Thursday, April 27, 2006

Transfer-Wk 25,Thursday-Why I practice

Yesterday at my follow up, we were talking about motivation to do our practice. Not what we need to do … but why are we doing it in the first place?

Why should we spend an hour a day practicing our fluency?

This was so obvious to me it wasn’t even funny!

Why am I spending the time practicing?

In a nutshell, I firmly believe it’s the difference between me spiraling upward into financial prosperity, self respect, and happiness. Or spiraling downward into financial despair, social reclusion, and despondency.

I don’t believe there is any middle ground for me on this one. I’m not going to get a job using my talents to full capacity, and work to retirement. Any job I get will leave me vulnerable to the uncertain decisions of others. Job security is possibly most mythical in software development and construction, which may look different to an outsider, but contain the same cyclical economic / youth centric nature.

Basically, if I can do what needs to be done, I’ll prosper. If not, I’ll never maintain my current position. What ever the result is, it will probably reinforce itself into every other area of my life.

And the bottle neck is my stutter.

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

Friday, April 21, 2006

Transfer-Wk 24,Fri-Velocitization

Have you ever noticed, after driving on the highway for a while, your perception of speed changes?

When you get off the highway, and are halfway down the ramp, you check your speedometer only to find you are doing 80km/hr (50mph) in a 50km/hr (30mph) speed limit. So you slow down till you feel like you are almost crawling, check again, but your still speeding! So you slow down even more, but you’re still speeding! And again, till you finally settle on speeding just a bit.

Well, it’s called “Velocitization”. I first learned this concept when I took drivers training through Young Drivers of Canada. I’ve never heard the term before or since, so I don’t know how well known it is. In case it isn’t well known; here is YD’s interpretation from their website.

When we accelerate from 50km/h in the city to 100km/h on the freeway, initially we feel that we are going very fast. But after a few minutes at the new speed it feels normal. We have become velocitized. Velocitization makes driving on the freeway less scary and makes it easier to go with the flow of traffic. But there is a problem. When we drop down to 80km/h to enter the next exit we feel as if we are going very slow but it is probably way too fast to enter the curve at the end of the exit ramp. To avoid this problem we need to check the ramp speed warning signs and glance at the speedometer to make sure we have slowed down enough.
From Young Drivers of Canada

Well, occasionally, I experience velocitization with my speech. Specifically; with regards to the stretched syllable target.

When I’m busy, and ‘in the zone’, I’m hustling around like a mad man. Wasted time could be measured in nanoseconds, every task switch is in perfect flow, my internal clock is racing and time appears to stands still.

When I need to speak, I attempt to drop my internal clock speed for the stretched syllable target. Usually miss it my first attempt and stutter. I stop, start again, and often am still speaking too fast. I keep stopping, self correcting, retrying with increased stretch (slowing down) until I finally have the control I need for fluency.

An unusual observation I suppose, but as I focus on my fluency more, I become hyperaware of all aspects of it.

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Transfer-Wk 24,Wed-Avoiding yesterdays mistake

Although I will not have the opportunity to speak with anybody for another 2 hours, I just finished my shaping (fluency practice). I did not want to repeat yesterdays mistake again today.

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Transfer-Wk 24,Tues-Up early, but missed practice

Although I have a deliverable for Thursday, another client scheduled a conference call with a partner in a project they are working on. Since I will be the one handling the technical interfacing, they asked me to be there (thankfully).

This really tightened my schedule, but I figured a way to manage it, which promised more time in front of my computer, hopefully resulting in an increase in productivity. It would also provide me with more face time with a multitude of people, giving me more time to practice my targets (fluency techniques).

My planned schedule went something like this :
6:00-Get up early, and do shaping
7:30-Take GO Train (commuter train) to Toronto
8:30-Take Subway to clients office
9:00-Work on Thursday’s deliverable
10:00-Conference call
11:00-Work on Thursday’s deliverable
12:00-Quick bite, 30-40 minutes doing transfers downtown
1:00-Work on Thursday’s deliverable
4:00-Possibly visit another client while in Toronto
5:30-Go Train home

By not taking my car, I could work while commuting, so my work commitment was covered. And the a) conference call, b) 5 train rides, c) conversations with at least 5 business associates, d) 2-3 restaurant/coffee shop visits, e) plus any structured transfers I did at lunch, would all assist me in practicing my fluency.

As long as I get up at 6:00, I’ll be fine. It all hinges on that.

Here’s how it went :

2:30am-Woke up early and started working. The day, I thought was off to a great start. Even though Lori, my SLP, told me in our last follow up to do it when ever I got the time, I decided to wait until just before people woke up. 6:00 as planned should be good, I thought … do my shaping, wake up my family, prep for the office, get on the train.

4:00-I considered doing my shaping, but thought it prudent to wait till 6:00am as planned … this way I’ll be fresh.

6:50-Just realized what time it was. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I got a little to caught up in the problem I was trying to resolve, and attempting to deploy it before I left for the train. It felt like 5 minutes had passed between 4:00am and 6:50. When I realized the time, I thought I would miss the train.

No problem … I’ll miss my shaping now, but I’ll do it at the office at 9:00.

9:00-After getting off the subway, I realized that I still had not eaten since waking up 6½ hours earlier. So I thought I’d grab some lunch, I will still get to the office at 9:30 at the latest, have plenty of time to do my shaping before the conference call.

9:30-Got to the office, setup in a spare office, and told anybody within earshot, what I would be doing … just so nobody thinks I’m talking to myself. ;-)

Yes, I am comfortable with this aren’t I? However, I should point out, I wouldn’t exactly do this at a regular consulting gig.

9:35-I got side tracked into another conversation.

9:40-I sat down to do my shaping. No problem, I can still manage it.

9:42-My client comes to my office, and tells me the conference call was cancelled. We’ll just meet now, to discuss the project amongst ourselves. So much for shaping now, I can do it right after this meeting.

11:00-The meeting went longer than expected, I just need to print out a sample then I can get back on track.

12:00-Discussing the sample, went longer than expected.

12:05-I realize the internet connection is down for the office I am at. I need a connection to deploy changes for my Thursday commitment. I spent the next few minutes scrambling to find another place I can work to meet my Thursday commitment.

12:30-Grabbed a quick bite to eat while traveling to another office to do some work.

Eventually, my shaping and transfers took a back seat to work.

Without the shaping providing that solid foundation, any attempts at a transfer, I feel, would only be reinforcing my stuttering speech pattern. Don’t get me wrong, I attempted to use my targets throughout the day, and was for the most part successful, but without the shaping, it’s not the same.

It’s kind of a disappointment since I don’t spend a day in the city very often, and the excessive interaction with other people would have definitely been helpful. It’s not even like you can make up for something like this with an artificially planned day, since the sacrifice to other commitments would be so great.

Perhaps I never should have turned my alarm clock off at 2:30am.

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

Monday, April 17, 2006

Transfer-Wk 24,Mon-Confidence

I don’t have much time, but there is a thought on confidence and my stutter, which I’ve wanted to write about for a while.

About 6 weeks ago, multiple people mentioned how my confidence has increased since taking my speech therapy. It was strange, because it was coming from people I didn’t expect if from, it was totally off topic, and these comments came one after another.

To be honest, when I first heard it, I mostly attributed it to the person really not knowing me very well. But when others started repeating the same thing almost daily; I started to take notice.

Mostly though, I don’t think it is so much an increase in my confidence level, as it is a reduction in the likelihood of humiliating situations. Up until I took my speech therapy, every human interaction had a high probability of frustration and humiliation. But since my therapy, I’m usually able to speak fluently, or at least successfully recover when I stumble.

So I say things which would not normally be worth the effort. I speak to people without being forced to. I initiate casual conversations I would not normally engage in. I am friendly without the perceived danger of somebody talking to me.

Instead of a 95+% likelihood of embarrassment, there is now a 95+% likelihood of success.

So my natural confidence is not beaten into oblivion. And there-in lies my apparent newly acquired confidence.

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

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Transfer-Wk 23,Thurs-Best Practices for Fluent Speech

A few days ago I was speaking to a friend. Half way through our conversation he interrupted it to ask why I wasn’t speaking as I had a few days earlier, when I called him right after my speech exercises.

Essentially, he was asking; Why was I choosing to stutter?

That wasn’t exactly how he phrased it, but there was no doubt that was what he meant. Basically, I had forgot to use my targets and my stutter wasn’t bad enough for me to think about it yet.

I told him that the most difficult about my speech therapy, is that I don’t really need it once I finish the course. I will need it eventually, but actually choosing to use it when you were spontaneously fluent was very difficult.

I went on to provide an analogy; let’s say you had difficulty walking, and would trip over your feet randomly within every 50 steps. This would be highly irritating, so you take therapy. The therapy teaches you a special way of walking, with you concentrating on every step you take, including every bent joint and every muscle contraction from your abdominal muscles to your toe nails. The therapy works amazingly well, but the amazing this is; you can walk thousands of steps now without thinking about every step and still don’t trip.

You’re cured!!

Well, not exactly; your cure will be as fleeting as the enthusiasm gained at a motivational seminar. If you don’t realize this (as I didn’t in 1993 even though I was told), you go skipping down the street enjoying your life like never before, everything is great for a month. If you do realize it, you practice constantly and attempt to monitor your voice all the time (which I do now), but it’s still very difficult to do.

That was the analogy provided by me to my friend.

He quickly chalked up my analogy as a load of B.S., and went on to say : ‘I thought it was like the way a black belt would practice Karate. Even though he knows it, he practices every day.’

This caused a slight paradigm shift for me.

Practice as defined in the dictionary is “systematic exercise for proficiency”. So basically, my shaping every day is my practice. I practice to maintain and perfect my skills.

But what my friend was saying was, I should be practicing fluency as a doctor practices medicine, or a lawyer practices law. It’s a constant application of the recommended process.

Essentially, the 8 targets taught in the Precision Fluency Shaping Program, is a collection of Best Practices for Fluent Speech.

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Disclaimer: Not meant as advice, please find ...

I’ve struggled with the wording of this post for hours, and I’m still not happy with it. I’ve even struggled with whether or not I should even post it. But I do feel it’s important for me to say this, and I just hope my sincerity is reflected in my words.

Just before beginning therapy, I told Lori, my speech therapist, I had started a blog on my therapy. I told her I intended to update it throughout my therapy and for a year after my therapy ended.

I wasn’t really sure what they would say. Is this proprietary information? Would there be privacy concerns? Do I need permission for this? Will they refuse me access into the course? Could I get sued for doing something like this?

Briefly, I considered not even telling them. But I’m not a deceitful person, and although many may feel that would not be deceitful, I know it would have gnawed at my conscience. So I decided to tell them, letting the chips fall where they may.

To my surprise, Dr Kroll, who runs the Stuttering Centre, and Lori were both very supportive of it. Lori seemed genuinely thrilled to hear that I would be blogging about my experience, and Dr. Kroll seemed enthusiastic about my enthusiasm!

However, after a couple days in my therapy, a concern was cautiously expressed about the level of detail on my blog. The concern was; people might attempt to learn fluency shaping from my blog rather than a qualified Speech Language Pathologist. I hadn’t actually considered that, but I also didn’t want to lose the planned posts throughout my therapy, which would be the main source of the value to my blog. So I kept the detailed posts, and appended a disclaimer in the footer of each posting. Not meant as advice, please find a qualified therapist if you are interested in similar therapy.

Also, I want to point out; I was not “forced”, “coerced”, “told”, “persuaded”, or even “asked” to do anything; it was merely pointed out as a potential pitfall. The disclaimer was my idea.

Well I’ve become aware of more than one person attempting to learn fluency shaping from my blog. This bothers me a lot as I feel I may be doing everybody a great disservice, rather than adding the value initially intended.

Now I can appreciate the determination, and I do realize the costs associated with fluency shaping programs is a major investment, which is a stretch to most, and completely out of reach to others. But I really don’t think this is the kind of thing that should be attempted without a qualified therapist. I really don’t.

There are probably plenty of reasons for this which I’m not even aware of, but I do have an example from my own experience. As mentioned before, I took the program in 1993. I didn’t transfer the process successfully, my practice quickly fell off, and soon my post-therapy spontaneous fluency disappeared. When I attempted to re-learn it on my own, I basically half implemented the targets, resulting in a distorted speech pattern and because my therapist wasn’t there I did not receive the necessary corrective feedback.

Essentially … let me be frank … my speech pattern made me sound like a retard!

I apologize for the lack of political correctness, but I really do feel that I sounded like somebody lacking the mentally dexterity to safely use a fork. Especially on the phone.

I worry that a failed attempt to learn fluency shaping from this blog will provide the same results. Leaving the stutterer even worse off, trying to return to the old pattern.

There are just so many things to remember! Our brains just cannot handle it … seriously … supposedly, the human brain has a working memory capacity of 7±2 synchronous items. But in fluency shaping you have :
  • Syllable breakdown for each word
  • Sound class breakdown for each syllable
  • Target breakdown for each sound class
  • Targets and tactics for linking each sound
  • Plus thinking about what you are going to say
You just don’t have enough registers to process more than 7±2 thoughts at once. You will miss things for the first little while. Without a therapist correcting you until it becomes internalized; not only will you not know what you missed, but you’ll never know you missed it.

Also, from what I can gather, the clinic I went to could make a lot more money and help more people by publishing a self-help course for $100. So if learning this on your own were possible, I believe they would already be doing it … and better than I could. I don’t think they are trying to stay in business by doing it this way.

Coming back to the money, personally I feel it’s like education; if you know what your goals are and are willing to take full advantage of it by putting in the work, it will pay dividends. The $15,000 I borrowed to go to programming college while living off of unemployment and credit cards has paid for itself at least once every year since graduating.

So in a nut shell, a large investment in a course can be the best investment you make … but only if you work at it, and put in the full effort required to reap the benefits of the course. There were other students in my programming course who actually cheated to graduate … they thought they were paying for a diploma.

Anyway, please don't try to learn PFSP from my blog, I'm really not qualified to be teaching anybody. But I do hope you find enough information to make an educated decision whether or not pursuing therapy by a qualified SLP is right for you.

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

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Transfer-Wk 22,Thursday.-Published in the Demosthenes Society newsletter

Today an article I wrote on Therapeutic Blogging was published in the Demosthenes Society April newsletter. The article is basically a cleaner version of what I wrote a few weeks ago.

The Demosthenes Society is a support group for People Who Stutter. Although it is now open to anybody, the majority of members are PFSP graduates, and the meetings are really focused on fluency shaping techniques. I find it really helps me to focus on my targets, and motivate me to move forward with my therapy.

I would like to welcome any Demosthenes Society members, who may have made it here from the newsletter. Here is a list of all the postings I've written on the Demosthenes Society.

There are members in the Demosthenes Society who have maintained controlled fluency for years, with a few members who graduated from the PFSP 30 years ago! Hopefully, in 30 years somebody will be saying that about me. Anyway, please feel free to leave a comment, correcting any misinterpretations I may have about the PFSP technicalities. ;-)

You can read the newsletter here. There is also a really good article from the Wall Street Journal on the effects of stuttering on your job search.

As far as practice goes, today was pretty successful. This afternoon, I needed to make a phone call to somebody I really didn’t want to speak to, and would have been a total basket case under normal circumstances, but I was able to focus on my targets and speak with amazing control.

And this evening at the mall, I decided to utilize the environment to promote my own agenda, and turned my shopping into a practice session. It actually went quite well; I had great control, with only a few missed targets speckled throughout. The Full Breath (diaphragmatic breathing) target was almost always the missed target.

One thing did occur to me though; I seem to be only approaching approachable people. I have to wonder, is this a halfhearted approach? Maybe I should start planning to approach people I haven’t seen yet. For example; the next person to come around that corner, or the next person I see in a baseball hat, or the next brunette I see in a short skirt ... whoops! ... don't tell my wife. ;-)

Maybe after that I can start approaching the most intimidating person I see, do something offensive, then try to explain my way out of it. I’ll be saving my life, while monitoring my targets … but maybe that’s a bit beyond me right now. ;-)

Anyway, again; welcome Demosthenes Society members. I hope you find value in what I have written.

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

All postings-Phase I-Pre-Therapy

Please find below a list of all postings for Phase I Pre-Therapy - How my speech problem has affected my life.
9/8/2005Welcome to Pebbles Under the Tongue
9/12/2005Transcript - Introduction video
9/19/2005Similar articles on stuttering
9/19/2005Effects upon my family roles
9/22/2005Is stuttering a disability?
9/30/2005Wendell Johnson's "Monster Study"
9/30/2005Career limitations
10/4/2005WARNING-Pre-therapy posts may be negative.
10/4/2005Precision Fluency Shaping Program (PFSP)
10/6/2005As promised the fishing picture
10/7/2005When did I start letting this run my life?
10/10/2005Past Therapy
10/11/2005An exploratory search for a cure gone bad.
10/12/2005Stopwatch & pre-therapy spontaneous fluency
10/14/2005Dealing with the "normals"
10/15/2005Great Quote
10/16/2005Pre-Therapy Wrap-up
10/16/2005The dreaded telephone

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

All postings-Phase II-Therapy

Please find below a list of all postings for Phase II Therapy - My participation in the Precision Fluency Shaping Program.
10/17/2005PFSP-Day 1-Intro and Stretched Syllable
10/18/2005PFSP-Day 2-More Stretched Syllable
10/20/2005PFSP-Day 4-Gentle Onset
10/20/2005PFSP-Day 3-How speech is formed & Full Breath
10/22/2005PFSP-Day 5-Slow Change and Reduced Air Pressure
10/23/2005PFSP Week 1-Frustration
10/23/2005FYI-Day 3 has been updated
10/24/2005PFSP-Day 6-Reduced Articulatory Pressure & 1 Second Stretch
10/25/2005PFSP-Day 7-Homework
10/26/2005PFSP-Day 8-Amplitude Contour & Full Articulatory Movement
10/27/2005PFSP-Day 9-½ Second Stretch
10/29/2005PFSP-Day 10-Slow Normal & Shaping
10/31/2005PFSP-Day 11-Telephone Transfer
11/1/2005PFSP-Day 12-Telephone transfer lows
11/3/2005PFSP-Day 13-Mental garbage and face to face transfer
11/4/2005PFSP-Day 14-Talk about maintenance
11/4/2005PFSP-Day 15-Last day of the program

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

All postings-Phase III-Post-Therapy

Please find below an up to date (as of 04/06/2006) list of all current postings for Phase III-Post-Therapy - Progress and challenges transitioning to the real world.
11/8/2005Transfer-Wk 1,Tues.-Fitting practice into my life
11/11/2005Transfer-Wk 1,Fri.-Few speaking opportunities
11/17/2005Transfer-Wk 2, Thurs-Demosthenes Society, Follow up, & Toastmasters
11/23/2005Transfer-Wk 3,Wed.-Toastmasters Best Table Topics Ribbon
12/4/2005Transfer-Wk 5,Sun.-PFSP Refresher
12/7/2005Transfer-Wk 5,Tues.-After therapy video
12/8/2005Transfer-Wk 5,Thurs.-First Toastmasters speech
12/16/2005Transfer-Wk 6,Fri.-Entropy
12/22/2005Transfer-Wk 7,Thurs.-Control
12/29/2005Transfer-Wk 8,Fri.-Entrophy & My Solution
1/2/2006Transfer-Wk 9,Mon.-Structured Transfers
1/3/2006Transfer-Wk 9,Tues.-Fluency Resolutions
1/4/2006Transfer-Wk 9,Wed.-Video; discussing maintenance
1/16/2006Still alive
1/19/2006Transfer-Wk 11,Thurs.-Word Switching
1/24/2006Transfer-Wk 12,Tues.-Phone transfers delivered
1/26/2006Transfer-Wk 12,Wed.-Another Toastmasters Ribbon
1/31/2006Transfer-Wk 13,Tues.-Drive through resolution
2/2/2006FYI: Free stutter devices for Florida kids
2/2/2006Transfer-Wk 13,Thurs.-Drive through-2nd attempt
2/3/2006PFSP in the United States
2/10/2006Transfer-Wk 14,Fri.-Daily practice
2/12/2006Transfer-Wk 14,Sat-Demosthenes Society
2/13/2006Transfer-Wk 15,Mon-Almost as good as a drive thru
2/13/2006Transfer-Wk 15,Mon-Web Statistics
2/14/2006Transfer-Wk 15,Tues-Drive thru #3
2/16/2006Transfer-Wk 15,Thurs-Telemarketer
2/17/2006Transfer-Wk 15,Wed.-Toastmasters speech contest
2/19/2006Transfer-Wk 15,Sun-Eleven Timbits
2/20/2006FYI: 13 Observations about people who stutter
2/23/2006Transfer-Wk 16,Fri.-It's not just us
2/23/2006Transfer-Wk 16,Thurs.-Maslow's hierarchy of needs
3/1/2006Transfer-Wk 17,Wed.-Too busy to talk
3/10/2006Transfer-Wk 18,Fri.-Therapeutic blogging
3/17/2006Transfer-Wk 19,Fri.-Third Toastmasters speech
3/24/2006Busy-News links on sidebar
3/31/2006Transfer-Wk 21,Fri.-Missing a key component
4/5/2006Transfer-Wk 22,Wed.-Parkinson's Law wreaking havoc

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

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Transfer-Wk 22,Wed.-Parkinson's Law wreaking havoc

As mentioned in my previous post; because I work from home on long term projects, I do not have scheduled commitments. Which Lori, my speech therapist, has pointed out as a lack of structure in my life and a possible reason for my scattered practice routine.

This lack of structure has contributed to a few problems in my life, which are not uncommon to those who start working from home. Problems usually include things like; interruptions, distractions, misplaced priorities, working all the time or not at all. When I first started working from home back in 1996, I felt guilty when not working. To emphasize the magnitude of what I’m saying; I felt guilty taking a break at 1:00am after working since 8:00am! … seriously.

I will work all day, all night, and weekends to complete something. I feel it’s part of the job, and IT IS part of the job … when I’m under the gun. Which based on past experience seems to be about every 3 months, but not year round!

So I appear to have inadvertently created a non-stop work day, where I’m available for work 24 hours, 7 days per week. And lately, I seem to be suffering from the effects of Parkinson's Law, which states "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion".

So essentially; according to Parkinson’s Law, I’m filling a 98 hour work week* with 40 hours worth of work. As you can imagine this plays havoc on the remainder of my life, family, health, speech therapy, etc…
*98hrs = 16 waking hrs – 2 personal maint. hrs x 7 days

So here is what I’ve done; starting this past Monday, I’ve told my wife, that I will stop working at 6:00pm … no matter what. This has greatly crystallized my priorities through out my workday, since I know my wife will hold me to it. I mean there are still bugs to work out, but it’s definitely helpful so far.

Since I’ve started doing this, I know that if I can’t fit something in, it will get dropped. So I’m forced to make a conscious decision to do my therapy, or not … it doesn’t just fall off the end of my day any more. And since Monday, I’ve managed to fit my practice in every day.

It seems kind of odd, that my work schedule could possibly effect my speech therapy, but I suppose it’s a life problem which is interfering with my speech therapy. I guess it’s more of a holistic of approach to fixing my problem. But it does appear to be the beginning of the kind of structure I need to maintain any kind of success in my speech … let alone my life.

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