fluent, but target execution was less than optimal. Not what I would consider a success.

Last evening, I went to toastmasters. Due to my feelings that a Toastmasters club for I.T. Professionals, would provide tremendous value for all involved; I am attempting to qualify to start a club ASAP. Part of the qualifications to start a club, I believe (I still haven’t received my manuals), include getting my Competent Toastmaster designation. This would involve the completion of 10 speeches, so I am booking a speech at every available opening.

Well, I tried to book something about a month ago, but the schedule was packed, with the first opening last night. Which just happened to be the annual club speech contest. Since it would be my only opportunity till late March, I signed up.

Once a topic, from the quantity floating around my head, was selected, writing a solid speech wasn’t a problem. However, 10 minutes before the start of the contest, when I started viewing my competition as “competition”, and noticed the intensity of their practice … well, let’s just say, I starting wondering if I was in over my head. ;-)

Anyway, I read my speech, from behind the podium. My targets were hit or miss. I would self correct when I started stuttering, then get on a role with great target execution. But within 2-3 sentences my targets were being missed again.

I set everything up to tape it with my new voice recorder, but was thinking so much about my speech, that I only remembered to press the record button after starting. I wasn’t about to interrupt my speech to turn it on, so I don’t have an audio for the blog. Too bad, I could have done some great target analysis from it.

Only 5 of the 7 entered speakers showed up, and this was merely a pre-qualifying round to bring the final contestants down to 4. I recognized this as an interesting dynamic, since this contest would not determine a winner … but a loser … the biggest loser.

You are the weakest link. Goodbye.

While I received several compliments on the writing of my speech, and I think I earn extra points for getting up there with my stutter; there was no doubt in my mind, I was clearly the underdog. And I was about to be declared the biggest loser. ;-)

But fate intervened. Due to the fact that I was merely signing up to do my second toastmasters speech, not win a contest, I paid absolutely no attention to the rules. Apparently all entrants need minimum 6 speeches, so I was not qualified to be in the contest in the first place. Before being disqualified, I was asked if I would like to do 4 speeches in the next week to qualify, but with a baby on the way, it “ain’t gonna happen”. So I took advantage of the semi-honorable disqualification, and sat down. If anybody asks why I was disqualified, I’ll tell them (in a bad fake French accent) it’s because “I’m too sexy”. ;-)

I got a ribbon, but I really don’t feel it was given to me as being anything more than a “Good effort, don’t be discouraged”. So; no picture of it on my blog.

Anyway, I plan to deliver a memorized speech in front of the podium for speech #3.

But my most interesting thing happened on my way home, when I stopped at a store, and ran into a girl I’ve only met once before at toastmasters. Normally, when I run into somebody like this, I will avoid them like the plague. Why? Well because in my experience it usually goes in one of 2 directions; 1) They don’t remember me, I stutter, they think I’m a crazy stranger, and I feel like an ass. Or 2) They do remember me, but when I stutter, they feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, and I feel like an ass. So clearly avoidance is an attractive strategy when faced with outcomes like that.

Instead though, I held the door open for her, and said something like “Hello. I missed seeing you tonight”. And I talked to her for 10 minutes. It wasn’t until we parted company, that I realized that was something I never, NEVER, EVER, would have done before my therapy.

The biggest benefit received from therapy, may not be my speech. It may be the social reintegration of everyday life!

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

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Transfer-Wk 15,Thurs-Telemarketer

No matter how well I can speak, I suppose I will always have conversations like this one a few minutes ago.

Phone rings
Me-“Hello” .. good targets … possibly weak Gentle Onset.

Silent pause, then connect with roar of a call center erupts over the receiver.

“Hello, Is this John MacIntyre?”

“Y-Y-Y”, pause … use my targets. Full breath … “Yes, this is John MacIntyre”

“You hesitated … IS THIS JOHN MACINTYRE?!?!” she demanded.

“I didn’t hesitate. I stutter. Is that ok with you?”

… anyway, it was a telemarketer. And she didn’t last past her first sentence, before I executed a flawless “I’m not interested. Good bye.”

Sales tip #1 – Be courteous to the person who has the money.

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Transfer-Wk 15,Tues-Drive thru #3

I went through the drive thru again today. It didn’t go so well. It was a very weak execution of my targets, to put it mildly.

I actually recorded it to post, but in listening to it just now; I can see no benefit in posting it. It would mostly just be an exercise in self detriment.

This weekend, I’m going to drive through every Tim Hortons drive thru in the Greater Toronto Area if I have to, until I get it right. Timbits (donut holes) are 15¢ each, so $15 will get me 100 transfers. If that doesn't do it, I will eat all 100 for my supper! ;-)

Maybe I should take start a pool.

Actually, yes ... leave a comment about how many timbits do you think I will need to buy, before I do one with excellent execution.

My guess is between 5 & 10.

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

Monday, February 13, 2006

Transfer-Wk 15,Mon-Almost as good as a drive thru

In order to update an automated Visa charge, to a new card, I just called their hot-line. As if phones aren’t bad enough, it was entirely voice automated.

You know the kind. The anti-stutter, you’re too expensive of a customer if we can’t automate your service, go somewhere else, type of automated customer service.

No problem!

Controlled speech pattern – 1
Anti-stuttering automated voice phone system – 0

Jeeze … I’m almost starting to feel normal.

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

Transfer-Wk 15,Mon-Web Statistics

As stated previously, I started this blog mostly to document my unique experience in therapy, and possibly provide some hope and inspiration to others ... assuming I'm successful of course.

Having said that, this is a pointless waste of time if nobody is reading it. So I do try to promote my blog, and watch my web stats (as dismal as they are).

In watching my web stats however, I noticed something interesting. During the Phase I part of my blog, I discussed how stuttering has effected my life, and the blog was predominantly negative. And I got a lot of comments on how I should lighten up. One person I met not only told me my blog was negative but said he thought I might show up with a gun! lol ... trust me ... that's not my style.

With regards to my web stats however, I noticed a steady increase in traffic. Until I started my therapy, where I witnessed my web stats top out and quickly drop off once I entered Phase II & III of this blog. I thought these would be my most interesting posts ... this is when I thought things would start to pick up. I interpret this one of 2 things; a) people lost interest when I stopped whining about my problems, or b) my therapy posts were just too dry. I’m leaning towards the whining theory though, since my traffic continued to drop even after therapy ended.

Anyway, as you can see by my stats below; a) there isn't much interest in a blog about stuttering, and b) I'm steadily increasing again and back to Phase I levels. So that's nice.

I receive visits from several countries around the world, most notably, several regular visitors in the Toronto area, United States, UK, New Zealand, Hungary, Pakistan, and France. But also semi-regular / occasional visits from; Australia, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, India, Spain, Ireland, Latvia, Bulgaria, Israel, Italy, Belgium, Norway, Malaysia, Japan, Slovenia, Denmark, Kuwait, Mexico, Sweden, Serbia and Montenegro, Netherlands, South Africa, Finland, Singapore, Chile, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Peru, Bahamas, Iran, Croatia, Cyprus, and Thailand.

People tend to visit repeatedly when they first find my blog. I assume they're reading all the archives ... I've written a lot since September. So this is a positive thing.

And only about 25-30% of my visits are referred from search engines and other sites. This means most people have bookmarked me and are proactive repeat visitors. So I'm interpreting that as very positive thing.

PhaseWeekUnique Visits (first 4-5 wks missing)

By the way, a Unique Visit is when the reader first comes to the site. If the reader reads comments and archives for 4 hours, they will still only show up as one unique visit. But if they leave, and come back 5 minutes later, it counts as a second unique visit.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank everybody for continuing to read what I have to say and supporting me in my journey.

John MacIntyre

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

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Transfer-Wk 14,Sat-Demosthenes Society

This morning I attended the February Demosthenes Society meeting, where we practiced the skills learnt in therapy. The meeting went fine. I had the opportunity to both practice my targets verbally, and focus on other member’s execution of their skills.

One thing that really caught my attention today however, were the members executing targets “less than optimally”. Some were stuttering pretty badly. Although my own stutter was comparable, if not worse, before my therapy, I felt light years ahead in my own fluency.

Even though, I’ve spent the last few months feeling like my control is sliding, I think I’ve almost forgotten where I was just 6 months ago, before my therapy. From a progress point of view, I suppose it would be appropriate to interpret this as a good thing.

At the end of the meeting, another member commented on my blog. So that was cool. And the webmaster asked me to send the URL, so other members may soon be exposed to my observations and insights.

What?? ‘Insights’ is too strong a word? … and slightly arrogant you say? … ok … how about ‘possibly-misguided ramblings’. ;-)

As a side note, there is a web development scripting technology called P.H.P.. Lately, I’ve noticed whenever I say this phrase, I get stuck on the last ‘P’. I’m thinking that since the ‘H’ ends with a ‘ch’ sound, I may be using too much air on it. So when I get to the final ‘P’, my lungs are empty. This theory is supported by the fact that saying PHP with a full diaphragmatic breath does not cause a problem. I will ask Lori, my therapist, when I see here on Wednesday.

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

Friday, February 10, 2006

Transfer-Wk 14,Fri.-Daily practice

Although, I’ve ventured into the drive through a few times since my last post, control has been virtually non-existent, so I left it out of my blog.

Speaking of which, pulling my targets out of thin air, for controlled speech, is becoming increasingly difficult. If I don’t do my shaping every day, it’s almost impossible to pull it off.

Wednesday, at toastmasters, I volunteered for the responsibility of “Invocation / Toast”. Basically, I give a toast at the beginning of the meeting. I came up with a good toast, even though I left it to the last minute. My delivery was almost controlled, but I was so nervous, my hand was shaking uncontrollably. When I took a drink, I spilt water on my shirt. That’s not a sign that I felt in control by any means.

I’m still doing my shaping everyday … well pretty much … well once every other month anyway. ;-)

Seriously, I do my shaping almost every day. However there have been occasions where I don’t. As mentioned in a previous posting, my stopwatch was broken for a bit, and I was unable to do it for over a week. Then there are also times where I’m so caught up with what needs to be done, I’ll put it off for an hour, then forget, then another hour, then another, then the day is over without me doing it. And sometimes I will try to do it right before somebody is around to speak to … this almost always fails with me not doing it until the evening, if at all.

Yesterday and this morning I noticed however, that I did not want to do my shaping. When I grabbed my stopwatch to do it, I kept thinking about the pains in my chest and throat caused by the stress speaking without air.

I don’t know why this kept coming to mind. Perhaps I had better pay closer attention to my full breath target when speaking and doing my practice. I have noticed that I am starting to miss the full breath target consistently in spontaneous speaking situations.

About 2 weeks ago, Tom Weidig, of The Stuttering Brain, asked about the acceptable cost-benefit limits of practice. He said his cost benefit limit was 30 minutes of exercise per day or 1 hour if skipping days was an option, if he was guaranteed not to stutter for the rest of the day. Based on the comments to that posting, I believe others are in agreement.

When I first read that, I disagreed and felt it’s worth a lot more than 30 minutes per day. My recommended practice is 90 minutes extra per day, not 30. And that’s also not including the practice I should be doing in my regular life which does not take extra time.

I mean the benefits I’ve felt since doing my therapy have been astounding! Major life changing benefits! I feel it’s well worth the cost … and I don’t have a guarantee!

But saying and doing are two different things. My daily decisions reveal my true values.

So based on my daily decisions, what is my daily practice cut off time? Apparently it’s 30 minutes, since that is how much, on average, I spend on daily practice.

Logically, I still disagree. But, I guess I need to convince my subconscious. ;-)

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

Friday, February 03, 2006

PFSP in the United States

For any stutterers in the United States. There is a program in the Eastern Virginia Medical School, in Norfolk, Virginia. It appears to be very similar to the program I took.

While I don't know anything about thier program, they got a glowing recommendation in one of my comments :
"I would gladly follow Ross Barrett into the bowels of hell."


If anybody else has taken a fluency shaping program, please forward a link.

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

Thursday, February 02, 2006

FYI: Free stutter devices for Florida kids

Although there is controversy over the long-term effectiveness of auditory feedback devices; many are curious. Personally, as a research volunteer in my early twenties, I can say this ... "I didn't notice any improvements."

But if you have a child who stutters, and want to give it a try. There is a program in Florida where they are being given away. The phone number is (877) 4-FLUENCY ... I believe it's sponsored by SpeechEasy.

For adults or anybody not in Florida ... thorough research might be prudent.

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

Transfer-Wk 13,Thurs.-Drive through-2nd attempt

I had a follow up to my therapy yesterday. Lori, my therapist, is happy with my progress and current speech pattern. I was in pretty good control of my targets and my self corrections were good. That was nice to hear, since I wasn’t consciously self correcting.

The past few weeks have been difficult for me. My practice has dropped off again due to the project I’m working on … actually my problem is more of an inability to manage my time properly. Time compression in a “flow state” to be precise.

As a result of my lack of practice, my speech has been sliding a bit. Recovery is more difficult, and blocks are increasing. However, out of the 6 starting members of my class, I was the only one in yesterdays follow up, so I think I may be ahead of the curve.

After my follow up, my speech was flowing so well, that I thought I’d try the drive through thing again. This is how it went …

“Medium vanilla milkshake” … no problem! Perfect execution!

Who da man? … you da man! … who? …. that’s right … ME! ha ha

So while I’ve got that bit of idiocy running through my head, the girl working the drive through, being in full control of her faculties, continues her end of the order taking.

“Is that it?” She asks

Huh? What? … Is that it? …. “Uh yeah, that’s it” … no targets on “Uh” or “Yeah”, but used them in “that’s it”

“Do you want fries with that?”

Huh? Oh yeah.. fries … “Uh no” … poor target execution.

“Just the milk shake?”

What? Every question takes me by surprise.

“Yes” … no targets … slight stutter, no big deal … but no control.

“That’ll be $3.??, come to the second window.”

Sooo … maybe next time I’ll save the back patting for after I pay.

Who da man? … Not you dumb ass … wake up!


After dinner, I went to Toastmasters. I volunteered for the grammarian role, so I counted the “ums” and “ahs” and it gave me a bit more speaking time that usual. But my fluency wasn’t the greatest. Targets were weak and used mostly in recovery.

I was tired too. I was up since 2am and only had 3 hours sleep the night before. I’ve heard a lot of PWS (People Who Stutter) mention how the lack of sleep increases their stutter, but I’ve never noticed it before. But I think I felt it last night.

Anyway, I’ve been anxious to do my second Toastmasters speech, and signed up for the next available spot. It will be on February 15th. However, this is the night of the annual club speech contest. So, I’ve inadvertently signed up for a speech competition.

Holy Crap!

In over my head? Nah … but I don’t expect to win it. ;-)

I don’t know what I will talk about yet, but I had better increase my speech therapy practice though.

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