Monday, May 29, 2006

Transfer-Wk 30,Mon-Accomplishments

Last week I started at the new client I mentioned previously. It felt really good to start there, and I’m excited about the project I’m working on. The requirements, my skills, and the client are good mix to really make a leap forward in their business.

But what I feel best about is that for the first time in over a decade of working in an industry where people make huge hourly rates, I am finally making the going rate. I’ve seen first year programmers go on to make $90/hr, based solely on their projected image. Some went on to increase their pay even more by ripping off the consulting companies who got them the great rates, then writing bug infested programs for the client. I’ll be the first to admit that these programmers may have been so much better than me that I wasn’t even smart enough to realize it … but I do believe it was image that got them the huge rates. Image is something I’ve had trouble projecting due largely to my stutter.

Sorry for the rant, but I’ve felt under paid for a long time. Mostly this has been due to the unwillingness of headhunters to send me on interviews because of my stutter.

My stutter has increased a bit working at the new client. It’s bad enough to be obvious, but not bad enough to hinder my ability to communicate confidently. I’m missing Full Breath targets a lot, and I’m not stretching my syllables enough. After my therapy, I was stretching my syllables enough to maintain my fluency, and received only positive comments from people, but I still feel self conscious stretching … it’s a psychological thing I’ve really got to get past.

I need more structured transfers.

Because I’m only there 2 days per week, I’m sitting at somebody else’s desk, and their phone rang while I was there. I wasn’t going to answer it, but thought if I don’t answer it and it’s somebody looking for me, it might look kind of weird. So I answered it. This is something that would have terrified me previously, and not that I was enthusiastic about it this time; I did it anyway.

“John MacIntyre speaking” … omg! I did it. Full control.

It turned out they were looking for the regular person who sits there, so I just told them I was new and temporarily sitting at their desk. The whole conversation was in full control, and uneventful. WOW, an uneventful phone call! I love it! Hallelujah!!! ;-)

So that was a big accomplishment for me this week.

I also made 3 … count em … 3 … THREE … successful drive thru attempts last week! None were structured, and I actually wound up in the drive thru from some turn of events which prevented me from going into the restaurant. (btw-I’m not a total fast food freak, but I do like coffee.).

All of these were in full control … it was pretty cool. Maybe I’ll attempt the Timbit transfer again in the coming month! … I’d like to nail that one.

I’ve got a Toastmasters speech on Wednesday. I’ll let you know what happens with that on Thursday. My last few have been getting worse and worse, so I have to work hard to make sure this one is as effective as I would like.

Overall I’ve also noticed an improvement using phone in everyday life.

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Transfer-Wk 28,Wed-Successful interview

Yesterday, I found myself sitting in a boardroom with an IT manager and the Controller of a fairly large company here in the Greater Toronto Area. I was being interviewed for a part time position to maintain, augment, and possibly refactor their current system.

It sounds like a great project, I see them as possibly another long term client. This also diversifies my income so I’m not as affected by the decisions of a single company. And the entire opportunity came as the result of a casual conversation I had with another Toastmaster a few months ago.

Since I would have avoided casual conversation before my therapy, and never would have met this person, had I not been in Toastmasters, and I would have not been in Toastmasters had it been not for my therapy. You can track this opportunity directly back to my speech therapy.

This isn’t even to mention that my interview went so well without my stuttering getting in the way. Don’t get me wrong, I did stutter, but I was able to control it for the most part, and quickly recovered when control slipped away. I also surprised myself by self correcting when I stumbled.

I was also able to avoid a major problem I’ve had in the past in interviews, where my fear of stuttering kills my confidence, and the lack of confidence makes all the great things I’ve done on my resume look like lies.

For the record, I did get the position, and start next week. I’m really looking forward to doing a great job for them.

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

Monday, May 15, 2006

Transfer-Wk 28,Mon-Bombed Toastmasters speech

As I mentioned last week, on Wednesday I did my fourth Toastmasters speech. I didn’t do so well, and messed up in a number of areas, including stuttering pretty badly.

The first thing I did wrong was plan my speech before reviewing the objectives laid out in my Toastmasters manual. This messed up everything, and left me scrambling for a topic at the last minute since my original idea did not mesh nicely with the objectives. Things spiraled from there, with me not having transparencies, not memorizing my speech, not reviewing my speech using my fluency targets, etc.

I thought I could cheat by listing my key points on large flip chart, but the marker ran out so my list was barely visible, there by aggravating the listener. I stuttered throughout my speech, forgot 12 out of 13 key symbolic phrases, dropped my notes, and knocked the best speaker trophy off the table before my speech ended.

It was a disaster.

Oh yeah, and I again forgot to record it. ;-)

I was shocked by the feedback I received though, since it was overwhelmingly positive. At first I wondered if I didn’t appear to do better than I felt, or if everybody thought I was stuttering when searching for words, but now I feel the comments I received were fluffed to artificially subsidize my feelings.

To my fellow Toastmasters, I must appear to be getting worse, since on a scale of 1-10, I probably started out as a 5, only to slide back to a 3. Little do they realize I was a 1 (or less) before my therapy last October, so I’ve actually improved.

Saturday I went to a Demosthenes Society meeting. I am constantly amazed by how much these meetings allow me to focus on the skills I learnt in therapy. The member who ran this meeting was speaking with amazing control. It was very inspiring!

We actually had a spelling bee.

What?!? You’re joking right? ahh … nope … we did.

First off let me say that I spell very poorly. I jokingly tell those who mock me; as a programmer, my compiler requires me to spell consistently, not correctly. ;-)

Secondly, I’m not sure about other stutterers, but I bet they felt the same amount of anxiety about spelling bees growing up as I did. To many people who stutter, forced speaking situations are guaranteed humiliation. So hearing ‘spelling bee’ automatically turns my stomach.

But it was a fantastic idea. The member who put it together, had us :
  1. Spell the word (which I think he got out of our PFSP manual)
  2. Use the word in a sentence
  3. Name the appropriate targets for the word.
Kudos to the guy who set up the meeting.

When I am exposed to things like Saturday’s spelling bee, or the meeting formalities at Toastmasters, it immediately seems kind of ridiculous. But you need to remember the purpose of the event. The purpose of both of these events is improved speech (accurate articulation of thoughts and/or fluency), and the activities revolve around these goals.

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

Monday, May 08, 2006

Transfer-Wk 27,Mon-Burnt out

Rob posted a comment on my last post:
How did your transfer go in Toronto this week?
Well, I really over estimated how much time I’d have to spend on this, but I can say this; the time I spent doing transfers had a recurring theme; missed Full Breath and Stretched Syllable. I am speaking way to fast, and not breathing properly at all.

To tell the truth, I’m feeling really run down, hence the recent lack of postings. I’m forcing myself to do my daily exercises and routine communications. It’s not just my speech therapy though, it’s everything. Maybe I need a vacation … it has been a year … I think I’ll take a couple days off later in the week.

There are a couple challenges coming up; Wednesday evening, I have my 4th speech at Toastmasters, and next week, I have an interview with a new client. This interview is important to me since it will allow me to diversify my income to a point where I will not be completely dependent on any one client … that will be great!

On June 9th, the Stuttering Centre will be putting on a One-Day Spring Refresher. That will be nice. I question their choice of doing this on a weekday, but it will be worth rearranging my schedule. These events always get me back on track and keep me motivated.

I’ll let you know how my speech goes on Wednesday. I will try to remember to record this one, but so far, I’ve been so wrapped up in the moment, that I’ve forgotten every time.

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

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Transfer-Wk 26,Tuesday-Starter sounds

This morning doing my shaping, I caught myself doing something which I’ve noticed throughout and since therapy. Basically, I have found that I will often use starter sounds. For example; until I corrected myself, today I was using a little ‘n’ sound in front of my ‘d’s, and putting a ‘u’ in front of the word ‘in’. So ‘dime’ would be ‘nnnndime’, and ‘in’ was being pronounced something like ‘uuuuuin’.

I suspect 2 different things may be happening here.

1. ‘Dime’ may be a feared word, since ‘D’ is a plosive sound, which has historically given me problems. I seem to be preventing full closure of the vocal tract, thereby allowing the ‘d’ sound, which should be silent until broken through, to be voiced. Since the articulatory tract is so similar (if not the same) for ‘n’ as for ‘d’, I reason that cheating before the ‘d’, naturally becomes ‘n’.

But, what is the difference between the ‘d’ and the ‘n’? There is a difference, but I haven’t been able to figure it out. What happens differently when I make the sounds ‘ne’ and ‘de’? I know ‘d’ in ‘de’ is a plosive breakthrough, but I can’t really feel what is happening differently. What is the distinction moving from ‘d’ to ‘e’, versus moving from ‘n’ to ‘e’? Why do they sound different?

Is the difference at the voice box? Is the sound blocked at the voice box for ‘d’? Or is it blocked at the vocal tract like it is for other plosives like ‘p’ and ‘b’?

2. ‘In’ may also be a feared word. On a conscious, rational, level I can’t isolate it as such, but I do know ‘I’ is a sound which came to my attention in therapy, when we started the gentle onset target. It’s a sound that just feels wrong at a gut level even when I know I can say it. Actually, this is one of the sounds which I felt weird about not word switching.

I think this is just the kind of thing I will need to keep on top of until it fades away. It’s like quitting smoking, you suffer for 10 years, then it just kind of goes away.

I’ve also had a problem with the Reduced Articulatory Pressure target (RAPII) lately. This is an easy target to tell you missed, because even if you don’t recall missing it, you’re tongue feels like it was almost bitten off. ;-)

Tomorrow I will be in Toronto. My commitment times and locations are not exactly compressed for efficiency, so I should have 30 minute chunks all over the place to do some good transfers. I also have a teleconference call tomorrow, so it should be an interesting speech day. I just have to avoid getting up early like last time. ;-)

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