Monday, January 30, 2006

Lollie's Cure

Since reading The Stuttering Brain, I’ve begun viewing websites that offer a cure for stuttering with a much more critical eye than I once did. When I was in the Navy, I met a man who claimed to have been cured of stuttering…and indeed I never heard him stutter. However, if he was using some fluency trick (not like my tricks of word substitution or exhaling all but enough air to start a sentence…rather, tricks that allow you to say anything you want without stuttering) then he wasn’t really cured. You might call that “recovering”, as alcoholics do in Alcoholics Anonymous. Truly cured, in my opinion, would be if you didn’t even have to think about talking and could be stutter free as if you never stuttered at all. Being fluent without a method.

This guy went to a clinic in Virginia that lasts for a couple of weeks…a very intensive fluency program. Apparently it worked for him, because I never heard him stutter in all the years I knew him. And he had a very quiet, slow way of talking. Before I knew he was a “former” stutterer, I just thought he was a low-key kinda guy. I also noticed that he didn’t talk a whole lot. You never heard him get excited or say something quick or on the spur of the moment.

Three weeks after I met him, he pulled me aside one day to say that he wanted to talk in private about something important. As I would be with anyone who approached me in such a manner, I was curious and a bit paranoid about what he wanted to talk to me. I reluctantly agreed and was absolutely convinced that he was going to either proselytize me for some religious group/church/cult…or he wanted to get me to join Amway or some other multi-level marketing organization. Neither was the case, thankfully.

He noticed my stutter, he indicated when we finally met after hours one evening. He said that he wanted to tell me about the clinic in Virginia where one could go to get intensive therapy to learn to be stutter free. I was delighted, of course…that is, until I discovered the price of the weeks-long therapy session was some 4 thousand dollars. Besides, I couldn’t take the time off of work, even if I could afford it. Ultimately, I never went.

Today online I typed in the words “stuttering cure” in the Yahoo search engine and came upon this page: It offers a “cure” for stuttering that, I’m sure, is too good to be true. I have no idea what formal training this “Lollie” has in speech therapy (or any kind of therapy for that matter)…but she explains that if you, either verbally or silently say, “Stutter now!” before you begin speaking…you won’t stutter. She claims she “created” this “cure” first for her friend “Mitch”, who, after using it for a couple of weeks, became completely stutter free. Another guy she supposedly “cured” claimed that after awhile, he never even had to give himself the command any longer.

I don’t know if this web page qualifies for the “Quack” distinction from The Stuttering Brain…after all, she’s not offering to sell a cure. In fact, there seems to be no motivation for her doing this at all, except that she wanted to help her friend, “Mitch.” I haven’t tried the trick yet…but I know that, even if it does work sporadically, there is no way it can possibly address a block you might have in the middle of a sentence…which is the same reason I know that the “passive air-flow method” can’t be a 100 percent cure. The passive air flow might help you begin a sentence…but I often block in the middle of sentences on difficult words.
Anyway, I will try Lollie’s method…just for fun. See what happens.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Phone Again

So, last night I logged onto my dating service online and found someone interesting…we exchange a few emails…eventually, cell phone numbers…and long story, short, I get a call a few minutes later. Understand, I have enough tricks up my sleeve to get by in most difficult situations, though they do not always work. For example, I rarely will call somebody else, simply because I usually block right away and no tricks will get me by.

It’s much easier to have someone call me…that way I don’t have to deal with the stress of knowing the person I am talking to doesn’t even know who I am and I am burdened with establishing the familiarity. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. I think most stutterers do. My boss at work once told me to call city hall in order to get some political campaign contribution statistics. This was a terrifying prospect for me because first of all, I had no idea who would have such information…and I knew the person who would first answer the phone…probably wasn’t the person I’d need to speak to and I’d have to start off the conversation by establishing with this person exactly what I was looking for. Yikes.

I tried everything else in order to avoid the call. I logged on the internet…searched the site…looked for an email…but ultimately knew it wasn’t going to be good enough because my boss was expecting an answer pretty quickly and an email wouldn’t get information as fast as he wanted it. If I told him I emailed, he’d just say, “Okay, did you call?” Eventually, I did call. If you are a stutterer, you know how emotionally draining such a task is and how glad you are once the call is over and you are replaying the entire conversation with whomever you were talking to over and over in your head, knowing they were probably repulsed by your voice and hated talking to you. And you also know that finally getting through the conversation is not as satisfying as one might think because you know that a time is coming soon where you’ll have to do it all over again.

So, I get the call, I have the person’s name, they have mine, everything is as conducive as it can possibly be for the greatest chance of fluency. And to my delight, I am mostly fluent! Obviously I did stutter just a tad in my opening sentences because almost immediately, the person says, “Oh, you stutter.” Now…I usually pride myself on being very good at hiding it from people (maybe I’m just fooling myself)…and I have only had a handful of people in my entire life mention my stutter at all, if they noticed. To have this person mention it almost immediately either means…they know a stutterer in their own life, they are a speech therapist…they stutter themselves…or I am not as good at hiding it as I think I am. I’m sure it’s the latter. At least this time.

It totally took the edge off for some reason (usually it would make it worse) and I winded up being almost completely fluent the entire conversation, using most of my tricks (word swapping…exhaling until I have only enough air to push out the first sentence…feigning introspection, etc.). And to top it off…I have a coffee date for this evening.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Repeat Myself? I'd Rather Chew Broken Glass

I hate to repeat myself. Hate it. My mother and my son often wonder why I get so testy when they ask me to repeat myself. The reason is simple: usually I can be very fluent if I have a very short sentence to say to somebody.

Me: Mom, I had my oil changed today. Couldn’t believe how cheap it was.
Mom: I’m sorry, what?
Me: I h-had m-my oil ch-ch-ch…damn it! I hate repeating myself!

They usually act all offended…and why not? After all, I often can’t hear what someone else has said to me for whatever reason…they were mumbling…a car was driving by…I had a banana in my ear. And I’ll ask them to repeat it. “Oh, I missed that. What?”

Repeating oneself should never be a big problem. Unless you are a persistent developmental stutterer. Then it can be a big problem. A big fat hairy problem. The kind that makes you wanna shoot somebody. You’ve said something to somebody else. You felt good about your ability to say it…you felt confident…and without hesitation…you said it! SUCCESS! You didn’t stutter! Your confidence is up. You feel good about yourself. You feel…FLUENT! Then, suddenly…you realize the person didn’t even hear what you said. "Can you repeat that, please?" No, I'd rather scoop out my eyes.

Damn! You had a major fluency success…and nobody even noticed! Not even the idiot you were talking to. “I’m sorry, what?” I feel like saying, “Well, you missed out, buddy. Shoulda dug out your ears earlier. You could have shared in a wonderfully fluent moment with me, but instead, you failed at one of the simplest tasks in the world. You didn’t listen. Sorry. Sucks to be you.”

Saying that would be so satisfying in those rapid annoying moments that quickly follow a fluent moment when nobody noticed and I’m asked to repeat myself…and I would say this if only I could say it fluently.

Invariably, if I’m ever asked to repeat myself, I can never say again what I just did without stuttering all over it. It’s like some universal law of stuttering. “If thou hast a fluent moment in thy day, yet the person to whom thou speakest fails to hear thee, thou will never be able to duplicate the fluency the second time. Thus it is written and thus it is.”

Know what else bugs me today? I emailed a company from the internet last week sometime about a study on stuttering…the medical center is about 2 hours from me and they offer free drug therapy for those willing to participate in the study to test a new drug for stuttering. Now, I’m not too concerned about the safety of the test and the new drug. The FDA is a heavy-handed outfit (I deal with them all year) and no reputable company or medical center would allow guinea pigs to take a drug they weren’t certain isn’t going to cause me to drop dead as soon as it hits my tongue.

So…they called me and I found out that I’d have to spend 3 days a week at the clinic. (I rarely make cold calls, so I emailed for them to call me. Much easier.) At any rate, after speaking with the lady on the phone, it was determined that I’d probably not be able to participate because of the distance I’d have to travel each day and the time off of work, blah, blah, blah. So, I thanked her for her time...and she says, “Do me a favor. Please call back once you are sure you can’t participate, okay?” I wanted to tell her that I was pretty sure I couldn’t need to call back…but I suddenly blocked and just said, “Okay,”…then hung up.

For over a week now, this silly woman has called my office phone and has left message after message, thus, “Hi, this is Irene from the clinic. You indicated you’d call me back once you knew for certain you couldn’t attend. Please call me at _______.” What bugs me is that…don’t they know that stutterers have a hard time making calls? Can’t she use her powers of deductive reasoning to figure out just why I am not calling her back? Can’t she also determine that, “Gee, he’s probably not going to participate.”…and quit calling me? Now I feel rude for not calling back…so I probably will later this morning. At least her name is Irene. Much easier to say. If her name was Louise or Lily, I'd hang myself.

Why this desperate need for me to call back? Is this part of the experiment? “Okay, I want you to torture all potential stuttering participants by calling them multiple times a week and asking them to call back. Stutterers hate that. You’ll drive ‘em all wonky. Isn’t this fun?”

Well, after I wrote that last sentence, I was sufficiently annoyed enough to call her…hoping she’d give me a hard time so I could say, “Look bitch. I can’t participate. Deal with it.”…but her secretary answered…said Irene was on the phone. I left a message. A polite one. Used three tricks to get it all out fluently. I hated calling them because I know they probably expect to hear a lot of stuttering. Felt like I was under a magnifying glass.

At least she won’t call anymore.

Friday, January 20, 2006

No Role Models?

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon on the internet and elsewhere…one that ultimately prompted me to start my own blog on stuttering: There are very little community resources online for stutterers. You can find blog after blog on alcoholism…on drug addiction…gambling addiction. But few on stuttering. You can find many Yahoo Groups on all kinds of disabilities and afflictions…but few on stuttering.

Even on the boards I did find, there were few participants and most of the messages were very few and far between, even years in some cases. In short, there seems to be very few communities online for people wanting to meet and talk to other stutterers. I wonder why this is?

Could it be that most stutterers don’t like to talk about their affliction? Could it be that many of the world’s stutterers are closeted and don’t really want to deal with it? Might there be many stutterers who fool themselves into believing they are not actually stutterers and they just mostly ignore the problem? I suppose their could be any number of reasons.

Even more strange, some stuttering sites give you a list of famous people who are or were stutterers: James Earl Jones, Carly Simon, Mel Tillis, etc…but where are the endorsements by these celebrities? Where is the support? Every day you hear about some celebrity in Hollywood or some politician in Washington who has either “come out of the closet” as a gay individual…or who is coming clean about their prescription or illegal drug/alcohol problem. Yet, despite all the celebrities we know who either stutter now or once struggled with it…none come out in the open to help other stutterers or to at least give the stuttering community a focal point…someone to look up to besides Porky Pig.

James Earl Jones apparently had a very debilitating stutter most of his childhood…but then through some wonderful procedure, either on his own or through a doctor, he was able to overcome it and wind up in Hollywood with a successful film and voice-over career. Hey, James, mind telling us what you did? I’m sure Mel Tillis would like to know, at least!

How many times have you seen a television film about stuttering? How many times has Oprah or Ellen Degeneres featured guests who were stutterers in order to educate the general public about stuttering? Which 60 Minutes episode feature stuttering? When did Mike Wallace say anything about stuttering? Where is the Dateline coverage of the phenomenon of stuttering? Have you ever seen any show or documentary or feature on the phenomenon of stuttering? I haven’t.

55 million people in the world stutter. And some of them stutter so badly, they can barely navigate a few sentences…much less hold a conversation of reasonable length. It’s one of the most mysterious and frustrating afflictions one can face…yet we hear almost zero about it except in thin books down dark aisles in the library or obscure websites on the internet. I hope all of this will change eventually.

Unlearning Bad Stuttering Habits

Tom Weidig of The Stuttering Brain blog recently made an entry that caught my attention and sparked my imagination. His gives an illustration using his own experiencing of unlearning a bad behavior that enabled him to swim crawl (not sure what this is) without choking while trying to breathe. He said it took some time to learn this behavior and gives a list of steps it took to overcome it. Now, he says, he no longer chokes while trying to breathe and can’t even choke if he tried. He has successfully unlearned the bad behavior…and replaced it with the good.

Tom Weidig has a very good blog and I enjoy reading it (though I wish the recent poem he published was in English, too). He gives a more cerebral look at stuttering and cites a lot of academic references. When you find that Tom is a highly-educated individual (Master's from Imperial College London and PhD in theoretical physics at Durham)'s not suprising that he comes from a researcher's perspective. Have a look at his blog if you get the opportunity.

The only flaw I see in the analogy he’s attempting with the “choking” experience is that the choking experience did not result in anything good. It didn’t reward him with success. It didn’t teach him that “choking” got him through whatever it is he was attempting. Let me give my own example and show why it’s relevant to stuttering:

Bob has trouble convincing his wife to do things on the weekend that he likes. Bob’s wife has no idea that he wants to do things other than what they are…so she is oblivious to his needs. One day, Bob gets so frustrated over wanting to do what he wants to do instead of what his wife wants…instead of simply speaking to her…he picks up a plate from the table and smashes it on the floor and says, “Damn it! I want to do what I want to do this weekend.” Naturally, Bob’s wife is completely taken by surprise…but, she sees that it’s important to him and she acquiesces to his wishes.

Two weeks later, in an unrelated event, Bob is unable to tell his wife that there is another things that is important to him. He gets so frustrated with his wife, that he smashes a cup on the kitchen floor. Bob’s wife sees how important it is to him…so she gives in to what he wants. Suddenly, without realizing it, Bob has learned a bad behavior. But one that results in something good for him. If Bob smashes things…he gets his way.

In this same way, when I, as a persistent stutterer, use certain tricks and habits to get by and to feign fluency…tricks that are used as a direct result of and in reaction to stress and fear of speaking…I am teaching myself that using these bad habits will result in something I want: fluency (though only pseudo-fluency). It’s a chain reaction.

1. I am faced with a speaking situation
2. I become stressed and fearful
3. My brain automatically looks for a “trick” to help me to speak
4. I am able to speak relatively fluently

After 30+ years of such a chain of events…30 years of doing a thing one way, based not just on a normal habit…but a habit that has developed as a direct result of fear and stress…this habit will be one that is extremely difficult to break. Ignoring everything else, I am going to have to somehow learn to disassociate fear and stress…with certain speaking situations. That would be like trying to disassociate fear with seeing a shark or a snake or a large bee that’s flying right at you. How does one accomplish this?

The habits that we, as stutterers, have to break are not just simply bad habits like forgetting to turn off a light or popping our knuckles. The habits we have to break have an emotional and psychological basis…a basis that caused the habit to appear in the first place…habits that, when employed, result in something we see as good. Breaking that sort of habit is not going to be easy.

It’s not just a matter of breaking the habit of what I’m doing…using the trick. It’s somehow finding a way to stop believing I need the trick. How does one accomplish ths?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pebbles Under the Tongue

In all of my online research of stuttering therapies and individuals who are dealing with stuttering in their own lives, I’ve never come across an individual who is as open and honest about their own journey and predicament as John MacIntyre, a self-employed software developer...and the author of the blog listed in my links section, Pebbles Under the Tongue.

The blog’s namesake, if you are familiar at all with the history of stuttering therapies, is an antiquated approach to overcoming stuttering by simply placing pebbles under the tongue before speaking (hopefully not the size of the ones in the photo!). Of course, the procedure does nothing for the stutterer, although I have read that it provides temporary relief, probably due to the speaker being distracted by the presence of the pebbles. The same phenomenon seems to occur when some stutterers speak with a foreign or regional accent. For myself, if I feign a southern drawl or a British accent, I am perfectly fluent. Or if I grit my teeth together. Go figure.

Anyway, apparently John is somewhat comfortable with himself (something I hope to get better at, given time), as he even posts videos of himself speaking, so that there is an accurate aural and visual record of his progress. I admire this particular element of what he’s doing a great deal because, I not only loathe hearing myself speak (recorded and played back), I am certain I would hate to see how I look while speaking. John, however, is so dedicated to his therapy and his journey that he is willing to put himself out there as a beacon for other stutterers who are also on the journey to fluency. Kudos to him.

When you read his blog, you quickly discover that John is very intelligent and articulate with the written word, notwithstanding his stutter. He writes with a very easy-to-understand style (a joy for the reader) and he comes across as very personable and honest. He also offers a wealth of information on stuttering and his own honest and open account of his therapy and experiences gives tremendous insight to what some stutterers actually face on a day-to-day basis. I particularly enjoyed his most recent entry on “Word Switching”…a trick I employ almost every waking hour. Because of it, most people don’t even know I stutter. I am what is called a “covert” or “closet” stutterer most of the time and only those who have known me for a time realize that I do it.

If you get the opportunity and time, go through his blog and read everything he has written. You will get to know John better, certainly…but you will also come away with a lot of knowledge about stuttering in general and, because of what John is may even gain some courage to be more open and honest about your own stuttering problem and journey toward fluency.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I Wanted To Do Stand-Up Comedy

Although law is my passion and has been my dream since I was in early adolescence, I have also harbored a secret desire to be a stand-up comedian. I know that if I had fluency, I’d have a knack for it…the required quick wit, timing, and I think I instinctively know what will be funny to others. Since I am most fluent with my friends and loved ones, I’ve often been told I should have been a comedian (in another life, of course).

Ellen Degeneres is probably my favorite stand-up comedian, I’ve been a fan of hers since I first saw her on HBO’s specials they used to do back in the 80’s. Rodney Dangerfield hosted the half-hour show and he’d feature new up-and-coming comedians. Ellen, at that time, was pretty well known in the stand-up circuit and had recently been named “The Funniest Person in America” by Showtime. She had such good timing and her humor was always so clever, perfectly executed and funny as hell. One snippet of a joke I remember from that time that I have memorized and wish I could speak fluently is,

“I remember when I was kid going to kindergarten…well…I thought it was kindergarten. Later I learned I had been working in a factory for 3 years. I Didn’t even know. I thought it was weird cause it was always really hot and everybody was older than me, but what did I know? I was just a kid.”

When spoken fluently with just the right pauses and timing…it’s funny. And I wish I could do it. The best I’ve been able to do is say the first line. I completely block on the beginning of the second line. If I don’t block…the L in “later” becomes elongated to the point where the timing of the joke is ruined.

Another comedian I admire is Steven Wright. Maybe you know who I’m talking about. He’s very quiet…speaks almost as if he’s on something. Curly long hair, except on top where he’s completely bald. His humor is very oblique, and again…timing is everything.

“I have peripheral E.S.P. I can see into the future…but only off to the side.”

I think I wrote in my first entry on this blog that I usually don’t have a hard time giving a public speech. I excelled at it in college and actually love to speak in front of others. I always thought that God must have a sense of humor…to look down upon a newborn and say, “He shall be personable, outgoing, funny, lively, the center of attention and he shall have a passion for speaking and telling jokes and speaking at all sorts of occasions. Oh, and one more thing…he shall stutter!”

I don’t have as hard a time when I give public speeches, simply because I have my “tricks” down pat and I can word switch like a mad man. Usually nobody can tell I stutter at all and people in my classes usually begged to be in my group so they could be a part of a presentation that would certainly get a high grade. What they didn’t know, however, was that, because there were no actual jokes to tell…timing wasn’t really that critical. I could pause where I wanted, if I knew a block was imminent…and then quickly switch directions or feign a bit of introspection…and I’ve even been known to ask the audience a question in order to hide what would otherwise be a terrible block.. Also, if I got to a difficult phrase or word that couldn’t be switched…I could force all the air out of my lungs and simply begin the sentence, word, or phrase on that last breath of air. Timing wasn’t an issue, so the tricks worked beautifully.

For comedy, however…you prepare your jokes and they must be executed exactly as planned. Timing is everything. Punch lines to a joke scare the shit out of me and I normally avoid telling jokes at all…though I have a ton I could tell. Sometimes I’ve simply mocked my stutter and have told jokes on occasion anyway. Sometimes I’ve been successful…other times, I (and everybody else) wished I had thought better of it. You can’t word switch on a punch line…and if you pause, the timing goes out the window.

I’ll close this entry with one of my favorite stuttering jokes that my mother told me as a kid. It is so applicable and relevant to our experience as stutters…but, ironically, I have never been able to repeat the joke to anybody else. The fact that it’s about stuttering brings my stutter to the forefront of the mind of the listener and to me…and renders telling it aloud to anyone virtually impossible:

A little boy was standing on a street corner with a nice, big, shiny watch on
his arm. A man saw the little boy and walked up to him and said,
“La-la-la-la-la-little b-b-b-boy. C-c-c-could you g-g-g-give me the t-t-t-time?”

The little boy looked at the man and just shook his head. The man walked
away sad.

Another man was standing nearby and saw the whole event
transpire. Annoyed, he walked over to the little boy and said, “That wasn’t very
nice, young man. Why didn’t you give that man the time?”

The little boy
looked up at the man and said, “C-c-c-c-c-cause he would’ve kn-kn-kn-knocked the
sh-sh-sh-sh-shit out of me.”

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Airflow Method

I've recently learned of a therapy method that has shown promise as a potential means to acquire and maintain a fair amount of fluency. Perhaps you've heard of's the Passive Air flow technique and was developed by Dr. Martin Schwartz of the National Center For Stuttering after he interviewed individuals who had claimed to have stuttered at one time...but were "cured" or for which stuttering had passed.

He discovered that for many of them, they had developed a habit of simply emitting a tiny stream of air between the lips before speaking. Not forced air...just a natural, tiny exhalation. His entire book is available online at this link:

As I am always looking for a method to achieve fluency...I read the entire book in one afternoon and found it to be very intriguing, enlightening and it sparked my imagination. Could this method work for me as it has for those the book touts? Could I learn this new method of speaking? We'll find out.

I do know that I used the method for the entirety of the first afternoon and found that it is very effective in stopping a block at the beginning of every sentence. I was able to say anything I long as I used the method. I could abandon my word swapping. I even made a few phone calls using it...and was pleasantly surprised.

Keep in mind, must studiously apply the therapy methods in the book, simply because, though it's an easy method to's not easy if used in stressful situations if the method doesn't come as naturally as breathing. I found this out the first time I used it at a fast food restaurant I frequent. Though I used it...I completely blocked on the first word of my sentence and immediately used my former method of exhaling all the air in my lungs...and was able to easily begin speaking again. brain is more accustomed to using this method...over a new method introduced just recently. That is why Dr. Schwartz recommends that the "adherent" employ the therapy method over weeks and weeks. The method must become second nature.

I also don't know how well it will work on difficult words within a sentence. For example, I stutter on most L words. Linda. Little. Lithium. Though the passive air flow technique might help me to not block on the beginning of, "I was walking down the street the other day, when I saw...", but what happens when I get to..."the cutest little dog running across the parking lot."?

I don't know. The book doesn't seem to address words that are in the middle of sentences once you are already talking fluently. However, most of my blocks are at the beginning of sentences, so I think this method may be good for me.
You can read more about Dr. Schwartz and his methods at The National Center for Stuttering website: and no, I am not being paid to talk about this. :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Defoliating The Junge of Online Stuttering Help

So, I have been doing a lot of research online, looking for stuttering resources. Maybe you’ve done the same and have found, like I have, that there are a lot of articles and websites on stuttering…but few that offer much in the way of help. Most articles are written by doctors and therapists who are peddling therapies and various devices. It’s gotten me a bit frustrated because there is something in me that somehow expects somebody to offer a cure for free. But then I think, “Gee, even cancer treatments cost money.” Good point.

Actually, I did find a couple of free tips. Did you know, for example, that stuttering never occurs when you speak in a whisper? It’s true. I tried it. Additionally, you will never stutter if you talk with your teeth clenched. To be honest, I didn’t try this for long (because I sounded so silly)…so I don’t know if it’s always true…but it did work as long as I did it. I may experiment more later. Whatever the case…one simply cannot navigate the world talking through clenched teeth or whispering. Actually, sometimes when I am angry at my young son, I speak through clenched teeth. That would account for how articulately I was able to tell him that he was about 5 seconds away from sure death.

The treatments I definitely steer clear of are the ones of non-professionals and ex-stutterers who claim to have a “Tried and True, Guaranteed 10% Cure”…but only if you buy this book or program. (and if you act NOW…we’ll throw in this Micro Hibachi and a set of Ginsu Steak Knives at NO EXTRA CHARGE!) I am skeptical.

I once read of a man who made a bunch of money years ago advertising a 100% Guaranteed Successful remedy for roaches. He was selling his “remedy” for exactly $1, advertising in the classified ads section in newspapers, magazines and in the back of comics. (This was long before the internet.)

At a mere $1, there was virtually no risk! Thousands of people sent off for this “remedy”, but were justifiably upset when what they received consisted of 2 small, square wooden blocks and brief instructions that directed, “Place roach between two blocks of wood and press firmly.”

I don’t want to send off for a “Tried and True, 100% Cure For Stuttering”, just to open the package and find a slip of paper that says, “Guaranteed Cure for Stuttering: Stop Talking.”

I did find an interesting account of a woman who claims to have overcome her stuttering. Her name is Miriam Mondlin and she claims she was cured through Aesthetic Realism. If you have no idea what that means, don’t feel bad…neither did I. In fact, after reading her online blurb…I still don’t. But, whatever it is, supposedly it’s the miracle cure. She offers this strange blurb, claiming it is the definitive explanation for stuttering…written by Eli Siegel in 1981:

“It is the embodiment of inhibition and forwardness; it
is the explosive, excessively energetic, excessively repetitious, and
excessively denying, bodily symbol of the sudden battle between the centrifugal
and centripetal selves. One self wishes to be other, to be related; and one
wishes to be a snug, perfect point, capable of dismissing anything and
everything.” -

Uh…yeah. Now, I’ve read this piece about 10 times now…and I still don’t know what it says. Do you know what a centripetal self is? I don’t. Apparently, however, you can go into therapy using Aesthetic Realism…and find help with your stuttering. I’ll let you know if I find anything else on it (if I even explore it more) and feel free to leave a comment if you find anything. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thanks for the help! NOT!

I know that most people who make attempts to help a stutterer are probably only doing so because they are uncomfortable with the stuttering episode ensuing and they probably want to do something to help. Unfortunately, mostly they are not helping…rather they are underscoring the problem even more.

I find that the biggest help are the people who simply act as if nothing is happening at all…acting like they didn’t even notice.

So…I wanted to post a few things that I find annoying from those trying to help…and keep in mind, I know they mean no harm and these are really just for amusement. I appreciate those who really care:

1. People who finish your sentence for you. (Thanks for UNDERSCORING my inability to do so!)

2. People who tell you to "slow down" when you talk. (Like I'm that much of an idiot...gee, I never thought of that!)

3. People who tell you to take a deep breath before you talk. (Wow, thanks. I'M CURED!!!)

4. All the people who think they know how to "cure" your stutter. (There's always one in a crowd, isn’t there? “Well, gee, all ya gotta do is…”)

5. People who don't know you stutter and who mock you right after you do stutter, thinking it's funny. (It’s not.)

6. People who say, "You could stop if you really wanted to. You just have to want to." (Thank you, Tony Robbins!!)

7. People who say, "Oh, everyone does it. I stutter, you stutter, all God's chillen stutter! (As if it's not a real impediment at’s just like how everyone stubs their toe now and then.)

Stuttering Stanley!

So, I have this annoying stuttering problem that I've had since I was...oh, born, I think. My grandmother tells me that I stopped talking around 4 years old for about 3 months and when I began again...I had a really severe stutter. They took me to a child psychologist who, apparently, couldn't "fix" me and then to a number of other doctors and specialists to find out if it would remain. Most said it could simply be a childhood phase, as some stuttering is...others said that it might remain for my whole life. I'm in my 30's now, so I'm voting for the latter.

As I got older, my stutter became a big problem for me in school, making friends and being social. I could barely say two words in a row and could never respond if called upon by a teacher. My entire throat would simply lock up and no sound would come out no matter how much I tried to force it to. Some kids, inevitably, made fun of me and mocked me on the playground...and I even had a teacher or two take a jab at me in front of other kids in the classroom if I didn't answer fast enough or stumbled over my words.

I started in speech therapy in first grade and it was an abysmal failure, though I loved my young and beautiful speech therapist. I got to leave my normal classroom 3 times a week and go off to a room in the library and do various speech exercises like "sing-song talking" or talking to the beat of a metronome. Those exercises worked beautifully to help me be fluent. I never did stutter once while singing or while talking with the metronome. The only problem can't carry a metronome around with you wherever you go and you certainly can't navigate life talking to the beat of one without the risk of losing every friend you have.

(Side note: before you decide to leave a note or comment of advice to me: you can't cure stuttering by "calming down" or "talking slower" or any method amounting to the armchair advice I've been given over the years. Trust me...I've heard it all. If the PhD's haven't figured it's likely you haven't either. On the other hand..if you are a former stutter who has found a wonderful new cure...please share. :)

Back to the story: So, as I grew up, I began to learn various tricks and methods to hide my stutter. They mostly worked, but usually only with people who didn't know me well or didn't spend great amounts of time with me. One such trick is the "word substitution" trick. With this one, if you find you are coming to a word you have a hard time simply switch it for another. For example, if you have trouble saying words that begin with "W"...and you want to say, "I need to go to Walmart" can simply say instead, "I need to go to the store." This is a very good trick and it works most of the time. But not all the time. It won't work, for example, if you are about to pledge your undying devotion to your girlfriend or boyfriend. If you want to say, "Darling, I love you," but find you are unable to say the "L" word (for stuttering reasons...not for "problems with committment" reasons) can't substitute that word with, "Darling, I have very strong feelings for you that go well beyond friendship."

Sorry. It won't work.

So, today I was heading out to lunch and a lady in the office down from me asked if I would stop by the deli and pick up her salad which she had called in. No problem. "Just tell her you're picking up an order for Linda."


I cringe at words that begin with "L"...especially if they are first names. (There is a lady in my office named Linda Levuano...I avoid her like the plague...and I'd never buy a home on a street that begins with "L"...or date anyone with a name beginning with "L".) I reluctantly told her I'd be glad to...then left. On my way back from where I got my food, I sat in the car in the parking lot of the deli. There was a crowd of people inside. Yikes. I pictured exactly how the scene would play out.

Cashier: Sir, can I help you?

Me: Uh,, I need to pick up an order.

Cashier: What's the name?

Me: *panicking* Oh, I's for a sandwich...

Cashier: They're all for sandwiches (people begin to stare)

Me: *panicking more* Yeah, okay, it's, it's,, I think...

At that point, I'd probably force myself to try to sneak up on the name "Linda" and just say it before my brain had a chance to stutter on the word. It's worked before. But, not usually. Likely, I'd begin the "L" sound and then everything would lock face would probably turn red from the pressure and the embarrassment...and I'd wind up either abandoning the rest of the word at that point and looking very foolish (at least in my mind) or simply persist in forcing the name out and having it result in a very long and drawn out L sound followed eventually by the rest of the name and my utter and total which point, I'd pray the earth would open up beneath me and swallow me whole.

So...there I sat in the parking lot, playing with the idea of simply telling Linda I forgot to pick up her order. No. I didn't want to look like an inconsiderate flake. So, I did what I've done on other occasions. I simply wrote her name on a piece of paper and when the cashier said, "Can I help you?" I simply replied, "Pick up, " and handed her the small piece of paper. Problem solved.

That time.

My mother wants to know why I want to be a laywer if I have this stutter. Well...I love to talk. I love to give speeches. In fact, I never stutter in front of crowds of people when I'm talking. I excelled in public speaking in undergrad. In other classes, people used to rave about my presentations. I am eloquent, articulate and quick when I have the microphone. But...if I am sitting in my seat, amongst everyone else...and someone calls on me to answer a question...I lock up like Granny's back on a bad mattress.

So, back to my tricks. One is to simply blow all the air out of my lungs and push up my diaphragm until I only have just enough air to force out a difficult word. This works wonders. I can surpass entire stuttering episodes with this one and most people have no idea that I'm doing it...though, it does make your stomach tired if you do it a lot in one conversation. Another trick is to blow a tiny, weak stream of air between your teeth (so nobody notices) right before you start talking. I read this one from a book. Somehow, your brain is tricked and the speech mechanism doesn't lock up.

Another trick that works well most of the time is the "feigning thought" trick. You simply pretend you can't think of the word. I used this one the other day when I was talking to a friend and I was trying to say the name of the band REO Speedwagon. Of course I know the name...they are one of my favorites bands of all time. But, I could not say it to save my life. So, I just said, "Oh, what's their name....ah, geez....oh, it's on the tip of my tongue....come on...oh, it's right there, right there!" Eventually, after doing that long enough...I found I could finally say it, and blurted, "Ah, REO Speedwagon! Man, that would have bugged me all night!"

It's silly to have to go through that, isn't it? If I were more comfortable with myself, I'd have simply said, "You know what? I know the name, but my stutter is preventing me from saying it. Here, I'll spell the first word, maybe that will help me break through."

So...that's why I'm here. To talk about stuttering. To tell my stuttering story. And to maybe meet a few others who are so afflicted. I started this blog because this is a topic about which I have a lot to say. Maybe you can relate. (oh...and my name isn't really Stanley. :)