Friday, March 31, 2006

Transfer-Wk 21,Fri.-Missing a key component

Anybody who knows me, follows this blog, or has seen my before-after videos has to conclude; fluency shaping speech therapy works. Not that it was the goal of this blog to prove it; but I do hope my experience has contributed further proof that total fluency control is possible despite the level of severity.

Now having said that, my fluency is sliding, my practice is becoming even less frequent, and although I’ve accomplished major goals with my speaking (see any toastmasters post), I have not yet gotten to the point of having transferred my skills completely to the real world yet.

It’s hard work … not in the way, moving pianos is hard work, but in the way that losing weight is hard work. Really, losing weight isn’t rocket science. There is a simple formula for losing weight any idiot can learn; burn more calories than you take in. Pretty simple eh? Eat less or exercise more or do both.

So how is it that; the majority of North Americans are still overweight? Most people know how to lose weight, there are serious quality of life and medical issues to motivate us, and there is plenty of social reinforcement in that direction.

So why are we, as a society, so damn fat?

I chalk it up to self discipline. Or lack of it to be precise.

Self-discipline means doing what needs to be done whether you want to do it or not. For example, some children do not want to do their home tasks assigned by teachers. They would rather watch television or do nothing in particular. Such children are not self-disciplined. Unless they change their pattern of behavior, they will not be successful in the workplace as adults. What is true of some children is also true of some adults. A self-disciplined individual, however, realizes that certain things must be done in order to achieve long-term goals.

Seattle Pacific University: Themes in Morality and the World of Work

Lack of self discipline is, in my humble opinion, also the leading cause of my failure to do the recommended practice. I guess it’s a personal character flaw.

Having said that, I should point out; I’m not completely without character. I am a competent programmer who adds value to the world everyday and have run a profitable business for 9 of the past 10 years, with it being my only source of income for more than 6 of those years. Not bad since I don’t do sales calls or give out my phone number.

However; I do perform better in a structured environment. During therapy, I was able to attend therapy 5 hours per day, spend 3 hours in transit per day, get at least 3 hours of homework done per night, 12 hours homework on weekend, produce 6 detailed blog entries per week, get 40 hours work done per week, and still spend a bit of time with my kids.

Without structure, my performance falters. By working at home, I have almost zero structure. There is no start time, end time, lunch time, meetings … there’s nothing. As a result of this, 8 hours of work often takes longer than 8 hours, and hours per day increase as deadlines get closer. Don’t get me wrong, the work gets done, but often at the cost of personal/family time.

Anyway, my speech practice usually gets lost in the above mess. Lori, my therapist pointed out this lack of structure and it’s effect in my follow up session Wednesday. I knew I had a problem with this, but hadn’t really recognized it as ‘structure’ until she pointed it out.

Speaking of my follow up, I wasn’t even going to attend since my practice has been so dismal since my daughter was born. I attended, if for nothing else but to ‘not quit’. Personally, I feel that missing a therapy session is the first step in quitting. It’s like going to the gym; you get up at 5:00 and hit the gym everyday for months, and everything is going fine until one day when you say ‘I’m going to skip it .. just today .. I deserve a break’ … and that’s the beginning of the end of going to the gym.

Lori, told me to just do the shaping when ever I could, and the same with the transfers … just do them whenever … just not at bed time. But actually, if I still haven’t done it and it is bed time, not going to bed until it’s done, may actually be a good idea as well.

Something else which has occurred to me is the high standards our society places on us to feel successful at anything. I mean personally, for me to feel successful, I’d have to have a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger, have at least a billion dollars, look like Pierce Bronson, have a wife who looks like goddess, have the level of respect and admiration of Bill Clinton, and have all my kids go on to achieve the same level of “success”. Some of that is an exaggeration … but I do wish I looked like Pierce Bronson. ;-)

So am I over reacting? Is this the standard road to successful fluency? Am I doing well?

Or am I a failure in my therapy? And am currently blogging about my failure to follow through?

Time will tell I guess. I suspect there are many who do not transition their skills successfully, not even as successfully as I have to date. Also, the fact that I haven’t given up, at least places me somewhere above the losers, but not quite among the winners. … off in my own little world I guess. ;-)

Like all the overweight chronic dieters out there, I lack the self discipline to complete the transition process. In future posts I plan to focus on self discipline and motivation as it applies to my situation.

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

Friday, March 24, 2006

Busy-News links on sidebar

I won't have time to write anything until tomorrow morning at the earliest.

But I have created a list of newslinks on the sidebar. I plan to keep this updated with stuttering related news. The most recent news link about Bill Walton who became a TV sports announcer is pretty inspiring.

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

Friday, March 17, 2006

Transfer-Wk 19,Fri.-Third Toastmasters speech

Wednesday evening I gave my third speech at Toastmasters, and was voted best speaker for the night. Pretty cool, I think. ;-)

I had an early day, getting up after only 3 hours sleep in order to finish something. With most of the 16 hours between 1:30am and 5:30pm, working full out, I was pretty tired and stuttering like a maniac before leaving for Toastmasters. When I parked at Toastmasters, I stayed outside in my car, and did my fluency exercises for about 15 minutes.

The exercises definitely paid off for the Table Topics part of the meeting, but I was stuttering pretty consistently on the Plosive class of sounds (B,D,G,K,P,&T). So I was getting nervous before my speech.

When I got up to speak, I tried something I heard in a recent Steve Pavlina podcast on confidence. Steve, a fellow Toastmaster, said before he starts a speech, he will just stand there for a few seconds, look at his audience and smile. So that’s what I did … and wow … it really does work!

My speech was on Therapeutic Blogging, with me essentially verbalizing what I wrote in my previous post. During my speech, I had a new experience, which I wasn’t really expecting; immediate feedback.

While speaking about how I am compelled to follow through with transfer exercises due to my public declarations on my blog, I brought up the 11 Timbits story. However, as I spoke, I could see I lost them, so I explained, people who stutter avoid drive thru’s like the plague and you could see the light going on. Then when I said I spent 3 hours in drive thru’s one Saturday morning … they again, didn’t get it … and I explained, that I bought all 11 Timbits, 1 Timbit at a time! Again you could see the lights go on.

You don’t get that kind of feedback when you’re writing.

Another difference is the introduction. With my blog I sometimes like to start talking about an experience, then segue into the real message. Well my evaluator told me I need a stronger opening to focus my listeners on the message. I think she’s right, and I think my speech would have gone a lot better had I done that.

Other comments received from other members and guests included:

  • Wow John. Excellent. Keep it up.

  • Good topic, a bit more dynamic. Use the area more. More eye contact

  • You’ve improved a lot!! Way to go.

  • Very confident. Your mannerisms have improved & your speech. You inspire me.

  • Great speech. Very organized, informative and helpful.

  • Awesome. You are growing so well in speaking. Good use of cue cards. Very good flow. In front of podium. Good sense of humor. Improve usage of um’s and ah’s. Improve vocal volume & variety. Work the room more.

  • Great speech. Good eye contact with everyone.

  • Good eye contact. You showed great confidence. Very informative. Like how you only glanced at your notes. Great job. Keep it up. Good pace. Good sense of humor.

  • Great inspiration. Fabulous great speech. Keep it up. Little too long. Congratulations. Job well done.

This speech was light years ahead of my other 2. I feel like I may actually be able to build this into a strong skill.

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

Friday, March 10, 2006

Transfer-Wk 18,Fri.-Therapeutic blogging

Long before last September, I had wanted to start writing online. Mostly I wanted to do this for professional reasons; increased peer recognition and the like. While I did feel, I had some great ideas, I honestly wondered if I could sustain a string of professional quality, hi-grade ideas for .. well … forever. So it was infinitely postponed.

However, prior to my therapy in October, it occurred to me a blog about my speech therapy may be interesting, unique, and focused with a purpose. So a blog was born.

At this point, I considered the blog to be merely a chronicle of events in my therapy, and transfer phase. I saw this as being possibly beneficial to others, but not to myself. I had hoped my success would provide hope to other severe stutterers, and prove it is worth the effort. But to my surprise, by my third post, I began having helpful insights.

Once I got to therapy, other benefits really became apparent. As you might expect; my note taking, retention, and overall learning experience was increased. But because I knew I would be writing about what I learnt, I assembled information more completely.

For example; once we were told, there are 45 sounds in the English language. For the purposes of the Precision Fluency Shaping Program (PFSP), these sounds fall into one of four groupings. We were then provided with the groupings, and the sounds were listed; a, e, i, o, u, j, l, m, n, r, th+, v, w, y, z, ch, f, h, s, sh, th-, b, d, g, k, p, and t. Well, that’s a lot of sounds … it really is … but it’s not 45! It’s 27.

Where are the other 18 sounds?

Now, I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I was the first participant in over 30 years to ever ask that question. And the only reason I asked it, is because I knew I would be blogging about it later that day, and needed to have my facts straight.

As a side note; the missing 18 sounds are vowel combinations sounds (‘oo’, ‘ee’, ‘oi’, etc..). These vowel combination sounds are implicitly found within the 27 sounds and easily recognized without being explicitly declared.

My retention was increased dramatically, since I was actively listening to my therapist talk about the information, reading about it, assimilating the ideas so I would blog about them, confirming my understanding, making sure I wasn’t forgetting anything, thinking about proper application, then rereading and editing what I wrote.

When I entered the transfer phase of my therapy, I felt an increased sense of commitment to follow through and apply my new skills. After chickening out of a goal of going to Toastmasters, my first week out of therapy, I knew I had to go if only to maintain my integrity. So I went to my first Toastmasters meeting 2 weeks after my therapy ended, and have gone fairly regularly since then. I have already given 2 speeches, I have won the best speaker award once, have been disqualified on a technicality from the club speech contest, and am scheduled for my third speech this Wednesday. But had I not gone to the meeting on my second week out of therapy … I think the courage would have quickly evaporated.

There is also an increase commitment to practice and proactively transfer my skills. For example; when I spent over 3 hours driving through Tim Horton drive thru’s ordering 16¢ Timbits … I must confess … it wasn’t at the top of my list of things to do that day. But I did it, and I’ll do it again. Damn .. was that another commitment I just made? ;-)

I’ve also met other people who stutter via my blog, and have inspired at least 2 other stuttering blogs (see links). Over all it’s just been a great experience.

I would recommend anybody with any type of problem or challenge to journal about it. You don’t need to do it publicly with real names, nor do you need to post potentially embarrassing video’s of yourself as I did here, here and here. You don’t even need to journal about it in a blog, you can do it in Word documents on your PC, or in a paper notepad from the dollar store.

So where do you start? Well the easiest way to start a blog is at Blogger, unless you’re planning to become a professional blogger or use it for marketing your business, it’s a good and easy place to start. You can have your blog up in about 15 minutes.

If you want to blog about group therapy though, please be aware that blogging about other therapy participants is OFF LIMITS. Don’t mention other participants at all, not with a fake name, or as an anonymous third person. Therapy is a very private thing, and should not be infringed upon.

Having said that, the picture I have on my site with fellow participants was taken with their permission, I told them it would go on my blog before taking it, and asked repeatedly if it was ok. If somebody were to call me today, and say they had second thoughts about the picture, I’d take it down immediately.

If you do want to start Therapeutic Blogging, I’m sure you will develop a deeper understanding into any problem you have, and focus more intently on resolving your own issues.

Good luck with your blog.

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

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Transfer-Wk 17,Wed.-Too busy to talk

I haven't posted for a while have I? I've been "Too busy to talk" ... get it? I stutter .. and I've been busy. ;-) Weak sense of humour eh?

The little girl above is the big reason why. She was born on Friday, wieghing in at 7lbs 10ozs. Hopefully she won't stutter. She's very cool. :D

I haven't practiced my speech therapy in about a week. However, I did manage to go 3-4 days of hanging out at a hospital without a single person asking me if I was having a stroke ... so that's a big improvement. ;-)

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