Sunday, May 08, 2011

Learning to Stutter? The King's Speech Film!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 05, 2011

My First Drug: Citalopram (Celexa)

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Spring!!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Trump Owes An Apology to Stutterers

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

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

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

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

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

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