Sunday, April 13, 2014

18 Famous People Who Stutter

Mel Tillis
I love it when famous people "come out" as stutterers. Our community has so few visible supporters, unlike so many other causes which often have countless visible and vocal supporters and members. We stutterers are left with one or two celebrity advocates or spokespeople, and it's sad that one of those is Porky Pig, a Warner Bros. cartoon character whose affliction is used for comic relief...not advocacy.

Pam Tillis
Many people mention the one and only person who most know is a stutterer, Mel Tillis. He is now 81 years old, and few people under the age of about 40 know who this is, however. I am not familiar with even one song by this man. Mel Tillis is a famous country singer who was the winner of the CMA Awards Entertainer of the Year in 1976. He is also the father of another famous country artist, Pam Tillis. Maybe you remember a few of her 90s hits, "Shake the Sugar Tree" and "Maybe It Was Memphis."

So, here is a document that gives a pretty exhaustive list of famous people who are or once were stutterers. I must say that, for some, I have some doubt as to the veracity of the claim that they were or are stutterers. I have my own reasons for having this doubt, but I am not sure of the value of sharing the reasons. So, I'll just leave this here for you to examine for yourself. Be well!

Link - 18 famous People Who Stutter!

Excerpt:

"Kenyon Martin, Bill Walton, John Stossel, James Earl Jones, Carly Simon, Mel Tillis, Alan Rabinowitz, Robert Merrill, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Ken Venturi, Bob Love, John Updike, King George VI, Frank Wolf, Nicholas Brendon, Lewis Carroll, Annie Glenn, Darren Sproles ... all famous and successful. And all stuttered"

Tips for Non-Stutterers

(I posted something like this years ago, but I recently posted about this on Facebook, so thought I'd post it here, as well. )

Often, people are only trying to help, and I always try to keep this in mind when a non-stutterer says something that he or she thinks is helpful, but is really not helpful at all. Some of them are downright insulting...but, again, they don't know that, so, maybe this entry will help. These are things not to say to someone who is stuttering or stammering. (The word stutter or stammer both mean the same thing. Stammer is a word that is often used in other countries, like those in the UK. I only use the word stutter.) If you aren't familiar with what stuttering or stammering is, please read this first: What is stuttering?

1. "Oh, we all stutter. I stutter sometimes, too." - No, not everyone is a Persistent Developmental Stutterer. That's like saying that just because sometimes you stumble over your own feet, you also have Muscular Dystrophy. That would be an insulting and disrespectful thing to say to someone suffering from MD, and it's also not something you should say to someone with a stutter. I know people are only trying to help, but saying this does not help.

2. "Just slow down. Relax. You'll stutter less." - Stuttering has nothing to do with the rate of speech and stutterers aren't necessarily uptight and in need of relaxation. Stuttering isn't caused by nervousness and nervous people don't necessarily stutter. I stutter when I am very relaxed and I stutter when I am anxious and uptight. There is no rhyme nor reason and this tip only makes me, personally, feel that, not only am I stuttering, and you notice, you perceive that I am the cause of my own stutter and if only I follow your tip, I'll stop. Now can you see why this isn't helpful?

3. "Oh, it doesn't bother me!" - I often get this when I express frustration over being unable to get out what I want to say. While I do somewhat care how I come across to others with my speech, my own stuttering bothers me, and I'm not really thinking much at the time if I'm bothering you. Do you see? Saying that it doesn't bother you...doesn't really help me. Again, I know the person is only trying to be helpful, but this doesn't really help.

4. Completing my sentence for me or providing a word that I am struggling with. - This is the response I most often get. Please. Don't do this. It's very distressing because it makes me feel like that I am speaking so badly that you think I need your help. I don't. If you just act normal and don't make any indication that I am stuttering, I will feel much better. If you try to help by completing a sentence for me, I am going to be just that much more aware of my stutter. It would be like if you saw someone with Muscular Dystrophy struggling to climb three stairs and you suddenly ran up and picked them up and carried them up. See? They would probably perceive that you were being impatient and couldn't stand to watch them struggle.

5. "Stuttering is just a bad habit that can be broken". - This one just annoys me. I had a caregiver who used to punch me in the stomach when I was 6 years old when I stuttered in order to break the "bad habit". It does not work. It's not a habit. It's a speech impediment and has distinctive symptoms that can't be stopped with will power. People who work to overcome stuttering work very hard to do so. They may form habitual reactions to their stutter, like anxiousness or self-conscious feelings, but the stutter itself is not a habit.

6. "Stuttering is caused by emotional trauma." - Nobody knows what causes stuttering. While there are stutterers from every walk of life and while some people have developed a stutter after a very traumatic event like a car wreck, most stutterers have done so since before they can remember and their histories are extremely varied. There are no common denominators. Again: nobody knows what causes it.

7. "Oh, I read this book from this link that instantly cures stuttering!" - Please do not suggest to me those "cures" that scam artists offer online. None of them work. They are predatory creeps who write these "eBooks" in order to get our $19.99 because they know that we are desperate. The promise instant cures by some technique. Children, the experts have been studying and researching this thing for decades. The most highly trained speech pathologists and experts keep the National Stuttering Association and others informed of the latest developments in stuttering therapies, and none of the information they give include instant cures. They do not exist.

Note: There are many techniques that stutterers use to sound fluent. I use a multitude of them, and if you are interested in hearing what they are...I will write another entry later listing them and how I use them. Most people I encounter do not know that I stutter. And that is because I use these time-tested techniques. I also encounter many Proud Stutters who have scolded me for using these techniques and who say I should be proud and "out" and should stutter freely. Sorry, that's not for me. I would no more do that than I would deny myself a wheel chair if I were a paraplegic and drag myself across the floor...or deny myself the use of glasses. My techniques are used to make me sound like everybody else, just as glasses are designed so that I can see like everybody else. Make sense?

8. It is not funny. - Lastly, if you find the sound of someone stuttering to be funny, please don't laugh and then apologize like that makes it okay. It's not funny to the stutterer, I promise you. It only makes them feel as if they are or sound like a freak. "I talk so badly, people can't help but laugh". How do you think that feels? Someone very, very close to me used to do this a lot, and they really didn't think anything of it and I still wonder why. If I saw an impaired person and had the urge to laugh at something that I found funny, I would get the hell out of there so that person didn't see. I would be mortified if someone with a disability saw me laughing at them. Have some social skills, please. It's not funny. If you think it's so funny, watch this and tell me what's funny about it.

Love you guys! <3 :="" br="">

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Celexa: The Verdict for Stuttering!

My verdict, anyway. I can't speak intelligently from the perspective of the scientific or medical community on the efficacy of Celexa as a stuttering therapy, but I can speak of my experience. As you might have read from an earlier entry on this blog, I decided to undergo pharmaceutical stuttering therapy by taking Celexa after reading a professional article about the possible benefits to stutterers. The article actually talked about the benefits of both Celexa and Xanax combined, but I didn't want to try them both at the same time, first, because they both cause drowsiness and, second, because if it worked, I wouldn't be able to tell which drug actually helped. So, my neurologist suggested 20mg of Celexa daily for 2 months....just to see the result.

I can report that my stuttering hasn't been affected at all, but I can also happily report that my fear and anxiety about wasps has all but disappeared! A surprise benefit! I don't remember if I posted about this before, but I have had a lifelong phobia of wasps. Not bees...they don't bother me all that much. Just wasps. (In the past, the image I put in this post would have completely freaked me out!) For as long as I can remember, I have never enjoyed Spring or Summer because of them. They look like little winged monsters that are constantly on the prowl, looking for somebody to torment.

My phobia was so bad that I would immediately become anxious on waking up in the morning, knowing I had to walk from the house to the car...from the car to the store...or wherever I was going. I avoided going outside on warm, sunny days. Any buzzing noise in my direct vicinity caused increased heart rate, increased awareness of my surroundings and total distraction from normal activities. I never, ever rode with my car windows down and I have actually nearly knocked people down getting away from an area where I thought there might be a wasp. At one point, I seriously contemplated moving to an area of the world where it was cold year round.

Since starting on Celexa, however...my phobia has all but disappeared and I can say this without the slightest hesitation or exaggeration. It has changed my life. I now rarely think about wasps and even if I do, there is very little anxiety and if one comes near me, I simply move out of the way. I no longer stress on my long walk from the parking lot to the hospital where I work and I can comfortably sit outside, even if there are wasps in the area. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.

The downside is...Celexa has had a negative affect on my libido. This is pretty well documented for Celexa users, however. Additionally, I have a harder time getting up in the morning. I now sleep up to 2 hours past my normal wake up time. I am going to see if a lower dosage might be just as effective. Lastly, I am eating less. It seems Celexa has curbed my appetite somewhat. Other than these three side effects, I have noticed nothing else negative.

A reader left a comment on the initial entry about her experience, and it almost exactly mirrors mine. No stuttering benefit, but her anxiety around people has all but disappeared, but she also noticed a decrease in sexual appetite. That may be good or bad, depending upon who you ask, I suppose.

At any rate, that is my experience thus far...I am going to report to my neurologist next month and see if she wants to try the Xanax. If so, I anticipate that the experience will be similar to Celexa. I don't expect any stuttering benefit, but I imagine it will have a beneficial affect on anxiety, which is what both drugs are usually prescribed for.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Learning to Stutter? The King's Speech Film!

If you are a stutterer/stammerer, no doubt you are aware of the multiple-Oscar winning motion picture "The King's Speech" starring Academy Award winner Colin Firth. Much was made over his phenomenal, real-to-life portrayal of King George VI who suffered from a life-long stutter, but who learned eventually to overcome with the help of an unconventional speech therapist. Mr. Firth won the Oscar for his portrayal and from nearly all accounts, the award was well deserved.

It seems, however, that Colin Firth is having trouble shaking the "learned" impediment. As you can read at this link, since wrapping the film and carrying on with other projects, he has found that at times, he finds himself lapsing back into the stammer that he learned for the role. He also indicates that when be thinks about the stammer, the worse he finds that it gets. Quoting from the article, "I guess old habits die hard." You can read the story at this link, which is a different publication.

When I think about it, I can honestly understand how something like that can happen. From what I have read, much of my stutter (I can speak only for myself) is learned behavior...a habitual form of approaching speech. While I maintain that it is an impediment, probably partly genetic and neurological, I believe that I have taught myself bad habits over the years that contribute something to my own condition. For example, when I hear a ringing telephone that I must answer, my stomach muscles immediately contract and seize up in anticipation of having to get out that first word, especially if it a string of words I must emit, such as one must do when working for some company. "Hello, this is Southwest General Hospital, how may I direct your call?" I made that up, by the way.

Perhaps if I were to go through some kind of behavior modification therapy, some of those habits could be unlearned, helping me to be, at least, more fluent in some circumstances. I can't say for sure, I only speak what seems logical to me. Of course, there are many other times when my speech is dysfluent for no apparent reason at all. For example, when I am at home with a family member or loved one and I am completely at ease, there seems to be no habitual behavior associated with my stammer. This indicates, again, at least to me, that much of my impediment is uncontrollable.

I find it beneficial that Colin Firth is such a notable celebrity because that will allow his predicament to be somewhat played out in the public eye where we can all see where it eventually leads. Will he drop the habit on his own, or will be require some kind of speech therapy to overcome it?

Can stuttering/stammering be learned...to the point that one know longer has control over it and requires professional intervention to remedy it? That would be an interesting case for the medical books. What do you think?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

My First Drug: Citalopram (Celexa)

Well, ladies and gents, I am embarking on my first test of pharmacological aids for stuttering. On my latest visit to my neurologist for my Essential Tremor, I asked her about stuttering medications, specifically Paglacone (she'd never heard of it...still not available, no big surprise). She asked if I was interested in traditional speech therapy again and I told her that I was not, since I had been through years and years of speech therapy as a child and teenager with virtually no result, aside from becoming more accepting of and comfortable with my stutter. We then began discussing various medications that have been used in the treatment of stuttering, and she suggested that I start a regimen of 20mg daily of Citalopram (Celexa).

But...isn't Celexa an antidepressant? Why, yes...it is. But...I'm not depressed? It seems a few antidepressant medications are also somewhat effective in the treatment of stuttering/stammering. Perhaps, in part, due to their anti-anxiety effects, which may account for at least some increased stuttering in people who tend to stutter more in stressful situations. Like, me. And probably almost all stutterers/stammerers.

According to Dr. John Paul Brady (as reported by The Stuttering Foundation), Citalopram has been effective in limited stuttering individuals in achieving some level of improved fluency. Notably, those with a severe impediment benefit best by the implementation of two medications, Citalopram (Celexa) and Aprazolam (Xanax). Since I would not consider myself a severe stutterer, I opted for only the one medication. Also, if I were to greatly benefit from both medications, I would then wonder if only one of the medications would have had the same effect. Starting with the least intrusive amount seems more scientific...at least to me.

I am concerned with side effects. As a rule, I do not like taking medications unless I am in a great deal of pain. Swallowing pills is not something I enjoy, and side effects I enjoy even less. Citalopram offers side effects that range from drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting and nervousness...to loss of appetite and loss of sexual drive. Some of the more severe possible side effects are hallucinations and confusion. Since Citalopram is an antidepressant, the latter two, while remote, are a little distressing. Be sure that if I experience any of the latter, I will cease taking it.

My neurologist suggests that I try this medication for 2 months and then I will report back to her on the effectiveness. I will also report back to this blog, so that you can benefit from my experience. I am a bit skeptical. I am not anticipating a dramatic effect, if any at all. I hope I am pleasantly surprised. If you have tried either of these medications for stuttering (or for any reason) your input would be tremendously appreciated.

Happy Spring!!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Trump Owes An Apology to Stutterers

If you saw the recent White House Correspondent Dinner video that is circulating, then you know that Donald Trump got roasted pretty thoroughly by both President Obama and by the head writer and cast member of Saturday Night Live, Seth Meyers. You can watch the full video here...and Seth Myer's contribution here.

In my opinion, President Obama did a much better job and was genuinely funnier than Seth, although Seth got in a number of well placed zingers and one joke he made actually caused President Obama to laugh hysterically, as you'll see when you watch the video.

In response to the roasting, The Donald made a number of ridiculous remarks on Fox News in a phone-in-interview, most of which suggest that Donald Trump is a humorless grump...but also, at least one remark that shows his insensitivity to those with a disability. Criticizing Seth Meyer's monologue, Donald Trump had this to say, ""I thought Seth Meyers — his delivery frankly was not good," Trump added. He's a stutterer."

Now, I have no idea if Seth Meyers is indeed a stutterer...but, if he is not, does that make the remark okay? What if Mr. Trump had said, "He's a retard," or "He's Autistic," or "He has Tourettes." Would that be okay? Of course, it would not.

What Donald Trump did was to turn a real disability...one that millions of people the world over struggle with on a daily basis, into a pejorative...an insult...something to be poked fun of. He marginalized Seth's words, not on the basis of what he said...but by *how* he said it. He isn't attacking Seth Meyer's words...he is attacking his manner of speech. He is, in essence, saying that, because you are a stutterer, Mr. Meyers...you shouldn't be taken seriously.

While it is understandable to be somewhat insulted or put off by a roasting, it is not understandable to use ones offense as a platform on which to then denigrate those who suffer from a very real and often debilitating neurological/developmental disorder. 
Shame on you, Mr. Trump. If you truly aspire to be the Leader of the Free World, I strongly suggest you think more carefully about what you say...before you say it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Habit or Neurology?

I may have posted about this before, I can't really remember. There are times in my day when I am completely fluent. I do not use fluency tricks, I don't block, I don't struggle with certain consonants or words...everything works just as it should and I sound like a perfectly fluent individual.

Does this indicate that I have the capacity to be completely fluent 100% of the time? During those 100% fluent times, am I tapping into an ability to be completely stutter free? If I can EVER be completely fluent, does this mean I have the ability to *always* be fluent?

Let's break it down. If I find that I have a period of time of about 3 minutes in the day where I am completely fluent without using any "tricks" to be so...what is going on during those 3 minutes? Have I broken my stuttering habits for that 3 minutes...or is it that, suddenly, for whatever reason, the basal ganglia is properly working with the rest of my brain?

It is a frustrating idea that I am exploring here because there are times when I am completely fluent and those fleeting times make me think that I can be fluent all of the time. I just have to tap into whatever is happening during those fluent times so that whatever is happening...will happen ALL  the time.

How much of my stuttering is 100% habit and how much is 100% neurology?

Someone once asked me to tell them what the experience of stuttering is like, and this is the best analogy I could think of: Imagine that when you are walking down the street, you suddenly lose the ability to put one foot in front of the other, and you suddenly start stumbling...but it only last for 5 steps...and then you can suddenly walk normally again. What made you lose the ability for those 5 steps? You have no idea! What was different during those 5 steps? You have no explanation...it's just that, suddenly, without warning and for no apparent reason...you lose the natural ability to put one foot in front of the other.

That is what stuttering is like to me. So, if I can be fluent for 3 minutes...does this indicate that I have the capacity to be fluent most or all of the time? I suppose there is no simple answer. It is probably the case that part of it is habit and part of it is neurological and I lack the ability to determine the proportions on my own.

What do you think?


Pagoclone...When will it be available? Ever?

This video below cites a 55% effectiveness rate for users and the video shows a dramatic decrease in the stuttering of the subject in question. I recently did research online and read an entry by Tom Weidig (from The Stuttering Brain Blog) on Wellsphere that didn't give me much hope. The trials are ended, the results were less than expected and, thus, it seems Pagoclone probably won't be available in the foreseeable future.

Video: Stuttering: Neuropharmacological Improvement

While I am no scientist and do not understand all of the trappings that surround and ramifications that result from such trials, it is somewhat frustrating that, even though the drug has been very effective for some and there are virtually no detrimental side effects that they can determine...the larger results determine the availability of the drug. So, for those who might greatly benefit from the drug...they are out of luck. Too bad.

I know that the following analogy will be far less than perfect, but it is similar, in my opinion, to the effects of melatonin. For many, it tremendously helps them to fall asleep at night. But, what if the FDA in the United States banned the supplement for resale simply because no empirical study shows it to be effective? That result would be unfair to those who benefit from melatonin.

Some 3 million individuals in the United States alone suffer from stuttering/stammering and, worlwide, about 1% of the global population stutters. We should all be given a chance to experience the possible beneficial effects of Pagoclone...even if it doesn't work for everybody.

Scientific progress can be frustratingly slow. Grrrr!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Headed for Neurology!

I recently obtained a new primary family physician since moving to the east coast and I have to say that I am very pleased with the recommended doctor I chose. The front desk people could be a little less terse, however. There are few things worse than hearing a person say, "Can I help you?" when you completely get the idea from the look upon their face that they truly have no interest in helping you. Is keying a rude person's car illegal? Just wondering.

One of the reasons I needed to get a primary is that my prescription for Propranolol was nearly gone and I needed a refill. For those unaware, I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor (sometimes called familial tremor) nearly 7 years ago and I take the medication for the tremors in my arms. Propranolol is actually a blood pressure medication, but taken at lower doses, has a wonderful suppressing effect on the type of tremors associated with Essential Tremor. Unlike those suffering from Parkinson's Disease, the tremors associated with ET are experienced while undertaking activity rather than at rest. For example, on a bad day, I have trouble holding a bowl of food with one hand and eating with another. The bowl will slosh around and I can hardly get a bite to my mouth. Thank you, Universe. Now, not only can I not say 5 words in a row without feeling like moron, now I have the added pleasure of rattling around like a spastic asshole, as well. Ah, life! ;P

Compared to many chronic ET sufferers, my tremor is very manageable. In fact, unless I'm doing a specific activity, nobody can even tell. And for the times when people could tell (in meetings, for example, when I had to handle and read documents), many assumed I was suffering from some kind of alcohol withdrawal or something similar. How embarrassing, right? "No, they aren't DT's. I don't drink! Really! What do you mean will I agree to a blood test??"

I had stopped taking the medication for about two years because I felt confident that the affliction wasn't affecting my life all that much (plus, I hate taking pills of any kind), but then around 2008, I began to notice pressure and mild pain in both of my shoulder joints. For lack of a better description, at times it felt as if there were air bubbles in my shoulder that would rapidly grow and then pop. At times, it felt as if my shoulders were going to pop out of joint, but it wasn't exactly painful. Just a feeling. Sometimes it felt like I had no control over my arms, if I were to undertake some action, like picking up a piece of paper or passing the crack pipe. Just little, normal things like that. So, I decided to start taking the drug again.

The good thing about Propranolol, aside from how it helps me, is that, at this low dosage, it has virtually no side effects. No liver impact, barely any drowsiness...in fact, aside from the fact that my arms feel perfectly normal, I can't even tell that I am taking anything at all. I like that.

At any rate, my new doc has scheduled me to see a new neurologist to give me a new batter of tests to assess my tremor...but, also to see what he might say about stuttering treatment. I mentioned the new drug Paglocone to him, but he has never heard of it. No big surprise there. I think I read recently that the trials for Paglogocone were ended and aren't scheduled to start up again, so we'll see how that goes. I don't know what other meds they try for stuttering, but I would be interested to try something...just because I've never tried medications for it before. I'll keep you informed of what the neurologist says.

I hope everyone's 2011 is going well. Don't forget to turn your clocks ahead tomorrow night!