Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I have begun to tackle my fear of answering the phone at work. And by so doing, I have even had the pleasure of having incidences where I was completely fluent and was not forced to use "tricks" to get through it. Most answer the phone simply by saying the unit they've reached and then saying, "This is Mary" or some similar combination of words used to identify themselves.

What I've been doing is using my own combination of words. Sometimes I'll leave out parts of the greeting that are difficult to say. For example, I might simply say, "Hello, this is Tony". Or I might simply say, "Intensive unit". Once, I had to pretend I forgot what unit I was on, "This is, where am I? Oh, yeah, Intensive." I could sense a block coming...and the feigned forgetfulness is all that was necessary to get through.

Don't get me wrong, every single time the phone rings on the unit, my throat almost closes up and my anxiety level skyrockets, but I'm finding it less and less scary the more I do it.

Recently, one of the kids called me out on my stuttering. "You stutter!" and it kinda took me by surprise, but it didn't really bother me. In fact, in a strange reverse-psychological-moment sort of way, I was able to explain stuttering to the kid while being completely fluent. Go figure.

Anyway, that's my story for today. Now, I have to go dig my car out of the snow before work. *sigh*

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Son

Yes, he's now a teenager, but this is still one of my favorite recordings by him. "My Heart Will Go On"

Is it just laziness?

I have read many blogs, articles and websites that offer different therapies for stutterers/stammerers, but if you're like me, you really can't be bothered with any of them. It's not that I don't think they won't work, I just don't believe that the results will justify the work involved. In fact, I get tired just thinking about all of the work that will likely go in to a program whose results will be hard to measure or even detect. Am I just being cynical? Perhaps. Am I merely lazy? Probably a little.

I was in speech therapy for many years as a child and the results were frustrating. Many would argue that the therapies provided in the late 70's to mid 80's might have been unsuccessful, largely because of the outdated methods (talking with a metronome, etc), but I've read some articles recently and the methods don't seem all that updated, cutting edge or innovative. One recent therapist outlined a method of "canceling" wherein the stutterer is to cancel out secondary characteristics of a block that he or she just had...and then speak the word again. For example, if you squint your eyes during a block when attempting to speak the word "stutter" should then not squint your eyes and then attempt the word again.

Since I have no idea of the success or failure rate of this method, and since implementing this method into my daily work life would be grossly impractical, I can't really see the value of it. However, maybe it would be useful to others.

If you have methods or therapies that have proven to be successful in your life, I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, January 12, 2009

No Rhyme. No Reason.

I've been looking back through the comments on my blog and feel terrible that so many questions to me have gone unanswered. Time just does not permit me to spend the needed time to address every comment or question, so I do apologize.

I do want to address one question that was asked: Is there a predictable pattern that allows me to know when I will or won't be fluent? Simple answer: No.

If you watch my YouTube videos, you might be tempted to think, "Hey, this guy is pretty fluent! He goes entire paragraphs without stuttering!" And you would be justified in saying so. That's because there are controlled environments where I can enjoy extended periods of fluency. Mostly this happens when I turn on my camera and have a script and use my affected voice. Many are aware that when stutterers talk in an affected voice or with an accent, stuttering all but disappears. It doesn't really work as a therapy method, however, because the speaker is then forced to always focus on the manner of speech rather than on what's being said. For this reason, it's difficult to maintain and the stutterer will usually abandon the method in just a short time.

But there are days that come when I turn on my camera and I can't say one sentence without a frustrating block. And I never know when those times are coming. That's what is even more frustrating. And nobody knows when I've had those days, unless they see a video that has been more heavily edited than others. There have even been times when I will edit parts of a spoken word. I will stutter on a word and then will edit out the stutter that appears in the middle of the word.

The upside of all of this is...I've become a very skilled video editor and have even edited videos for other YouTube users.

Sometimes I will go to work and find that I can speak pretty fluently, using all of the tricks (for my personal tricks that I use to get around stuttering, scroll down to older post) that I've developed over the years. Other times, I can't say three words in a row without a block and sometimes my tricks will even fail me, the blocks are so bad.

And you NEVER know when those times are going to be. I just have bad days...and sometimes I have good days and there seems to be no pattern to it. No rhyme or reason. Nothing to indicate why this day I'm more fluent, while yesterday I struggled all day to say five words in a row without making the listener uncomfortable.

This is what makes stuttering such a confusing and frustrating ailment. And I'm sure this is what makes treating it be so difficult. Imagine trying to treat or cure an ailment whose symptoms are never consistent. And one whose cause is unknown. And one where the dynamics of what exactly is happening when it happens...are a mystery. Does a stutter start in the mouth? The throat? The brain? Why is it that if I fake a French or British stutter disappears? Why is it that if I know the answer to a question that's being asked, but can't say the word, that right after someone else says it, I can then say it? Why do I never stutter if I speak in unison with someone else?

These are all questions that may never be answered in my lifetime. Perhaps one day a cure or effective treatment can be found, but until then, we'll just keep asking the questions...and I'll usually only ask them in written form. It's easier that way. :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I'm Back!

I'm very sorry I took such a long break from this blog, it was actually a reader named James who inspired me to come back, thanks, James. Since my last writing, I left San Diego, moved to Pennsylvania and am now a children's counselor in a children's psychiatric hospital. The stuttering doesn't get in the way of this job hardly at all, it seems. The only thing I have trouble with at all is if I have to call out to parents or clinicians to report things. That is very difficult, because I have to introduce myself, say where I'm calling from and then wait for recognition. Talking to the kids is not difficult at all. Mostly, they just think I pause and think a lot, which is what we're supposed to do anyway. :) And doing group sessions is especially easy because, as I've indicated before, talking before groups is, strangely, the times where I stutter the least. Go figure.

Also, we carry radios at certain times in case of a crisis situation and if one occurs, we are supposed to radio to the mobile support team. I've yet to be able to do this. If ever they need to be called, I ask someone else to do it. I'm sure that if I'm in a pinch, I could do it, with stumblings, but whatever.

What continues to annoy me in my stuttering world is the people who, when they discover that I stutter, they play it off as if everyone stutters. "Oh, I do that! It's not a big deal." No, you do NOT do that. You occasionally stumble over your words as most human beings do, but you do NOT have a persistent developmental stutter that causes you daily stress in what most see as ordinary situations, like introducing yourself, or answering a simple phone call or approaching a clerk to ask him where the light bulbs are located. When you have that daily stress, then tell me, "Oh, I do that!"

I know they mean well and they don't mean to play down the condition, but it still annoys me sometimes. You, too?