Saturday, August 29, 2009

"I Used To Stutter"...cured? Not so fast.

I came across a man on YouTube whose channel name is "Iusedtostutter" or, in plain terms, "I Used To Stutter". His name is Rechaud and you'll find his YouTube channel here:

He has uploaded six videos and they are all about his method of over-coming stuttering by speaking "From the heart". From what I have gathered, he is a former student of Tony Robbins, the self-help guru who has empowered millions of people through his motivational speaking venues, many books and tapes. There is no doubt that Tony Robbins has helped many people and there is no doubting that many of his methods of self-help are real and work. Often, what holds us back is our own fears and our own psychological mindset. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. And perhaps there is some truth to the notion that part of our stuttering is caused by a psychological loop of failure that continually leads to even more dysfluency.

What bothers me about Rechaud's videos is that he says that we "choose" to stutter. He says that it fulfills some need in our life that makes us reliant or addicted to stuttering. These are emotionally appealing statements, but they are not based on any real scientific proof or medical research. I am also bothered by the fact that he claims he has found the cure for stuttering. Here is why:

One of the first things I notice about Rechaud is that, despite his claims, he clearly still stutters. I don't point this out to say, "Haha, look, you still stutter, so you're lying!" I point it out to show that he is clearly applying a positive-affirmation sort of technique that, by virtue of just saying he used to stutter, somehow it will manifest through confidence and sheer will power. Rechaud's stutter is minimal. I will give him that. But, listen to the very affected way he speaks. He calls that, "speaking from the heart", but, really, it's just a form of distraction. The same thing manifests in many stutterers when they speak with a foreign accent, or when they pretend they are John Wayne or when they act from a script.

It's actually a well known form of speech therapy. When some stutterers speak in a very affected voice, their stutter virtually disappears. The problem with this form of speech therapy is that, instead of focusing more on the words you are speaking, you are focused more on HOW you are speaking the words. And it works as long as you keep up the affected voice. What inevitably happens, though, is that eventually, you are unable to keep up the affected voice for too long. It becomes tiring and wearisome, not only for the stutterer, but also to the listener, as well. Imagine trying to use that affected, "Tony Robbins" preachy voice when you are at Starbucks sitting across from your best friend. The method works well when you are trying to motivate someone through a motivational speech. It will work well when you are preaching some religion. It will work well when you are speaking about something emotional. But, if you sit down and use it to tell someone how to change a spark plug, you would sound like an idiot.

And don't forget the most important thing about this method: it simply doesn't work for every stutterer. As is the case with all therapies and methods.

For proof of my observations about Rechaud, go watch his latest video where he is standing in his kitchen talking about his method. You'll notice he is in full form, preaching about his cure in a very loud, affected voice, replete with hand gestures and very enunciated, emotionally punctuated words placed carefully throughout his speech. He sounds like a motivational speaker. Even still, if you are a seasoned stutterer, you'll pick up on the hesitations, the carefully chosen words...two big signs that he is avoiding blocking situations. I use this same method when I do public speaking, groups with my kids at the hospital and even when I counsel one-on-one with a kid. It's being in "On" mode and it does work. The problem is, you can't do it all the time.

Next, watch one of his videos where he is casually sitting in his living room, talking about the same cure, but the affected voice is gone and he is just having a conversation. The blocks are more frequent and at one point, he excuses himself for what is clearly a block and then reprimands himself for doing so.

Let me be clear: I am not making this post to impugn Rechaud or anyone's endeavor to "speak from the heart" in order to become fluent. I am posting this to reveal exactly what we are talking about here. It's not a's a method that will give some people more confidence and it's a method that will work sometimes with some people, but as we can clearly see with Rechaud, it doesn't even work all of the time with people who undertake it. If it helps to build your confidence, then I applaud your endeavor. If it makes you feel ashamed because you believe him when he tells you that you still "choose to stutter", then I say shame on Rechaud. The method simply will not work for everybody.

If it were a "cure" as Rechaud is saying, the method wouldn't even be necessary after awhile. When I got my polio vaccine as a child, there was nothing else I had to do to avoid being infected by the dread disease. It was a done deal with the vaccine. The fact that Rechaud has to apply his method every day in his speaking situations is proof positive that it's not a's a fluency method. And if it continues to work for him or anybody else, that is wonderful.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Is Health Care A RIGHT?

Okay, I stutter, but that doesn't make me stupid. :) Let me explain. I am completely 100% for every person having access to affordable, quality health care. But, I do not think that health care is an inalienable right. I think it's a service that we decide to provide to every citizen, either through private health insurance or a public option that we, as citizens, decide to fund through our taxes.

Why do I believe it is not a right? Because a right is something you have access to that requires nobody else to do anything or provide anything. I have the right to free speech, but nobody is required to provide me with a microphone or a stage or a CNN camera or air time. For my own free speech, I have to provide the means myself through my own efforts, money, bargaining skills, etc.

I have the right to eat...but I do not have the right to food. If I want food, I have to earn it, work for it, pay for it, or bargain for it, or grow it myself. Nobody is forced to give me food. If I have a right to food, then somebody else is required to work, pay, grow, or provide it for me. My right to food necessarily creates a slave.

Does that make sense?

At the basic, level, a right should never require or force anybody else to do anything for you. If it does, it's not a right. It's a service.

Health care is broken in The United States. We have 47 millions individuals who cannot afford health insurance. Would I be open to a publicly funded Public Option? Sure. As long as it's Constitutional and as long as we the people...know what's in it and we approve it ourselves. I do believe that every citizen deserves to have affordable, quality health care. EVERY citizen.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


As stutterers, most of us from time to time have been tempted to believe there is a "cure" or a "quick fix" for our frustrating condition. For my part, I have, in the past, scoured the internet looking for someone's genius invention or "cure" that I might apply to my own speech. In all of my years of reading, researching, and experience, I have only one conclusion to report: There simply isn't one.

Sadly, due to our desperation in finding a cure, we might sometimes be tempted to believe everything we read from some who prey on our desire to speak fluently. It's even more sad that there are people out there who prey on the afflicted. Their goal? Money. Obviously.

Here is a bit of quackery I ran across just this morning in my search for information. This quack boasts a cure for stuttering in 9 easy minutes! Really? Just 9 minutes? Wow! He must be a genius! Uh...not so fast. Have a look:

Cure Your Stutter in 9 Minutes!

You'll notice a moderately lengthy, very appealing letter detailing what causes stuttering. Never mind the millions of dollars and many decades of research that have been undertaken by professionals, linguists, speech pathologists and doctors around the world...suddenly this guy (Steve Stanley...who is he?) "knows" what causes stuttering. Permit me to doubt.

Next, you are taken to a page where you get to hear a grainy, unprofessional-sounding audio clip...another appeal to your emotions. He asks you to put your email into the box and there is a button below that says "FREE ACCESS' to the miracle-cure 9-minute video. I don't know what the email is can just go right to the page yourself from the audio clip page. When I got to the email, it was just another emotional appeal and the same information just re-worded. And a link, of course.

Once you click that final's not "free" after all. You are immediately taken to a page where you are prompted to enter personal and credit card information. The cost for this miracle? $37.00

One other thing that should clue you in to the "hoax factor". He boasts that his "cure" is 100% GUARANTEED! If it's guaranteed, why is the phone number out of service and the email not working when you try to contact?

If this "cure" actually worked, our good friend Steve Stanley would be up for the Noble Peace Prize for Medicine. Instead, he is up for the prestigious distinction of being...THE QUACK OF THE DAY!

Rescuers Desperately Needed!

One of my favorite blogs to follow is The Biggest Loser: Canine. It's a wonderful and heart-warming blog about the rescue of a beautiful, two-year old yellow English lab who was being used as a back-yard breeder. (first photo is BEFORE) Even though a mere two-years of age, she was grossly overweight and had a myriad of health problems and the neglect which was obviously heaped upon her was glaringly obvious. Through the blog, you are able to watch, almost daily, as Lara finds her way back to good health and youth through the loving efforts of her new foster home and through the efforts of the loving professionals that have taken an interest in her.

(Lara AFTER) The problem is, there are more animals out there than there are willing rescuers. There are so many who are willing to give a hearty "Way to go!" to those who spend their time and resources for a needy friend such as Lara, but so few who are willing to do much more. I have been guilty of this myself.

I think it's time to actually do something...even if it's just donate a little money to worthy organizations who do have the time to give to our needy animal friends.

To quote the blog itself:

"Happy endings like these are few and far between.

Only a handful of animals can be helped unless the general public is willing to get involved.

If you want to be part of the solution you can do so in several ways: fostering, adopting, donating money, public relations, fund raising and screening/placing prospective foster and adoptive families.

Look for shelters and rescue centers in your hometown. You'll be surprised at the need that exists!

If you have time, go check out The Biggest Loser: Canine. You will certainly be blessed by Lara's wonderful rescue story.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Camp Our Time!

I was blessed this morning when I undertook my usual morning routine of visiting the various news outlets, YahooNews, CNN, FoxNews and others. I like to get a balanced approach. Browsing Yahoo News, my eye spotted a headline about stutterers who sing to overcome their stutter at a camp. I clicked and watched the video and my heart nearly burst from joy. Here is a camp (Camp Our Time) of 8-18 year old young people, all who stutter, who come together to celebrate their stutter, to be free from the daily stresses of being teased and ostracized and to enjoy the company of others who share in their experiences.

In the video, you will meet a few of the kids at the camp, hear from the camp's founder, Taro Alexander and find out what they experience there. Mostly, though, you will see smiling, happy faces and you'll hear kids singing and rapping and experiencing acceptance and confidence through the arts.

Here is a link to the Camp Our Time blog:
And here is their Official Website:

Take a few minutes to explore the website, you'll get to hear the music they create, see photos of the camp and activities and find the huge difference they are making in these young people's lives. In the midst of our difficult economic times when politicians are debating health care and citizens are up in arms around our country at townhall meetings and the's nice to hear some good, heartwarming news.
Thank you, Taro Alexander and thank you to your staff, as well.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kids Less Critical Than Adults

I'm a children's counselor by profession and my first concern going into this profession was the possibility that the kids I see might be more prone to highlight or even poke fun at my stutter. From my experiences in childhood, this seemed likely since the most teasing I got was because of stuttering. In fact, it made my childhood a nightmare at times. Children can be very brutal to one another, I observe this even in my profession. Children are very blunt with one another and will readily point out a flaw in a peer with little or no hesitation or discretion. "Damn, those are ugly shoes!"

But, in my limited experience as a counselor, I've yet to have one child make fun of my stuttering when it manifests. Oh, I have had a few point it out and ask me why I talk that way sometimes, but not even one has made fun of me because of it. On the other hand, I've had a few colleagues who have, playfully, mimicked me in one situation or another...playful banter on a break or some similar occasion. It hasn't really bothered me, per se, but it's an interesting observation.
When I first came into this profession, I was told to reveal few personal facts about myself to kids, because kids will use anything to attack you, even your personal life. And I've heard many kids call other counselor all sorts of horrible names like, "You fat, bitch!", but I've yet to be called anything. Perhaps it's my temperament and approach. I approach every child with the attitude that they are valuable and are worth getting to know. Some counselors I've seen approach kids with the attitude of, "I know what you need and you need to listen to what I say, you're just a kid." That attitude will never garner respect or trust from anyone, much less a child.
Anyway, that's what's on my mind this lovely Sunday morning.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stuttering and Essential Tremor?

About 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor, which is a condition that has symptoms similar to Parkinson's Disease, except the tremors manifest during activity, rather than at rest. My tremors are extremely mild compared to many sufferers and most people don't notice I have it unless they spend more than a few minutes in my presence. To give an example of a manifestation, if I use my right arm (most affected) to put a cap on a bottle, the arm threatens to jerk around on it's own, seemingly, and the harder I try to get the cap on, the worse it gets. Threading a needle is all but impossible and once I almost threw a cup of coffee in my own face. If I hold a piece of paper up to read it with that hand, it shakes almost uncontrollably. In fact, the last example is what alerted my coworkers to my condition and a recommendation to see a doctor.

Most recently, I'm having discomfort in my right shoulder. It's not pain exactly, it's a general feeling of discomfort and unease in that shoulder. It's very difficult to explain. I feel like it's almost glowing, if that makes sense. Like something is going wrong with it. Sometimes I fear to hold out my arm, because it feels like my arm will just slip out of the socket. That's a strange sensation to describe but it's very annoying and I don't really want to go back to the doctor.

I am wondering if there are a significant number of either stutters or ET's who also have the other condition. I am wondering if the two conditions are related. Both seem to have neurological elements and both have unknown sources, except for heredity, perhaps.
I have tried to find information on ET websites, but most are filled with older people who suffer from a myriad of conditions in addition to ET and I find myself lost in a sea of posts filled with complaints about not only ET, but fibromyalgia, sciatica, herniated discs, migraines, medication side effects, leaky bowel syndrome, insomnia and gout, amongst other things. My condition is only mild and aside from Essential Tremor, I am completely healthy. My last cold was nearly three years ago.
Anyway, just wanted to write about that because my right arm is bothering me right now and I wish I had answers.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What is Stuttering Like?

Imagine that you are able to walk normally down the street, but as soon as you enter the mall, you can only walk normally sometimes. Every once in a while, however, you are unable to walk normally and you suddenly fall down at random moments, seemingly for no reason at all.

Imagine that you are able to see perfectly well while you are driving, but once you get to work, suddenly, your eyes cross and you can't focus on what you are looking...but it only happens once in a while and you can't control when those moments come.

Imagine that you are able to eat normally while you are at home, but when you visit your favorite restaurant, sometimes, unpredictably, your arms refuse to bring the spoon to your mouth, but instead, sling the food over your head or across the table. But, it only happens sometimes and you can't know when those times are coming.
That sounds frustrating, doesn't it?
That is similar to the frustration felt by many stutterers. We can be perfectly fluent in some situations...while in others, we suddenly lose the ability to say two words in a row without sounding like we've had a stroke. No rhyme, no reason.
There are patterns, sometimes. For example, if I'm watching television with a friend and they say, "That guy! That actor! I know him! What's his name?" There is no way I'll be able to answer, even if I know. Why? I don't know.
If someone asks me how old my son is. I have to say, "He'll be 8 next year" because I can't say "seven" during those moments. (My son is not seven, by the way). Why? No idea.
Some years, I have a lot of trouble saying words that begin with "S", but then the next year, it will be words that begin with "L". Why does it change? No idea.
Anyway, this was just on my mind today. I'm on vacation still. Until Thursday. And I'm bored. :)

Stuttering Jack Blog

I would like to welcome Stuttering Jack to my blog. He has a very powerful and informative blog of his own here:

He made a very interesting point on his blog recently. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, that if you are fluent in one situation, you can be fluent in any situation. You just have to find the state of mind you were in when you were fluent...and duplicate that. If I slaughtered his words, forgive me.

But, it's a wonderful point, isn't it? If I can be fluent in one situation...shouldn't I at least have the capacity to be fluent all the time? What's different in a situation where I have blocks on every other word and situations where I feel completely at ease and can talk for a great length of time with virtually no blocks?

I counsel children. That's my job. And when I am doing my job, I am almost always fluent. In addition, when I stand up in front of a crowd to speak or to do a presentation, fluency is my best friend. I am confident, I am sure of myself and I speak very well. In college, I was known for my ability to do presentations. I always made the best grades and other students always wanted to be in my group projects.

But, damn it to hell, if the phone rings, suddenly, I tense up, my palms sweat and there have been times when I picked up the phone and couldn't even say "hello". I have hung up on people in those situations.

I've walked up to the counter at McDonalds and have ordered things I didn't even want...just because I couldn't say what I wanted. I've walked through doors held open by strangers and didn't say "thank you" because...I couldn't.

Jack says that these things can be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy/training. I know what that is, I was a psych major in college. But, how do I apply this to my own life? What sort of treatment would help me to find that fluent state of mind that I have when I am speaking in front of a crowd? Do I find myself struggling to be fluent at McDonalds because, in my mind I know that the cashier doesn't know me and I think she's secretly judging me before I say anything?

Do I struggled on the phone because I know my voice is the only thing I am presenting to the caller since they can't see my face or what I am wearing?

Would simple positive affirmations repeated over and over in my head daily help me to overcome those stressors?

Jack makes very good points in his blog and I've yet to read all of his entries. I just wish I knew how to translate "good blog entries" into practical steps towards fluency.

Check out his blog, though. It's definitely worth the time.