Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Children's Reaction to Stuttering

Tom from the The Stuttering Brain Blog posted recently about his *tongue in cheek* dislike for children because they lack the social skills yet to act normally when one stutters.

I've experienced this and can feel his pain. Children will often say whatever is on their minds..."Are you pregnant or just fat?"..."You're skinny!"..."You're bald!"..."Daddy says your wife is an alcoholic!"...

Really, they are just saying what most adults are thinking, but have learned, by the implementation of social graces, to not say every little thing that pops into their heads.

My young teen son is getting there, but he still occasionally will openly laugh or smirk if he finds a "block" to be funny sounding. I can tell that he tries to hold it in and he usually apologizes right after...but it is annoying. I tell him that if he had the problem, he'd probably not find it humorous.

I've never heard a stutter that I thought sounded funny. Even when they do it for comedy's sake in a film or on television (which they never get right, by the way.)

I do enjoy children and don't find much difficulty being around them with my stutter, but I do find that I'm much more self-aware when I am in the company of small kids who I know will probably inquire about my stutter or react in some obvious way.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Un-cooperative Mouth

Honestly, after a lot of the research I've read recently about stuttering...I seriously doubt there will ever be a cure. I do think that we stutterers will be able to find useful therapy...eventually, effective drugs...and devices that will induce more fluency...but I do not think we will find a cure.

I am beginning to see that stuttering is even more complicated than what I once believed. The problem with a "cure" is that there are too many factors that contribute to stuttering...for their to be a simple "pill" or "technique" that can address them all.

Dr. Martin Schwartz has a treatment that claims a near 94% success rate ...and after speaking with him, I was very educated in the hows and whys of stuttering...and explained that stuttering happens because of what happens before we begin to speak...but this explanation says nothing of why I will stutter, for example, right in the middle of a sentence with a word that begins with the letter L. This has even occured when I was completely alone and not stressed at all.

The mystery of stuttering is very frustrating. To me, it's very much like how I would feel if I dropped a rock from my hand...and instead of going down, it began to float upward. "Why are you doing that, Mr. Rock? There is no REASON for that to happen!" Stuttering seems to defy all reason and logic. I want to say a word...but it won't come out...yet there seems to be no reason for this to happen. It's like an invisible wall...invisible hands stopping your hand from rising to your mouth. "Mr. Hand, I want food. Why won't you rise to my mouth?"

I once met a woman in a nursing home who had had a stroke. She completely lost the ability to formulate words. She could only talk gibberish. Yet, she could understand everything that was said to her...and she could write down what she wanted to say. I was completely amazed by this. I would think to myself, "Okay, she can hear the words in her head...she can understand the words I say to her...she can move her mouth to speak...but she can't formulate the words? Why? Just do it!"

The truth is, there is probably some kind of damage to her brain that is preventing her brain from communicating properly with her mouth. Her mouth just won't cooperate with her brain. She could eat food normally, however, so the damage must have been isolated solely to the connection between brain and mouth that is associated with communication. Fascinating!

Thus, in stutterers, it's possible that somehow our mouths/throat/etc simply will not cooperate with our brains commands to speak. My conscious mind says "Speak" brain knows the command...sends the command to my mouth...which will not cooperate with me.

It's frustrating when you lose control of a part of your body, isn't it?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Automation Makes Me Happy

I am so glad I live in a modern world full of technologically advanced mechanisms that make it so I can do a lot of business on my own without having to interact with people as much. As most stutterers are aware, interacting with people creates opportunities for stuttering...which, in turn, creates opportunities for stress, disappointment, embarrassment, and other such nasty feelings and emotions.

1. The Internet: I now have a whole array of friends with whom my only contact is via the written posts...discussion boards. I even talk to much of my family mostly online. And the occasional phone call. Also, virtually all of my bill paying is done online. I also make a lot of purchases online, never having to interact with a real person (at least directly).

One company with whom I do business online, has a 9-5pm INSTANT CHAT feature that lets you chat with a customer service person if you have a question.

2. Text messaging: Now I can text things to some of my friends. Conversations can last all day sometimes, as we simply reply when it's convenient. And then we talk once every couple days. Maybe twice a week.

3. Post Office: I no longer have to wait in line for simple transactions. I can simply conduct my posting business at the kiosk in the lobby of the post office. It will ask me a series of questions about my parcel or letter...I input some weighs it for me on the attached scale...tells me the price of the postage...I insert my debit card. Voila! Never had to say a word. (Well, except to tell the impatient guy standing behind me to wait his turn. ;)

4. ATM: It's a rare day that I will go inside a bank. I've had my accounts at the same bank for years and I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to go inside to conduct any business. I even got a new ATM card on the internet. I opened a savings account...on the internet. I embezzled $50,000...on the internet. Just kidding.

5. DVD Rentals: I get all of my videos through the mail via a pay-by-month option. I get 3 DVDs at a time and never have to deal with a real person.

I'm certain that more and more things in our progressive society will become automated like this. Eventually, you'll be able to get Starbucks from a virtual store/kiosk...maybe even fast food will go that way. As long as the quality doesn't go down. That being said, what kind of quality does fast food have anyway?

Morning Stutter

Do you find that you are less fluent at specific times of the day? Ordinarily, I stutter the most early in the morning. This morning, for example, I was getting ready for work and my sister passed through the hall. It's not usual for her to get up so early (6:30am) and so I attempted to ask her, "Why are you up so early?"...but nothing would come out. Total block. My "tricks" didn't even work. I waited patiently for it to pass...but it didn't. Finally, I just sighed heavily and stepped back into the bathroom. My sister, accustomed to my stuttering, answered the question, knowing what I was trying to ask. "Thanks," I muttered.

I think I'm less fluent in the morning because it's already more difficult to talk when you first get up, am I right? Your mouth isn't fully in gear yet and most even have that groggy/sleepy voice when they first get up. Ordinarily, I try not to speak to anyone in the morning-first, because I'm a big grumpy head-but also because I find it difficult to use my avoidance techniques to get around stuttering. Mostly, they don't work that well before I've been up for at least an hour or more.

Friday, February 09, 2007

DAF Research Study

I found an article on PubMed about a recent study (November 2006) conducted on an auditory feedback (delayed audio) device, using 10 stutterering participants. Without rehashing the entire study (which you can read for yourself here)...the fast conclusion is that it proved successful in a short-term setting...and further study is needed to show long-term results.

As I've written about recently, I am interested in these devices and am doing a lot of reading and personal research. I spoke personally with Dr. Martin F. Schwartz about his device at the National center for Stuttering...and he promises 94% success rate long-term using not only his device...but his program. In fact, he opines that one cannot achieve success without a (his) program. The device alone will help you...but you cannot maintain the disclipline of applying the accompanying and necessary exercises...on your own. Both the device and the accompanying program are necessary for success. He personally told me that I could have "the monkey off my back" in about 6-9 months.

Of course, Dr. Schwartz has a vested interest in saying this...after all, he earns income when you are enrolled in his program; however, I am inclined to at least give him partial benefit of the doubt, given that he's a doctor and not just some guy peddling "snake oil". I doubt I will be trying his program anytime soon, however, as the cost of it is beyond my budget ($2400)...but I am keeping my eye on his work and on the work of other programs that offer this device. (To be fair, he did indicate that most PPOs and HMOs will shoulder most of the cost of the program.)

I would be interested in just trying a device for myself without a program, just to see what it can do for me. Even if the positive results are only marginal. As I stated before, I got a brief taste of the effect when I called my son at his school...and there was a spontaneous phenomenon of an echo in my phone, allowing me to hear myself back with a half-second delay. When the echo was present, I was nearly completely fluent, free from stuttering.

I've heard some indicate that the positve effects of such devices eventually wears off because of the phenomenon of immunity. Just as you eventually become accustomed to hearing background noise in some settings, like noisy factories...or the background music in stores...eventually the effects of the delayed feedback wear off as you become accustomed to hearing it. Of course, this claims are all anecdotal and I've never personally spoken to anyone who has tried the devices.

I do suggest to readers to at least read Dr. Schwartz information about stuttering and his findings. They are very interesting reading, if nothing else. I suggest that you start here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

No Updates?

I'm clicking on all of my linked blogs to the right and I'm noticing that most have not updated in months and months. Of course, it's a little hypocritical for me to say that, since I was gone at one time for months and months. I did notice that, as usual, The Stuttering Brain is current. And he's traveling the world right now! :)

You'll notice I've linked a new Discussion Board at I'm hoping this will attract some traffic over time.

"It's Just A Habit!"

I spoke recently with a doctor who runs a successful therapy site and program and has written a few books on the matter...and his idea, based on 35 years of research, is that the "cure" for stuttering must come, NOT from treating the stutter...but from treating the STRESS that occurs in the throat muscles before ever speaking (paraphrasing).

He says that most are born with stress zones in our body...mostly in the shoulders, hands, abdomen (and others) and these areas become tense when we get stressed...but that about 2% of the population has an added stress zone...the throat. This stress zone becomes tense, learned from childhood when the child first stuttered, before speaking...and this is the root cause of stuttering.

When we were children, he contends, we first stuttered because of this stress zone that became tense in a given circumstance (first day of school, etc)...we then blocked or stammered/stuttered...and began a struggle right then to "force" the speech. Eventually, we were successful and we "taught" ourself that this struggle will result in speech...thus "reinforcing" the mechanism that first caused our stutter.

This "reinforcement" is so powerful that it's almost impossible to unlearn it on our own...thus, we need his program which you can read about at He founded the National Center for Stuttering. If you call their toll free number, you may even be able to speak directly to Dr. Martin F. Schwartz, like I did. He is very kind and very intelligent and gave me a lot of insight about my stutter.

I'm thinking of taking part! The cost I don't like, though: 6 payments of $400. Huge for me. I can't afford it...I may have to save up.

Anyway, have any of you tried this program...or are thinking about it? Do you agree or disagree with any of his information?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Delayed Audio Feedback Device Research

This site reports study that was done with participants wearing an audio feedback device for 3 months. At one time, I read somewhere that AFD are not effective because eventually, the adherent becomes immune to the effects of it. Sort of like how one gets accustomed to "white noise"...though the analogy isn't perfect.

This website seems to believe, based upon the findings of the study, that the use of the AFD does not gradually become ineffective and that long-term fluency can result from their use. Read for yourself:

The report is authored by Prof. J. Van Borsel, Gent University...but I don't know if he was the person conducting the study. The website does, however, sell an Audio Feedback Device, though I couldn't determine how to get one or how much it costs.

Is it just me...or does it seem there is a huge marketing/entrepreneurial opportunity here for someone who can produce a relatively inexpensive AFD that is easily accessible by people who aren't wealthy?

Stuttering Discussion

We've begun a new community for discussion online at It's completely new and has very few posts on the board...trying to jump-start it, but you are welcome to join. I'm in the process of tweaking the look of the site...the forum isn't what I want yet...but it's coming along.

Please drop by if you are inclined and if you have some time. We would appreciate your involvement.

The Amnesia Solution?

Okay, Jerome is a gift that just keeps on giving, regarding blogging material. Yesterday, he made another comment on a post that got my attention. I quote: "I'm convinced (though I cannot prove it) that if I were to have amnesia and therefore wouldn't remember that I was 'supposed' to stutter, I wouldn't stutter anymore."

This is an intriguing concept to consider. I have heard, on a few occassions, by one expert or another, that stuttering is an authentic affliction up until one is around the age of 12 or so. Beyond that, it's a habit. Just as you can't "forget" how to smoke...(which is what makes quitting so difficult) can't "forget" how to stutter. It's become such a habit to tense up and expect to stutter, that you sort of cause it to happen. Perhaps it's an example of "which came first"...the stutter or the approach to speaking that causes the stutter?

If I could have amnesia for a's very possible that I'd have no idea that I ever became stressful when approaching speech...and that, for that day alone, I'd not stutter. Of course, this only works if it's true that my stutter is only a result of my own stress towards speaking. If the affliction exists whether I'm stressed or not when approaching speech, then it probably wouldn't work...and I'd simply discover on that day that I stutter...discovering it all over again for the first time.

I tend to agree with Jerome, however, that I probably wouldn't stutter. I believe this because, for my own speech, when I am pretty confident...I won't stutter. For example, if I talk to myself in my car alone...there is no stutter. And one of the major problems of learning to become confident in situations where I'm usually stressed...I have this entire history behind me of being stressed in those situations...that I have to sort of "unlearn". It's easy to say, "I will no longer be stressed"'s not so easy to put that into action, since I have years and years of becoming stressed in those situations behind me, providing a very firm foundation of stress that is nearly impossible to overcome.

If I could forget about it, with amnesia, perhaps that would solve the problem. Thinking further, I wonder if hypnosis could undo some of that historical foundational stress?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Jerome's Insight

Sometimes we fail to see the forest for the trees, don't we? Yesterday, I posted about my ability to be completely fluent during job interviews, first dates, and public speeches. All times that I would ordinarily think would cause major dysfluency. Yet, they do not for me. I wondered why this would be.

Jerome posted a comment on the thread that probably revealed possibly why this phenomenon occurs. Jerome said, "Could it be that it's because you're kind of playing a role there? And it's only when you have to reveal your 'true' self that you start stuttering?"

I don't know why I didn't think of it before...but this rings true to me. Because an interview requires me to be "on" put on my professional turn on a "role" of "act", if you will...then I am able to be fluent because of the affect I'm applying to my speaking. As if I'm being someone else for a time. When I go on a first date, I want to exude confidence...thus, I turn on the best "me"...and maybe this affected manner results in temporary fluency. And it will likely fall down into stuttering when it's turned "off".

As an experiment, this morning, I asked a colleague if she would allow me to interview her as if I was a reporter for a television show. Just to see what would happen with my speech. Funny enough, I was almost completely fluent, as long as I stayed "in character". I applied a very professional tone to my voice...a slight "news" accent...and it made me probably 95% fluent.

This tells me that Jerome is probably right about what he commented on yesterday's blog entry. If you've experienced something similar, please let me know. I'd love to hear more about this. I think this is somewhat related to the therapy that some apply where they "re-teach" you to speak with an affected manner/voice/accent. Tom Weidig of "The Stuttering Brain" blog (linked to the right) spoke with me about this when he was in town last week.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Fluent At Odd Times

I have always found it interesting that my fluent moments come at the strangest times. Sometimes they come at times one would normally expect me to be completely dysfluent. For example: Job interviews. I find that I am extremely comfortable and mostly fluent during job interviews. I can't seem to recall a single time I was interviewing for a job where I had trouble hiding my stutter. I've always maintained the ability to be fluent, confident and spontaneous with my speech.

Additionally, I am very fluent and confident when I am giving a public speech. Something just happens when I get the microphone in my hand or step behind the podium. I feel confident, fluent, and able to take on the world. I flourished during my public speeking classes in college...and would even tutor others who were terrified of speaking in front of others. For this reason, I've never joined public speaking groups like Toastmasters. Other stutterers have invited me to, but they join in order to build their confidence. I don't need that particular brand of my time would be better spent doing other things.

As a side note here, the confidence completely vanishes if I have to tell jokes. I secretly harbor a dream to be a stand-up comic, but know that it's impossible because of the required "timing" of telling jokes. So, while I am confident speaking publicly, if the speech requires some kind of timing punch-lines...I am in trouble. I can almost never deliver a punchline when it's time to do so.

First dates: Being single, I am still on the lookout for that special "one"...and find that if I go out on that dreaded first date, I am completely comfortable and articulate. It's only after becoming more familiar with someone that I begin to fall into a trend of blocking and stuttering.

To me, these three things are strange because it seems that stressful situations should cause my stutter to become worse...and in some ways, it does (like the telephone). But, with these three things mentioned in this entry, public speaking, first dates, and job interviews, I find that I am almost completely fluent, confident, and do very well.