In recent years, visual imagery and relaxation techniques have been used by people from every walk of life to develop positive changes in their behaviour and attitudes. Professional athletes, for instance, have been shown to significantly improve their performance through the use of these methods. People who have been through a course of fluency therapy can make use of visual imagery and relaxation to overcome ingrained attitudes and thinking patterns that can sabotage the use of fluency techniques.
Visual imagery is the technique of using your imagination to help create what you want. We all use visual imagery every day of our lives - there is nothing weird or unusual about it. Every time we do something, we first have a thought which is a mental or visual image. Then, we take action to create our visual image. For example, we may have the thought "I need to buy some new shoes." This thought is a visual image. Then, we take action to create our image of a new pair of shoes.
We tend to move in the direction of our dominant thoughts. Positive images help us to create what we want. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to develop negative thought or images that can actually prevent us from achieving our goals.
If you get anxious just thinking about a speaking situation, then it's likely that your negative mental images will affect your use of fluency techniques in that situation. Developing positive visual images will gradually erode old, negative thinking patterns, giving you a fresh frame of reference for difficult speaking situations, and helping you to use your techniques more effectively.
It's important to relax your body and mind before visualizing. With practice, you will be able to relax quickly and effortlessly. Follow these steps:
1. Sit in a comfortable chair or lie down, with your spine straight.
2. Breathe slowly and deeply, in a natural way, using your diaphragm.
3. Relax each muscle group in your body in turn, telling yourself "Release and relax."
4. Count down from 10 to 1 slowly, relaxing more and more deeply as you count.
When you feel totally relaxed in body and mind, begin the visual imagery exercise by following these steps:
1. Form a visual image that helps you to have ease in talking, e.g. a glowing light travelling up
2. Imagine a former success, re-experiencing the warm feeling of accomplishment and self-worth, and keep
the feeling with you.
3. Create a mental picture of a speaking situation exactly as you want it, with as much detail as
4. If negative thoughts come to you, don't fight them off. Just acknowledge them, release them, and
return gently to your image. Enjoy the feeling of mastery.
An affirmation is a strong, positive statement that something is already so. It is a gently way to get through to your unconscious mind and to "make firm" what you are imagining. Use affirmations during relaxation and visual imagery sessions, and at any time throughout the day. Affirmations should be repeated several times, and spoken with emotion. Examples: "I have mastered the speech targets and I am in control of my speech", "I am relaxed and confident when I speak", "I answer a ringing phone calmly, confidently and fluently." Formulate affirmations that have meaning for you.
1. Have regular visual imagery sessions, preferably every day.
2. Recall previously practised visualizations during speaking situations.
3. Take regular 30 second relaxation "breaks" throughout the day. Breathe deeply with your diaphragm and
"release and relax."
4. Repeat your affirmations during visual imagery sessions and throughout the day. Write them on 3 by 5
index cards, and post them, or keep them with you. Refer to them and repeat them often.
Bond, J. (1993, March) Stuttering - Meeting the challenge of transfer and maintenance. Communication Exchange, 4(1), pp. 5-7.
Kirby, G. (1192, November) Visual imagery, relaxation and cognitive restructuring integrated in fluency therapy. A miniseminar presented at ASHA, San Antonio, TX.
Rossman, M. (1987) Healing Yourself. Institute for the Advancement of Health, Walker Publishing, NY.
Borysenko, J. (1987) Minding the Body, Mending the Mind. Bantam Books, Toronto
Burns, D. (1990) The Feeling Good Handbook. Penguin Books, New York
Gawain, S. (1978) Creative Visualization. New World Library, San Rafael, CA
Gawain, S. (1986) Living in the Light. New World Library, San Rafael, CA
Hay, L. (1987) You Can Heal your Life. Hay House, Inc., Carson, CA
Silva, J. and Miele, P. (1977) The Silva Mind Control Method. Simon and Schuster.
Music: Angel Love Aeoliah. Antiquity records, 1985.
CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993
The masculine gender used throughout this text for ease of writing is meant to be inclusive.
The participants are invited to introduce themselves, and to mention their occupation as well as where they come from.
I'll try to make this workshop interesting for all, so that everyone leaves with the feeling of not having wasted his time. Please be convinced, each of you, that your sheer presence here already helps everyone present. Please be convinced of your ability to help others, while helping yourself.
We will deal with the speech therapy aspect and the psychological aspect of stuttering at the same time, and certain principles of self-help will be applied. I don't intend to hold the floor all the time, quite the contrary. I hope you will participate a lot. This workshop will be an exercise, a session of group therapy.
I hope you are here to express yourselves, and I encourage you to do so. But please be quite at ease, no one will force you.
At the end of the workshop, there will be a 10 to 15 minute question period, and I'll try to answer to the best of my knowledge, but don't hesistate to interrupt as we go along by raising your hand if you have any question. By sharing our experiences, I'm sure we will learn a great deal from each other.
How many among you have a stuttering problem ? You may speak as you wish, but for those who have fluency techniques to practice, I would encourage you to use them. It is in our best interest to put softness into our speech. When things are done calmly, softly, stuttering becomes incompatible. Can some of you tell me briefly what they know of self-help ? Thank you !
I would like now to highlight a few crucial points to improve speech. You need :
to be psychologically ready
to give yourself a specific goal and to work at achieving it
to accept to change something in your usual way of speaking
to be demanding and tolerant of yourself at the same time
to persevere despite the hardships
to accept and love yourself as you are
to be happy with yourself.
Self-help, as ABC and I see it, is much more than moral support, maintaining fluency acquired through therapy or an opportunity to practice suggested fluency skills. For us, self-helf is a real and excellent form of group therapy. Therapy does not mean eliminating stuttering once and for all: that would not be a realistic goal. As we see it, therapy is something which helps, which soothes, which makes you feel good.
It is obvious to us that an effective therapy must improve the speech and the quality of life of an individual. We believe that therapy is an empowering process and that even with formal therapy, it is the individual who does most of the work, and sooner or later he must become his own therapist. Finally, for us self-help is not only a communication tool but it is also an instrument of FREEDOM.
Everyone takes what he wishes from self-help, but it can be beneficial in two ways. You can find something for yourself, but you can also offer something to others while being convinced ahead of time that you'll gain much more than you could ever offer - the latter attitude makes all the difference. You always have something to offer.
What can you hope to gain from self-help ?
We receive insofar as we are involved. If I think about the members of ABC, I have to say that those who were most involved are also those who have best overcome their stuttering problem. We have numerous statements from members who followed known therapies and who say that had they not become involved in ABC, their speech would not be what it is today.
Self-help is like love : the more you give, the more you receive. We have to realize also that self-help has to be a dialogue, not a monologue. The person who stutters also has some work to do as a listener: too often, we are so preoccupied by the answers we must give and the best way out that we are bad listeners, without even realizing it. Be patient, give the other person the opportunity to express himself. Besides, you learn a lot more by listening than by speaking.
Now, if you don't mind, I would ask you to get together in groups of two to discuss self-help as group therapy for the next fifteen minutes. Afterwards, you'll be invited to share with the group what you've gained from the experience. Try to really listen to each other. I'll be dropping in on some of the twosomes.
During the last 15 minutes, we've worked on the speech therapy aspect of stuttering; I hope that those who had skills to practice did so. Now we will look at the psychological aspect. I will invite a number of you to come in front and speak to us for a few minutes. Each one can state what he has gained from his work in the two-person group.
You know, it's not only people who stutter who are afraid of speaking before a group. But with practice, you gain some confidence and it becomes easier.
If you agree, we could sit arounnd in a circle and start a dialogue. Any aspect of stuttering can be discussed. This is the moment to comment on the workshop which is coming to a close. Do you believe in self-help as group therapy ? If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to share them with us.
After checking how much time is left, we will proceed to a question period and the end of the workshop.
CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993
If you haven't already guessed it, my story in the pause (which by the way is the title of our presentation), has to do with the literary or dramatic side of the pause. Following a short explanation of the various types of pauses used in literature (poetry, prose such as "reader's theatre"), I will show you four video presentations with pause in a "dramatic" light. Following this, my colleague, Elizabeth Haynes, will discuss the use of pause in speech therapy to resist time pressure and relating this to the writer, Lewis Carroll.
Silences are as necessary in presenting an intelligent and effective interpretation as are sounds. Lack of pause may be a sign of an amateur. The most ordinary meaning gains in importance with the proper use of pause to break the flow of sound. Timing is of utmost importance.
A pause can be defined as a complete stoppage of the voice; a cessation of sound for a period of time; and, used in its simplest form, it controls meaning through an effective grouping of words. It lends itself to all the variations of giving words the many interpretations of which they are capable. You settle the meaning your audience will receive by breaking up or failing to break up a sentence with pauses. Pauses vary in position and duration. A pause may not be thought of just a mechanical wait, it must be packed with meaning.
In natural conversation, however quick, however animated or excited, many pauses are necessary due to the action of the mind. During a pause, no matter how short, the mind grabs hold of an idea and chooses the words.
The length of pause is due to the intensity of thinking or to the degree of clearness, vividness and depth of an idea. The length of pause will vary according to the degree of mental action, the extent of the change the mind is supposed to make, or to the importance of the idea.
In oral interpretation, pauses will be longer with intensity of thought. Comprehension of meaning, and the consequent utterance seems to come out of the silence. There is a rhythmic alternation between speech and silence.
Pause is apt to be regarded as something so simple that it needs no attention - rarely do speakers realize the value of silence and the fact that you have the power to hold attention. Ask an actor who's spoken words like "Gentlemen ... the King ... is dead". How much more dramatic it is than "Gentlemen, the King is dead".
A period of silence is not to be confused with a pause. It may be hesitation due to lack of ideas or a word.
A pause is used for controlled breathing. It enables the speaker to take a breath.
Meanings can change with shifts in the pause, as can emotions.
Pauses are part of giving variety to speech. They are the most important means of emphasis, and correct usage gives individuality to interpretation. The listener needs a number of pauses to be able to take in and digest what you are saying. He needs moments of rest to have time to receive the thought and become curious about what is coming. As a speaker you must recognize this need.
You, the speaker, need a moment of rest so you can receive from your audience their feelings, and become sensitive and attuned to them.
A pause gives you energy - gives you the time to reach into yourself and replenish your energy and give it to your audience. It also gives you time to receive energy from your listeners.
A pause gives you, the reader, a chance to look ahead to understand the next thought and gives the time to assemble in the mind the relationship of the phrases.
Pauses for a moments rest gives you a fresh start as you begin a new thought.
Pauses will be longer and more frequent when the thought is difficult or unfamiliar, or when the speaker desires to be very impressive.
Pauses are used in speech to mark the meaning - they are oral punctuation. They should be made according to the thought, regardless of punctuation marks. Badly placed pauses can actually distort meanings. Pauses are used to separate ideas - units.
A pause may be used for dramatic effect when suspense is allowed to accumulate before an idea which is to receive great importance.
Sometimes a thought is of such great importance that it may be proceeded and followed by a pause. A pause builds up suspense. A pause may be used when the climax is reached. A pause may be used when a strong emotional situation is being interpreted. Pauses can sharpen humour - a meaningful pause before the point of the joke gets the listener ready and therefore heightens the comic effect. Pauses must be carefully timed. In poetry the pause is important in giving the pattern to the verse-form.
Pauses have the effect of drawing or compelling people to listen. If people have to wait, sometimes the suspense causes them to listen more acutely.
The use of pause in poetry is of a much more complicated matter than the observance or non-observance of punctuation marks. Logical pauses, rhetorical pauses, descriptive pauses, dramatic pauses and metrical pauses all have their contribution to poetry-speaking. Besides its relation to words and thought, a pause is a part of metrical design, e.g., the pauses that mark the structure of a sonnet are as much part of the formal design as is the meaning. In modern poetry, where there is often a "time-stress" or silent beat, the pause is especially important.
There are three main types of pauses - The Printer's Pause which is used in grammatical structure and which enables us to understand the meaning of the printed page, as in a period or comma. It is necessary when reading silently in order for the mind to gather the sense by running your eye along succeeding material.
The Caesura which is a rhythmical or "felt" pause. Nearly every line of poetry of three or more beats contains a caesura pause. It is usual for this pause to come near the middle of the line, but it may occur anywhere. Variety and effectiveness is gained by a constant shifting of the caesura pause in succeeding lines. There should not be a complete stop for the caesura as this would break the flow and continuity of the line. The breath should be suspended and no new breath taken. These pauses depend upon emotion and imagination. Commonly used in Shakespearean sonnets.
"He drank the breath of the morning/cool and sweet" - Newbolt
"The quality of mercy/is not strained" - Shakespeare
The Suspensory pause is found usually at the end of a line and is called "enjambment". The voice lingers on the last word of the line to show the end of the line, but no fresh breath is taken as the thought runs-on into the next line. The suspensory pause is applied on a word, rather than between words. It is a suspension of voice and thought on the last syllable of an enjambment line. This suspension gives the effect of a pause, and gives the impression of an initial attack (without actual force) at the beginning of the following line, without interrupting the sense.
Other pauses used in speaking prose and poetry are referred to as:
The anticipatory or dramatic pause (which I utilized in my first presentation) which occurs before a word or phrase, and arouses interest and emphasizes the thought through suspense. This pause often makes a special demand on the dramatic sense of the interpreter, as often punctuation may fail to indicate the need. You have to decide when to put it in.
A deliberative pause occurs after a word or phrase, and allows the listener to grasp the full significance of the meaning of the words just spoken.
A pause at the end of a sentence should be of longer duration than the pause after a phrase. These pauses are known as sense pauses. They are determined by the meaning.
A speaker's pause are as significant as his words. Pauses arouse interest, emphasize thoughts, create suspense, and express a variety of emotions. Only experience can unfold all the possibilities of the pause.
Pauses are available so long as you use them.
The reason why so many young readers fail to mind the pauses is through their lack of confidence in themselves. The excitement of reading before others causes them to speed up their delivery. To them, a pause of a fraction of a second, seems endless. It is a fearful silence full of dreadful possibilities. Confidence will come with experience.
If your mind is concentrated on the meaning and you are anxious to make your meaning clear to the listener, the pause becomes the result of your thinking and feeling.
"Silence is golden" is never more golden than in the midst of speech.
Where does time pressure come from? Well, it's an old story.
Jim Laris, in an article There's No Time Pressure, which appeared in Speaking Out, January, 1993 says:
John Harrison of the N.S.P. has a chapter in his book How to Conquer Your Fears of Speaking Before People called Learning to Live with Pauses. He says:
I have recently returned from a two week Stuttering Specialist workshop at Northwestern University, led by Dr. Hugo Gregory. Dr. Gregory, who also stutters, believes, like Jim Laris, that time pressure goes very deep, back to childhood, and is at the core of stuttering for many people. He also believes that some people who stutter have difficulty with language - that is formulating what they want to say - which adds more pressure. When his clients learn to pause and phrase, they report that their language formulation abilities improve, says Dr. Gregory.
Dr. Starkweather, in his book Fluency and Stuttering, says that the typical course of development of stuttering in children is progressive truncation of the repeated elements, i.e. dogdogdog to dododog to dddog. This occurs because children are trying to hurry through their utterance. Extra time taken by their excessive repetitions and the reactions of others cause them to inject greater force and effort into their speech attempts. There is some evidence to suggest that adults talk faster to children who stutter than they do to non-stuttering children, thus increasing the time pressure (Meyers and Freeman, 1985).
I'll just give you a few facts about pause.
There are two types of pause in ordinary speech: silent and filled (i.e. um, uh, well). There are conventional pauses - ones that a good speaker uses for emphasis or to signal something important. This type of pause carries information and benefits to the listener. There is also the idiosyncratic pause - this often occurs when the speaker is uncertain over word choice, or before longer, more complex sentences.
How often do we pause? We pause an average of every 4.8 words when describing things and every 7.5 words when discussing things. However, we tend not to hear pauses and think of speech as more continuous than it actually is.
Another interesting thing about pause - Ramig and Adams found that when adults, both stutterers and non-stutterers, were asked to slow their speech rate, they did this by both prolonging vowels and increasing the length of their pauses. Kids, however, tended to slow by just increasing their pause time. To return to what John Harrison said, pause is feared because of a possibility of blocking - and what fear does is increase our autonomic arousal (fight or flight mechanism) which often results in an increased rate of speed, and tension.
So how can pause be used in therapy. Of all therapy techniques, it requires the least amount of teaching. The more it's done, the easier it is to use to resist time pressure.
Dr. Gregory teaches what he calls a delayed response - people are asked to count to one or two in his mind before saying words. This is then practised on short phrases, and when the person is ready, transferred into easier and then more difficult speaking situations. Then flexibility is added in pausing - that is, people experiment with pause, pausing before their first name, last name, varying the amount of time they pause, maintaining eye contact. Another therapist I know has people take a drink before speaking, if they have trouble pausing. I know Ann Meltzer uses pauses extensively in her therapy program.
I use pauses in a couple of different ways - focusing on adequate diaphragmatic inhalation, first two seconds then one second, before speaking and in the Van Riperian techniques of cancellation and preparatory set. Van Riper had people cancel after they have stuttered through a word by stopping, pausing to evaluate the stuttering moment and then modifying the stuttering as they say the word again in a different way, i.e. with a repetition instead of a prolongation or block. I do it a bit differently - I have people stop, pause and cancel with an easy voice onset. Preparatory set is used if stuttering is anticipated by pausing before feared words, breathing if necessary, and saying the word with an easy onset. Practising pausing with phrasing - i.e. deliberately stopping after short (4-7) or longer (6-9) phrases - can also be helpful.
John Harrison talks about how people can create their own dead air time - choosing a subject (preferably one with high emotional content) and pausing, deliberately, every 3 to 4 words for 3 to 6 seconds. During the pause, he says, its important to stay in touch with your body, be aware how it feels and maintain eye contact with the audience. After the speech, he requests the audience rate his pause length on a ten point scale in terms of length and compare the ratings with his perception of pause length.
I was going to talk about the use of pause and time pressure in the lives of literary characters but thought it might be more useful to focus on writing as pause. And I will do that by talking about the writer Lewis Carroll.
Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1832, the third (or sixth depending on your source) in a family of eleven children, seven of whom stuttered (six girls and one boy). He was educated at Oxford and became a lecturer in mathematics there in 1855. According to his biographers, he was extremely sensitive about his stuttering and feared speaking spontaneously - his lectures were reported scripted in advance, stiff and solemn. When telling jokes to close friends, however, he could apparently use his stuttering (i.e. pause) well to add suspense to an anecdote. Joseph Attanasio in his article The Dodo was Lewis Carroll, you See: Reflections and Speculations, describes how Carroll's stuttering lead him to his interest in themes of oral aggressiveness, nonsense words and word meanings. Says Attanasio:
Re-reading the Alice stories, I sense a terrific love of language. And this is what I mean by my earlier allusion to writing as pause - the pause between the public (stiff, formal) and private person, the pause between what is seen outwardly and the inner life - a life expressed through writing. I'd like to quote one of my favourite bits from Through the Looking Glass:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose
it to mean - neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything so, after a minute, Humpty Dumpty began again.
"They've got a temper, some of them - particularly verbs, they're the proudest: adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs. However, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"
"Would you tell me, please," said Alice, "what that means?"
"Now you talk like a reasonable child," said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. "I mean by impenetrability that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life".
"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone."
"When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."
"Oh," said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.
"Ah, you should see 'em come around me of a Saturday night," Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side, "for to get their wages, you know."
I'll finish with an audio tape using pause. The first is Winston Churchill. The second is King George VI - who stuttered severely and did have speech therapy while in his 20's - speaking after Germany's surrender in WW 2. The third is the author John Updike, who also stutters, reading from a story call The Alligators and the fourth is Canadian author and actor, Timothy Findlay, talking about the decline of reading in the television age.
CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993
Good afternoon -- my name is Bob Gathman. I am from the State of New Jersey, USA where I have stuttered since the ago of 5. From the size of my forehead you can see that has been for a long time.
It is a privilege and pleasure for me to be here in the beautiful capital of your great country -- and for the opportunity to present The Self-Help Mirror at the Ottawa Conference '93.
Thank you for coming to this workshop. I want this to be a sharing and caring time.
After I have made my presentation, you will have the opportunity to ask questions, to share and to participate in some activities which are related to the workshop theme.
We all look into a mirror every day -- several times a day, in fact. We are interested in how we look. We are also interested in how society -- the outside world -- might view us.
We look into the mirror several times a day, because there always seems to be some aspect of our appearance we feel we would like to change -- to improve upon. When we have convinced ourselves we have done the best we could, we are poised and ready to proceed into the public domain.
The mirror of the mind is the instrument that reflects attributes and flaws in our makeup. Herbert Samuel has said: "The world is like a mirror; frown at it and it frowns at you; smile -- and it smiles too!"
Someone else has said: "Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important."
In other words, your expression reflects the core of your personality -- your inner being. Very often we who stutter figuratively pull a mirror out of our pocket or purse -- which for purposes of comparison we shall call the "stuttering mirror." It exposes me and you as a person who stutters.
This mirror shows our shame, our humiliation. One of two actions occur. Either our furtive glances into this mirror cause us to flinch. We see someone who cannot control particular situations -- or, we may frown at the spectre of our stuttering and resist staring into the mirror, failing to take the opportunity to improve and change that undesirable image.
We hurriedly hide the mirror in pocket or purse -- using it again and again when stuttering experiences torment us.
Consciously, and perhaps unconsciously -- we yearn for the day when we would have the courage to smash or replace this mirror with one which improves the view we have of ourselves.
We may "shop around" -- as it were -- for that replacement. During this long and tedious search our gaze may be tempted to stray to several types and varieties of mirrors.
There are always those that are cloaked in commercialism -- and do not present a true view -- [but] rather one of distortion. For example, a mirror which shows only the struggle to communicate. We are talking about the robot-like techniques of the mechanistic therapies which concentrate on the outer view of perfection, ignoring the underlying feelings related to the problem of stuttering.
The mirror we are focusing on today is the self-help mirror. You may ask: What is the self-help mirror? How can it help me? How can it change the external views and those underlying feelings of the person I see as a stutterer when I look into it?
The self-help mirror, my friends, is a revolving mirror. Its triple dimension reflects the past, scans the present, and peers into the future. It too is a mirror that reveals the attributes -- as well as the flaws -- in our makeup.
However, it helps us find remedies which can correct existing flaws. It is, of course, an imaginary mirror -- as were the others we have previously referred to. Yet, the images the self-help mirror portrays are vividly realistic and unclouded.
This mirror not only exposes the outer self, but also reveals the inner person. It is offered to all who enter through the portals of the self-help arena and participate in the action inside.
The ongoing exposure to a self-help group for people who stutter brings about a remarkable transition in a person -- and in the appearance of that hidden habitual mirror he usually whips out when stuttering surfaces. In the interim, a new mirror has attached itself to the old habitual mirror. It is the self-help mirror. This new, bright and shining mirror projects three premises:
First: I have attributes, strengths and potential -- even though I sometimes stutter.
Second: I intend to focus on the successes involved with my speech, relegating stuttering episodes to the background.
Finally, as self-confidence soars, my response repertoire takes on positive postures (not afraid to say anything). Thus, the self-help mirror becomes an evolving mirror of behavioral change.
This transition does not come easily or quickly. In effect the two mirrors -- the stuttering mirror and the self-help mirror -- create two reflections, while vying for recognition as the mirror of the present.
A communication competition ensues between the two as a person alternately draws each mirror into the open, rotating glances from the stuttering mirror to the self-help mirror -- again and again.
Some people who enter the self-help scene fall prey to a common humanistic trait -- trying to find and follow the quickest way out of a dilemma. Often, newcomers expect to find the magic wand of fluency waving within a self-help group.
When they fail to find a solution to their problem after a brief or sporadic encounter with the self-help process, they throw up their hands and leave. Their action not only obstructs their potential, but also -- tragically -- unhinges the new mirror, the self-help mirror, causing it to pass into oblivion.
As is true in many undertakings, a half-hearted stab at self-help will not reflect a lasting image. There seem to be several similar factors which are relevant to the success and/or failure of both stuttering therapy and the self-help process.
Both need the individual's input in order to create effective output. Other likenesses seem to prevail. One can be found in the following example. In the Stuttering Foundation of America's Publication No. 19, Transfer and Maintenance, Edward Conture writes that for some clients who stutter, the costs of fluency are not worth the hours of practice.
Even when there are some aspects about themselves they really don't like, when the time comes to change these undesirable traits -- according to Conture -- they refuse to do so.
Going into therapy does not mean problems will cease. By the same token, joining a self-help group does not automatically erase dysfluency, as we indicated earlier.
In speaking of the adult entering therapy, Dr. Hugo Gregory emphasizes: " ... the first thing he must understand is that stuttering, as it now exists, was acquired over a period of time, and that change will be a process that will be gradual, not sudden."
Let us return to the self-help environment. The person who has helped him/herself over a period of time -- and has developed a sincere concern for fellow members -- is a person who has enhanced the potential for an improved view in the self-help mirror.
A sure way to reinforce self-esteem is to help someone else. It is easily understandable that stuttering inhibits interaction. Those of us who have used the stuttering mirror many times in our lives, are well aware of that fact. This is one flaw in our makeup that we can correct by participating in the group.
In so doing, we are looking into the self-help mirror with a new and improved perspective. In the self-help environment speech breakdowns are not taboo. The person who is unwilling to share and explore his/her problems and/or feelings within the group, prevents the development of a feeling of trust.
Holding on to one's problem not only inhibits involvement, but also prolongs the predominance of the stuttering mirror. By developing a sense of ownership and belonging in the group, the self-helper also develops a caring relationship for fellow members. Although the stuttering mirror is still hinged to his life, its role has been reduced to the mirror of the past.
The participating, persevering member rises above former patterns of pessimism , replacing them with a gradually changing self-image. The implemented strategies of self-help mutual aid have brought the self-help mirror into full view, eventually overpowering the poor image, thus shattering the hypnotic effect of the stuttering mirror.
The self-help mirror has won out in the battle for recognition as the mirror of the present.
It has released the spectre of failures, wasted time and expense, the feelings of low self-esteem and inadequacy which have haunted all of us.
The mirror of the past is also the rear-view mirror of our lives. A rear-view mirror serves as a warning mirror -- cautioning us to be wary of lurking dangers that caused so much woe previously. These may include avoidance, substitution, and all other factors that destroy one's self-image and control one's life.
Let us be alert to make the proper turns in the road of our lives, so that these destructive elements are always a safe distance behind. They are of the past. Leave them in the past. Do not take the wrong turns and allow them to become road blocks of the present.
Instead, steadily and persistently view the mirror of the present -- the self-help mirror. Cull all important information concerning self-help. Become interested and involved in your group. With the help of the group, when therapy is necessary, make wise choices.
The self-help mirror helps us to look to the future. We are now able to visualize a gradual improvement in home, work, social and school environments. New hopes and incentives arise. A publication called Smiles printed this quote in one of its issues: "Hope is like the sun, which as we journey toward it, cats the shadow of our burden behind us."
As we tread through the trials of our individual lives, each one of us faces a crucial decision: which mirror to choose and use to accompany us on our way, Before making that all-important choice, we might do well to read The Man in the Glass. This poem was printed in a 1983 edition of an American newspaper. I would like us to read it in unison -- and to think about the message it conveys.
Note: The workshops then broke into groups to work on several activities outlined by the workshop leader.
We would like you to list various adjectives describing yourself (your personality).
You will be asked to share this information (if you choose to) within small groups of 3 or 4. For instance:
1. List four adjectives that describe what you look like;
2. List four adjectives that describe what you act like (your personality);
3. List five words ending in "ing" that describe the things you like to do (ie. reading, singing etc.);
4. List five things (objects) that would remind people of you (your possessions or talents you have - type of clothing you wear - your hair style - etc.)
Come together as a whole group and share the information (if you care to).
Also share a talent, a goal, an accomplishment. In other words you are looking into the mirror of self -- you are presenting yourself verbally.
An important consideration is that even though you may be dysfluent at times, the presenting of self involves the whole personality. The dysfluency is only a small portion of you (the self).
Realize you are in an atmosphere of understanding and empathy.
What are your personal reactions to sharing in the group?
Was it difficult to choose adjectives to describe yourself?
The purpose is to make family and friends realize that in spite of the speech problem, the presenting of self (the personality) rises above it.
On a scale of 1-10 what was your comfort level? (1 for least comfortable).
In the brief time that you have interacted and got to know each other, choose a person and list an attribute that you have discovered - or sensed. The purpose is to see beyond the masks we have presented publicly.
For it isn't your father or mother or wife,
Whose judgement upon you must pass.
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back in the glass.
Some people might think you're a straight-shootin' chum,
He's the fellow to please, never mind all the rest,
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And call you a wonderful guy,
If you can't look at him straight in the eye.
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the man in the glass.
He's the fellow to please, never mind all the rest,
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993
Hello, my name is Pierre Lafrance. I am a stutterer; I have been married to Madeleine for 22 years. We have three children: Hugo, 17 years, Sophie, 15 years, and Pascal, who is twelve years old. In 1980, we sponsored a Cambodian by the name of Chet Rom, who was 15 years old.
In my family, two of my sisters and my mother have stuttering problems at different levels. My son Pascal had stuttering problems around the age of five; he now speaks fluently. I myself started dealing with my stuttering when I was 40 years old, thanks to the Association des bégues du Canada Inc. and speech therapy.
My first objective here in this workshop is to allow each one of you to become aware of your own progress and development, and to tell you that it is possible to change your attitudes and behaviours. I am not offering myself as a model; I am only a stutterer who works every day at feeling a little better about myself and my stuttering.
A change in strategy comes from asking two basic questions :
How did I live my stuttering problem in daily life ?
How do I now experience my stuttering problem, following the efforts I have made ?
(reading, therapy, support, volunteering, self-help group, etc.)
As far as I can remember, I started stuttering around the age of ten. At school, I was a model child, a quiet, serious and solitary student, who never asked any questions. I was always afraid I would be asked to answer in class. I wasn't the one who would raise my hand to give an answer. How I loved written exams!
In tenth grade, in the science and math program, one of the French exams at the end of the year was taped by the teacher, in a room where we were alone. The student had to give his or her name and read a text for two minutes. When my turn came, I tried to state my name. The stress adding to my stuttering didn't help, I said "euh" and nothing else. The teacher stopped taping and told me: "I'll give you another chance, stop fooling around and start over!" I tried again, with even more pressure, and the same thing happened. Quite the negative experience.
My youth was not any easier. We were 14 children in my family, and the oldest had to help the youngest, which was my case, more often than not. I could not express my emotions, my feelings, and say no. I didn't dare to take up my own space; I looked forward to leaving home.
My first job allowed me to leave my parents' home. My father had hired me to work as a mechanic in his transportation company. Even though I stuttered, I felt better; I had a certain independence, and a steady job. I spoke very little; I often worked alone, which helped me a great deal.
One day, I met Mado, to whom I am now married. I've often asked myself, "How could she fall in love with me, and after three years, marry me?" Mado would certainly answer to that question, "I loved him for what he was, for his qualities, for his tenderness towards me, and his stuttering problem was not what was uppermost in my mind".
In 1981, I was unemployed; Mado went back to work full-time. I stayed home with the kids. Mado drew up about 60 resumes and I would sign them. When I went job seeking, everything went fine with the written part. But when came time for the interview, I'd lose it all, I stuttered, I was hot, I was sweating, with sweaty palms and shaky feet - the perfect picture of a stutterer facing someone in authority. I felt defensive giving my answers, cringing that he discover that I was a stutterer.
I thought, when I went to an interview, that I would be hired because of my abilities, of my skills, of my work experience. But the employer was always struck by my stuttering. I wanted so much to hide my stuttering, that the opposite occurred. You can imagine the rest. The 18 month period I was without work even hurt our life as a couple; I was no longer the man that Mado had known. I didn't have the energy to turn things around, I was letting myself go. Thinking about it later, I realized that I had a kind of a breakdown.
I got a temporary job for six months with National Defence. Because of this job, I felt better about myself, and I rediscovered my abilities. My wife kept telling me to see someone for my stuttering problem. I would think, ""What does she know about it?" After 38 months of work, that is, six contracts, interspersed with unemployment periods, I got a permanent job.
Hope was reborn. I had a steady job, which meant security for my family. Now I could do something about my stuttering. It was very difficult for me to deal with my problem. I was scared. I'd had the address and phone number of the Association des bégues du Canada (ABC) for six months.
I asked myself the following questions:
Can I change something in my life ?
Am I convinced that I can make this change ?
Do I realize that I must become responsible for myself ? That no one else can do it for me?
Am I ready to ask for help ?
I met someone who had been helped by this group, and she encouraged me to do the same thing she had done. After that, it took me two weeks to initiate the process. I found answers to my questions and I told myself: "If I can manage that, it will be the first time I do something for myself. I am important enough for me to act."
I phoned ABC to get information on their group. How could I tell my wife about what I had started ? The night before the first meeting, around 11 pm, I told her that the next day I was meeting this self-help group. It was hard for me to tell her that, but afterwards, what a relief.
At the first weekly meetings of the Association, I was defensive. I was looking for hidden agendas. I met people who could control their speech, and I was not a hundred percent convinced. A few months later, I decided to take up private therapy, rather than group therapy. I had skeletons in my closet I did not want to reveal to others.
Another challenge, how to ask my boss for two hours every Monday morning to go to therapy? I said to him: "Can I take my sick leave to go for therapy for my stuttering problem?" I couldn't say the word stutterer, even though he knew I was a stutterer. He accepted. So I could not back out.
My therapy is ongoing, I go at my own rate with the support of the Association, of Mado and of my kids, who have always encouraged and supported me in this endeavour. It's not easy to change, to question myself, to accept changes in my environment. I also had to accept a different relationship with the people around me, at work and with things that were important to me.
In the course of my therapy, I learned that I had to work at maintaining my acquired fluency. That meant getting more involved to communicate, to exchange, to state my point of view. The common point in all this is my own action, my own beliefs. The key word is me, and taking charge of my stuttering problem. I am able to say no and to do what I want. No longer are others directing my life.
I've learnt to enjoy positive speech experiences, no matter how small, but enough to keep me going. I accept that I am different when it comes to communicating. I am allowed to have relapses, and I am able to deal with them.
One of the triggers for the change in strategy happened as follows. One evening, during a meeting, I threw out an idea: "The Association should hold a one-day forum." Laurent Bouchard answered: "If you want a forum, organize it, and we'll support you." That was not the answer I was expecting. I felt it as provocation. I accepted the challenge; I organized a team. I had many phone calls to make; that was the hardest part.
Working as a team is not always easy. One must:
take the time to listen to the other members of the group;
defend one's position;
accept that the group reject one's idea;
be willing to share ideas;
accept and respect one another's differences.
The success of this first experience was a motivating factor. Since then, I have filled different positions within the Association such as treasurer and member of different committees for the parent-child day and the one-day forum. I took a 45-hour course on support relationships so as to be better able to get involved and be a moderator during meetings. For the last two years, I have been president of the Association des bégues du Canada and editor of the newsletter "COMMUNIQUER".
True enough, I liked getting involved, I was ready to make real efforts and live different experiences such as giving lectures, or be on t.v. or on the radio. This required a lot of my time, and understanding on the part of my family. I answer all the incoming calls to the Association (some 200 a year). This allows me to practice my fluency skills and to take the time to listen to the caller. Try listening to a stutterer on the phone - it's not always easy.
I am stock keeper and I supervise two employees. Moreover, every day I meet foremen from different departments concerning items that are late. I've had a phone at work for the last two years. Before, I would go to the different departments to do my work; I felt more comfortable that way. Now, I use my phone regularly.
So as not to stay only in the confines of the closed world which stuttering is, for the last three years I have been involved in my parish as one of the directors of the recreation centre. For two years, I took care of the benefit-supper for the parish. From the pulpit, I had to invite the parishioners at the three week-end masses. For the last four years, I have been volunteer for the Tour de l'île de Montréal, and was team leader for two of those years. At the last one, on June 6, I had 43 volunteers in my team. I phoned people who were absent on information night. A few days before the event, some volunteers bowed out. I had to call my operations chief a few times, plus find volunteers at the last minute.
Sunday morning, I met with my team at 4:45 am. Five volunteers were missing. My assistant and I had to divide the volunteers in groups of two, three or four persons, according to the plan established for my section by the race authorities. Just think of it: How do you work with a group of 35 people, when you know perhaps only eight of them ? It was quite a challenge, and pretty stressful, but I mastered my stress because I wanted to live this experience. I increased my range of action, and my speech was fine.
What I am doing here today, speaking of my life experience with a group which I know very little, will also help me a great deal with my stuttering problem.
After seven years of a new strategy, I would like to conclude on the following remarks:
It is possible to change.
Solving our problems alone is not always easy, and we often need outside help to guide us.
We often have to act on our own to operate a major change in our lives.
Relapse is always a distinct possibility.
You have to find people able to help you in moments of trouble.
You have to change your perception of yourself.
You must not be afraid of becoming more involved. This action is more efficient than simply having therapy.
Everything is negotiable, and everything is subject to positive change.
After each communication experience, take the time to analyze your performance, to note your progress and
to enjoy your small victories.
A habit is a habit. Not something you get rid of overnight, but little by little, by sheer
perseverance. MARK TWAIN
In the first part, I emphasized :
- that change is always possible;
- that our daily habits and attitudes are important;
- that these habits influence one another and ultimately our health.
This part is made up of self-assessment exercises, whose goals can be summarized in the following four words :
1- AWARENESS (look)
What do you do to feel comfortable with your problem ?
2. EDUCATION (learn)
How would you improve your situation if you were to make certain changes in your lifestyle ?
Get information, draw up a plan. Seek help from others if necessary.
3. ACTION (choose)
Implement your plan.
4. ASSESSMENT (react)
Did you reach your objectives ? If not, change what needs to be changed. Congratulate yourself for what
you did accomplish.
Please indicate on the scale how the statements reflect your attitudes concerning your communication skills.
1. Generally, when I live happy or difficult events, I talk about it to someone.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
2. Generally, when stressful situations occur, I react with anxiety and I lack self-confidence.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
3. Generally, I consider myself an open individual, easy to get along with and warm.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
4. Generally, I consider myself a cold, hostile and direct individual.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
5. Generally, whether in social interactions or in group discussions, I have a tendency to control
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
6. Generally, when I discuss something, I am calm and relaxed.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
7. Generally, I feel comfortable with my emotions.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
8. Generally, I am afraid that my stuttering problem bothers other people.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
9. Generally, I accept the fact that I am different in speaking situations.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
10. Generally, I realize how serious my problem is, but this does not hinder my functioning.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
11. Generally, I am on the defensive (reluctant) when I am questioned about my gestures or my use of words.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
12. Generally, my problem prevents me from doing things that I like.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
13. Generally, I am aware of the effect my behaviour has on others.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
14. Generally, I take the initiative to clear any misunderstanding as soon as it arises.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
15. Generally, I accept that others give me feedback on my behaviour.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
16. Generally, I limit my conversations to the strict minimum.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
17. Generally, I am involved in the communication process.
Totally false 1 2 3 4 5 Very true
Here are a few attributes; read them over rapidly and tick off those that you think describe you accurately. Don't worry about repetitions or contradictions. Try to be honest and tick off attributes that reflect you as you really are, not as you wish to be. If you want to do more, ask a fried to tick off the attributes that according to him or her describe you best. Then compare his or her answers with your own.
assertive aggressive considerate authoritarian
tactful critical direct domineering
reliable flexible formal frank
grouchy hostile rigid independent
informal intolerant loyal individualistic
thoughtful strict simple indifferent
sociable worried adaptable certain
Attitudes and behaviours which increase the effectiveness of interpersonal communication are stated below. Assess yourself for each of the items, using the following scale :
ALMOST NEVER SELDOM SOMETIMES OFTEN ALMOST ALWAYS
1 2 3 4 5
1. I communicate clearly, concisely and eloquently.
1 2 3 4 5
2. I manage to put my point across.
1 2 3 4 5
3. I am attentive to verbal and non-verbal cues given by others.
1 2 3 4 5
4. I check what I am understanding from what others are telling me.
1 2 3 4 5
5. I make sure the person I am speaking to has understood what I meant to say.
1 2 3 4 5
6. I suit the arguments to the person I am trying to convince.
1 2 3 4 5
7. I accept the fact hat I am different in speaking situations.
1 2 3 4 5
8. I state my opinion within a group without being asked.
1 2 3 4 5
9. In a meeting, I feel listened to and free to express myself.
1 2 3 4 5
10. I am able to say why I am ill at ease in my communication interactions.
1 2 3 4 5
11. I ask questions when the situation is confusing.
1 2 3 4 5
These three exercises have no scientific value. They are meant for personal development, to help you figure out where you are in a given moment of your life. This will help you become aware of what you have accomplished in fighting your speech problem. In a few months, do these exercises again, and compare the results with the previous ones. It will be easier for you to work on what seems important to you.
To conclude, A CHANGE OF STRATEGY means
- a choice, a decision taken to solve your speech problem;
- a lifestyle you develop to reach the highest possible state of well-being;
- a process, a series of changes that will add life to your years and perhaps years to your life.
If you want, you can increase your level of well-being while respecting your own limits, that is your right and your privilege.
It's all up to YOU.
CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993
I'm not sure "maintenance" is the appropriate word - I think that "refinement" or "growth" more aptly defines what we want to happen. After a lifelong pattern of stuttering and then a few weeks of therapy, the fluency attained is frequently unnatural sounding, for example, monotone. I don't think we want to "maintain" this stilted fluency. For most of us, I don't think we need to continue practising at two seconds per syllable or even at the word level. I think we want to refine our fluency and hopefully make it more automatic.
Research suggests thats, for the average adult who stutters, in order to maintain fluency, regular practice of the fluency skills is necessary. However, this research has been short-term ie. the people have been followed-up in the first few years after receiving therapy. As with learning any skill, it takes more practice in the beginning stages. If some adult stutterers have practised their fluency skills for a couple of years and if they have subsequently found that it was no longer necessary to practise their fluency skills nor attend to their speech, then they have not come back and told us.
My observations of friends who stutter and my personal experience suggests that the growth toward fluent speech is a gradual one, perhaps because most of us for one reason or another do not practise the fluency skills consistently. When I have practised the fluency skills more consistently, that's when I have made more progress. In my experience, I have had to practise feared words and phrases hundreds of times and eventually, automaticity has developed for these feared words and this automatic speech is of course, very natural-sounding speech. However, I still need to work on developing an overall smooth speech pattern in certain situations. And the average person who stutters finds it very difficult to maintain their fluency after therapy.
A couple of years ago, Craig and Calver, in Australia, surveyed over a hundred people who stutter on a self-help group mailing list and found that 73% believed they had relapsed since therapy, and of these, 93% believed they had recovered from the relapse by smooth speech practice, attending a self-help group, or by seeking further professional help. Sixty percent attributed their relapse to perceived pressure by society to speak faster, and about twenty-five percent felt they were embarrassed by their speech style using fluency skills so tended to not use them.
These 85% are really saying the same thing - their speech using the fluency skills did not sound natural enough to them - either it was too slow or too different. I wonder if they were expecting too much too soon, or if they could have modified their use of the fluency skills to make their use more acceptable.
What typically happens is that when we do monitor our speech and use the fluency skills, we feel in control and able to make choices, not only about our speech, but also about other aspects of our lives. Other times, we are our "old selves", which is stuttering, avoiding, being afraid, feeling helpless and inadequate, and using a hiding pattern in relating to others. We feel like two people inside one body. One of us is operating from a position of strength, when we use the fluency skills and control our speech, and the other approaches people from a position of weakness.
Being able to control our speech makes such a difference to our whole life, that it is worth the effort and time it takes to practise and perfect our fluency skills. Stuttering is a motor-control problem. We don't know what causes stuttering, but the end result is a motor-control problem. It could be neurophysiological - why we have difficulty with timing and coordination of our speech muscles, or it could be a problem of fear and conditioning. Whatever the cause, I think we need to take responsibility for the situation that we find ourselves in and make compensations for it. The fluency skills have given us a way to manage the motor-control problem. In turn, use of the fluency skills decreases our fears.
What are you saying to yourself when you get that feeling of fear that makes you avoid? "I can't do it, I can't control my speech." You need to break that cycle of fear by controlling your speech. And when you first try to do something different with your speech, it is going to sound unnatural. But the more you practise and the more you refine your fluency skills, the more natural your speech will sound and feel and the faster you will be able to speak.
The basic fluency shaping skills are: vowel prolongation, easy onsets, light contacts, and blending. The purpose of prolongation of vowels is to slow the rate of speech. Some programs also prolong certain consonants initially. The rationale for slowing the speech is to enable the speaker to feel the movements of speech and to have time to make changes in his speech motor behaviour. It's also important to learn to produce good sound - to be able to hold that steady state and produce good sound, to go from vowel to vowel and keep the sound flowing.
Easy onsets on vowels is a strategy to start your voice easy. You can think of your vocal folds as two guitar strings - they can't make sound unless they vibrate. What happens with a hard onset is that the person jams his vocal folds together so tightly that they can not start to vibrate to make sound. Then when enough pressure builds up underneath the vocal folds, they burst open and the sound comes out explosively. When a person who stutters feels "stuck", he is likely jamming his vocal folds together so tightly that no air can get through to produce sound. To produce an easy onset, you just closely approximate your vocal folds and let a little breath out first to start the vocal cords into vibration. So, it is breath, then low volume increasing to normal volume. You want a gradual progression from breath to voice. You do not want to hear your voice click on. Initially, you exaggerate the breathy onset, and then refine it with more practice.
On consonants, people who stutter make hard contacts. When a person stutters, he frequently jams his lips together or jams his tongue against the roof of his mouth. This holds the air back and you can not have sound without air or breath. For example, on the word "kite", silently pretend you are going to stutter on the word "kite" and jam the back of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, feel the tension, and how you are holding back the air. So, for a light contact, you think of just lightly touching your lips or lightly touching your tongue behind the teeth, a slow transition into the vowel, and an easy onset on the vowel. Initially, you make the contact so light hat it's difficult to understand the word unless you are watching the speaker's lips. It's important to concentrate on how it feels. You have an image in your mind of how you make hard contacts and you need to develop the opposite image of an extremely light contact. Later, when you put the word in a sentence and speak at a normal rate, it sounds very natural and pleasant. If you have difficulty making a light contact on "m", try starting with your lips together, very relaxed, then just open them, ease into the vowel and stretch the vowel slightly (e.g. mother). Again ,if you have difficulty with a tongue behind the teeth sound, like "l", start with your tongue up in the position for "l", relax, drop your tongue, ease into the vowel, and stretch the vowel slightly.
The final fluency shaping skill I'll discuss is blending. You could also think of this as continuous phonation. When we stutter, we stop the flow of sound. So, to be fluent we want to keep the sound flowing without pauses between words. You say the phrase or breath group as if it was one word. When you first learned the fluency skills, you may have practised taking a slow breath in and a longer breath out. So, this is an example of later needing to refine your fluency skills.
In the beginning stages of maintenance, it would be a good plan to set aside an hour a day and practise at the word and phrase levels with easy onsets and light contacts, as well as reading for at least 10-20 minutes per day to integrate your skills in running speech. Once you have mastered the basic skills in your practising at home, then it may be time to think about improving the naturalness of your new speech pattern.
The naturalness of your speech has to do with loudness, pitch, pitch variability, rate and pause time. It is very typical for many people, after therapy, to speak at a low pitch and with a soft voice. Speaking at an extremely slow rate and especially in a monotone voice, tends to lower your pitch. Try raising your pitch just a notch, and decreasing the amount of time you are practising at, for example, two seconds per syllable. Sometimes, people feel they need to use a soft quiet voice or they won't be able to use easy onsets. Experiment with reading louder and still using easy onsets and light contacts. To get more pitch variety, you may want to practise the same phrase over and over until you get the right emphasis on the right words, instead of being so monotone.
Talking too fast and not pausing appropriately are typical problems. It's very difficult to be objective about how fast you are talking. It's helpful to tape a minute of your reading and a minute of a phone call and calculate the rated of both, using a calculator. You may be able to read fluently at 180-200 syllables a minute, but speak fluently at only 130-150 syllables per minute. In the reading, you did not have to formulate your thoughts, So, you need to have realistic expectations and adjust your rate according to how familiar the material is that you are talking about. Recovering stutterers typically find that speaking between 150 and 180 syllables per minute is a good rate to achieve control and naturalness. Understanding why your fluency has broken down is usually helpful. If you want to try to calculate your rate, I'll explain how. On your calculator, enter 1+1=, which will show up as 2 on the calculator. So you have already entered the first two syllables, then just press the equals sign for each subsequent syllable. So you start to count on the third syllable by pressing the equals sign. Typically, the best way to control your rate is just to concentrate on a fluency skill, such as light contacts, and your rate will take care of itself.
If pausing appropriately is a problem for you, you may want to try writing out your phone messages and marking breath groups with slashes, or write out just one breath group per line on the paper.
One final word on naturalness: if you need to say a particular word at work, it's not enough to just practise the word alone. Then it is apt to come out unnatural sounding. Practise the phrase or breath group. The sounds that come before and after a word influence how you say that word. Emphasize the right words, so it's not monotone. Think of the tone of voice you want to have as you are speaking to that person. Say it over to yourself 25 times in the car on the way to work. Take it for granted that you will be afraid to say it, and want to avoid, but go ahead anyway and say it as best you can the way you have practised.
There are several factors that may hinder you from using the fluency skills such as being overtired, or your attitudes or coping patterns. Try to arrange your life so that you get enough sleep and rest, and are not rushing around, and give priority to your practice times e.g. first thing in the morning when you are fresh.
Many people who stutter have coping patterns of avoidance and denial. It is very difficult to listen to ourselves stutter. For years we have been avoiding this part of ourselves that we don't like and we don't want to listen to ourselves on tape. Yet other people have to listen to this part of ourselves all the time. Some research has shown that those who tape their speech and listen back and evaluate it, make more progress.
Another aspect of coping patterns of avoidance and denial have to do with repressing our thoughts and feelings. This, of course, creates tension and inner conflict, and makes it harder to use the fluency skills. To grow in this area, you need to have a trusting relationship with someone and talk about your feelings. Perhaps you can find this someone in your self-help group.
Your attitudes affect your motivation. Your attitudes are what you are saying to yourself. A primary requirement is that you need to be convinced that the fluency skills work. That may mean concentrating on learning to say something that is important to you and that the payoffs are worth it, e.g. "Hello" on the phone or introducing yourself fluently.
To sum up, maintaining your fluency or refining your fluency seems to be a lifelong process for the adult who stutters. Research, observations and personal experience all indicate that the more you practise the fluency skills, the more fluent you will become. But, don't feel guilty and don't give up if you find that you can't practise the fluency skills every day and that you can't use them consistently. That is the experience of the average person who stutters. Just accept that it will take a long time to deal with this problem and that it will take a lot of persistence and courage. But the payoffs are definitely worth it!
CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993
Good afternoon and welcome to the LIVING AND LEARNING WITH A CHILD WHO STUTTERS workshop. My name is Lise Cloutier-Steele, and I am the founder and coordinator of the Ontario Stuttering Project, a provincial advocacy group dedicated to supporting parents of children who stutter.
First, I would like to make it clear to you that I am not a fluency specialist, and the material presented to you in this workshop is based on my own personal experiences. Over the years, however, I have been in contact with many Canadian and U.S. specialists who remain supportive of my efforts. I might add that I am grateful to all the contacts I have established, more particularly in the last four years, as their support and kind words have given me hope and the strength I needed to carry on.
I am the mother of a 14-year-old child who stutters. I will not be getting into the trials and tribulations of living with an adolescent... I'm sure I could gather enough material to conduct a workshop on that alone, but the focus of this presentation will be on how we made it here today, still in one piece, and able to talk about the sad times and the many good times too.
For several years, my son was treated unfairly at school. Not only was he teased to death by his peers, but some of his teachers were insensitive as well. Looking back on all this now, I remember how his situation made me feel; it hurt me deeply to have to send him off to a place where he simply didn't belong. Some of my dealings with education professionals were extremely frustrating; they often left me feeling angry and bitter. At one point, I was considering removing my son from school altogether. I was seriously thinking about teaching him myself at home where I could protect him forever from the negative attitudes. Fortunately for us, we did find a good school which has made a big difference in my son's life.
I realize now that there were a lot of things I could have done to prevent almost all of the unfortunate situations my son experienced. Let me take you back to when I first noticed the impediment in his speech. Lucas was just 3 years old. Specialists say that stuttering can begin any time between the ages of 3 and 6. (1) An estimated 4 to 5 per cent of children show some signs of stuttering. Most of them, particularly the girls, outgrow the condition in a few months. In these cases, their fluency skills may be trailing the development of their other mental abilities. Once their skills catch up to one another, then speech begins to flow. In an article published in the October 29, 1992, Globe and Mail, Professor Luc De Nil, a research associate at the Toronto Hospital acknowledged, "You never know which one is going to outgrow it." He went on to say: "My advice is that if you're a bit concerned about your child, then go to a qualified speech pathologist with experience in treating stuttering." (2) Some specialists now believe that early intervention with speech therapy can help prevent stuttering from becoming a life-long affliction."
I didn't know anything about stuttering when my son was just 3 years old, so I tried to get my hands on some literature on this disability only to find out that there wasn't very much out there. Another puzzling element for me at that time was that my son's stuttering was intermittent for approximately three years. He would have 3-4 months of fluent speech, and then go back to stuttering for a month or two. The intermittency in his speech made me look somewhat silly every time I took him to his pediatrician to report that there was something wrong with the way my child spoke. Lucas was always fluent when it came time to visit his doctor. Family members and friends kept telling me that I was making too much of this. I can't tell you how many times I was told not to worry about it... "He'll grow out of it, just you wait and see". I didn't want to wait around for it to get worse, and by the time he was four, he started a pre-school therapy program at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. A year later, Lucas went on the Home Care Program where a speech-language pathologist visited him at his school. These sessions lasted until he was ten years old at which time, he decided that he no longer wanted to be removed from his classroom to do speech exercises. This is very typical of children who stutter, they get to a point where they feel that being removed from class to do speech therapy further exposes them as a child with a problem. After all, the rest of his classmates don't know what he does in therapy; some might even be jealous because he gets a special outing and they don't. More teasing may be triggered, so the child who stutters may choose to do without this form of therapy to avoid bringing on more attention to his dysfluency.
Without the therapy, my son's speech quickly deteriorated. Another important factor which contributed to the deterioration of his speech was that there was no rapport between teachers and speech-language pathologists. Keep in mind that parental involvement is instrumental in opening the lines of communication.
Before I go any further, let's discuss the early stages of stuttering and some of the preventive measures a parent can take to help their child.
1. As indicated earlier, it is important to seek treatment for a young child who is showing signs of dysfluency. The first step is to see your pediatrician. It's quite possible that the pediatrician may not know of a good speech therapy program tailored to your child's needs, if so, contact your local hospital. Unfortunately, not all hospitals offer treatment programs for children who stutter, but in recent years, many speech-language pathologists have entered into private practice, and I know of at least four programs now available in the Ottawa area. Remember that it's O.K. to ask questions about the kind of treatment offered; how it can benefit your child; what are the qualifications of the speech-language pathologist; the success rate of his/her program.
2. If your child is not at the pre-school level, you can contact your local school board, and inquire about the speech therapy services offered through their system.
3. When you register your child at school for the first time, tell the principal and the teacher about the stuttering. Ask school officials to formally identify his communication disorder. If everyone involved in his education process is informed about his speech difficulty at the outset, it would facilitate his integration amongst the rest of the children who can all speak fluently.
4. Another thing which can help is to prepare the child who will soon be in contact with a large group of children who are fluent. I never thought of doing this, but if I had to do it over again, I would have told my son that all the other children in his class would speak much faster. Perhaps, it would have been less shocking for him. After all, he was coming from an environment where his speech never posed a problem.
5. Having been notified of the speech difficulty, school officials can alert the teachers. All schools have a system in place by which the needs of the child and of the teachers can be formally addressed. Not only will your child need extra help, but so will the teacher, who perhaps, has never taught a child who lives with this difficulty. Documentation on teacher tips is available through speech therapy centres, but not much information on stuttering exists within our school systems. If your child's speech-language pathologist has information on Teacher Tips, bring it to the school. It would be the first step in establishing communication between your child's speech therapist and the teacher.
Some of you may think that I'm making too much of an issue about informing the school with regard to your child's stuttering. It's pretty basic stuff, and, of course, many of you have probably done that already. However, in talking to a lot of parents over the past year, I know that many have done just as I did. We let our feelings of guilt and shame stand in the way of establishing a good communication network between home and school. I know of teenagers presently flunking out in high school simply because they are not orally active in class, and consequently, they are marked accordingly. Surely, we can all remember what it was like when we attended school; the memory work, the recitals, the oral presentation of book reports, the importance of raising your hand and volunteering an answer which would let your teacher know that you understand what he/she has been trying to teach you; the show- and-tell sessions, and those speeches everyone had to prepare at the beginning of each school year so we could tell our new classmates about all the fun things we did over the summer. Well, guess what? Things haven't changed much in that regard; our kids have to do pretty much the same. The emphasis remains on verbal communication, and if a child is to succeed, his speech will be instrumental in getting him through the elementary and secondary school years.
Getting rid of the guilt feelings a parent may have about his child's stuttering is another positive step. In June 1990, I went to a speech conference in Anaheim, California. This event was coordinated by the San Francisco-based National Stuttering Project. At this conference, I attended a workshop by Janice Westbrook, a speech-language pathologist from Texas. To this day, I believe that it was Janice's presentation which made me come to grips with our situation. She proceeded to greet everyone and then she asked the parents to tell her how our children's stutter made us feel. Of course, she got a lot of appropriate responses. Some said it made them feel sad, guilty, helpless, discouraged... all the normal feelings. Then Janice said that the responses some of us gave were great, but asked if there wasn't something we had forgotten. As no one could come up with anything else, she asked us to think about this one: "Doesn't watching your child stutter drive you crazy at times?" The room fell silent for a few moments, but then there were a few chuckles as many of us realized that this woman had just voiced what we often felt in our hearts, but being the good parents that we are, we would never dream of being vocal about such a feeling. So there I sat; my secret was out and it felt great. Yes, I did find my son's stuttering hard to take at times, but it didn't mean that I was a bad mother. Janice Westbrook told us that it was O.K. to have such feelings, we wouldn't be normal if we didn't admit to them. Only then did I realize that the key to helping my son live with this difficulty was right here in my heart. I had to face my own feelings about it and move on from there. And that I did. From then on, I refused to let anyone blame me for his stutter. I could not be held responsible for his stuttering in that this communication disorder is believed to be neurologically-based, and all the recent scientific research still points in that direction. I no longer look for cures or "quick fixes" but I encourage my son to make use of speech targets to help achieve fluency. If my son has a bad speech day, we know that tomorrow will bring a better one.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself or my son, I started to devote more time at finding ways to improve his life at home and at school. To this day, he needs some convincing to go out and do things, but fun times have to be had. We make it a point to notice all the great things he does, anything to make him feel good about himself. He gets a good note from one of his teachers, it stays on the fridge door for the longest time.
In preparing for a television interview I did last March, I was asked to describe the impact that my son's stuttering has had on our family. I was surprised by my own response which was something like this:
I don't think that there will ever be a time when I can say that his stuttering performance has been just great, with very little impact on our family life. It's been difficult; it still is, but I have now become more realistic about my approach to the difficult situations surrounding his stutter. Things are definitely different for us, and perhaps the only way I can describe the impact stuttering has had on our lives is by giving you a few concrete examples. Take dinner for instance. Dinner at our house can never be like dinner at your house, I told the interviewer. The rest of us have to be extremely patient when Lucas speaks. I always have to make sure that he gets equal time to speak even though his brother is just dying to interrupt. If interrupted, there will be more fluctuations in his speech, and there's a strong possibility that he will give up altogether. I always have to think about slowing down my own speech, so he can take his cue from me to make better use of his speech targets. I have learned to accept that he may not pick up the phone when it rings... even though he may be standing right next to it. There are times when I find that particularly exasperating, especially if I'm in the midst of baking a batch of cookies or scrubbing a pot. He needs coaxing when it comes to going out to be with people he has never met. We now look at these situations as an excellent opportunity to break some new ground. When he was small, I would be afraid to let him talk to strangers, but deep down I knew that someday he would have to do this on his own, just as I knew that I would have to stop writing notes for him whenever he needed one to go the store. Certainly, there were occasions when our family avoided outings just to spare Lucas from unnecessary trauma.
As for the school setting, that too has been difficult. I remember one particular instance when my son was in Grade 5. There was a school play that he wanted me to attend, and even though I was really busy at work, I made time to go. When I got there, I sat in a classroom filled with parents anxious to watch their children entertain us. My son took part in the opening song only. He was the only student to return to his seat for the rest of the program. I could see that he didn't mind being excluded as he had been made to feel that he could never compete with all the other children's speech abilities, but it certainly had a very devastating effect on me. I had to work late that same evening to make up for the time I had lost at school watching everyone else's child making significant oral contributions while my own child just sat there. How sad an experience for a parent, but instead of leaving the school feeling hurt, I should have said something to the teacher. Just this year, Lucas had to memorize a poem. He knew it well, but when came time to say it in front of his teacher, he experienced a block, and could not get back on track. He could feel some anxiety build up as he feared his teacher would think that he had not spent enough time learning his exercise, so he rushed back to his desk to get a pencil and paper, and wrote the rest of it down for her. Quick thinking on his part to get out of another stuttering jam, but the reality is that he encounters situations such as these every single day of his life. There have also been situations when he has done without rather than go for extra marks simply because his stutter stood in the way. For example, in mid-term last year, his English teacher informed the class that bonus marks would be awarded to those students who could come up and tell her which books they had read. When I first saw the teacher's note about this, I told my son that going after those extra marks should be a cinch for him in that he reads all the time. Ever since he was small, he loved to read. He looked at me with his special "Are you crazy" look and managed to blurt out: "Like, I can go up to her and tell her about the books I've read." There I was on the phone with the teacher the following day to ask if Lucas could hand in a written report about the books he had read instead of having to go and see her. My son could have easily gone to his teacher to ask that of her himself, but he was too afraid to get turned down, and afraid that she wouldn't have had the time to hear him out if he made the request.
Finally, all of these examples I have just discussed clearly show that stuttering plays a major role in everyday family and school life. It just can't be helped. A child who stutters needs all the support he can get to make it through each day. He/she must develop inner strength to cope. You as a parent can help your child to do just that. It's hard, but it can be done. I have heard of many success stories to support this view.
As the parent of a child who stutters, you can expect that teachers will want to ask you what they can do to help. Many parents have asked me what should they reply when faced with such a request. In the January/February 1993 Issue of my newsletter, I reproduced an article which had been prepared by Julie Mazzuca, Speech-Language Pathologist at the Metropolitan Toronto Separate School Board so that parents would have something to bring to teachers looking for some basic tips on how to help a child who stutters. At this point, I would like to share some of the highlights of this article. Not only are they good tips for teachers, but parents can equally adopt almost all of these suggestions to make the family setting more stress-free.
When the classroom teachers is confronted with a student who stutters, s/he may not know how to react. Sometimes, in an honest effort to help, teachers are often perplexed because a stuttering child becomes more shy, less talkative and responsive to their efforts. Speech interruptions may become more frequent and pronounced. What follows are answers to some of the more commonly asked questions teachers have. Whether or not your child has a personal speech-language pathologist, you as a parent have the right to ask that the following strategies be implemented in the classroom, especially if your child has been formerly identified as a child living with a speech difficulty.
Listen to what s/he says, not how s/he says it. Let the student take all the time s/he needs to make a point. Don't ask him/her to "slow down" or "relax" - you will only draw attention away from the topic to the speech difficulty. (Principal at St. Paul's School)
If the student who stutters is excused from oral classroom work, s/he may feel momentary relief, but the next time s/he faces such a situation, the fear and anxiety may be even greater.
We all feel better once we face a feared situation, and the student who stutters is no exception. When you speak to him/her, explain that excusing him/her from oral assignments won't help, because eventually s/he will have to learn to speak to a group.
To make things easier, teachers might suggest some of the following:
. The use of a slide projector for the presentation of material (the student may feel more relaxed
and stutter less if the class is not looking directly at him/her.
. Tape record part of the presentation. People who stutter are usually more fluent when they talk with one person, or speak into a tape recorder in the privacy of their own home.
. Arrange for the student to meet with you two or three times before the presentation day for "rehearsal". Once s/he knows you are on his/her side, anxiety will lessen.
. Students with severe stuttering problems might be given the opportunity to do the first few oral presentations privately in front of the teacher, the next few in front of a small group, and gradually working up to presenting in front of the entire class.
Students who stutter have difficulty in any activity which involves speaking to a group. Imagine how much more difficult it must be to try and speak in a language which is unfamiliar in both vocabulary and syntax.
Encourage the student to speak in class, and ask questions that you know s/he knows. If by the end of the term, you are unsure of his/her ability, speak to him/her privately for a half hour or so to assess his/her skills. If you still feel that the student might have more facility than s/he is able to show you, tape record questions and set a reasonable time limit for him/her to record the answers.
Remember that stuttering is a speaking problem, not a learning problem. Anxiety, fear and tension may work together to prevent the student from being able to express what s/he knows.
It is important that the rest of the staff (especially those involved with the student and the guidance department) be made aware of the problem. Help everyone to realize how this speech problem might affect the student's work in their class.
Often, very young children don't take too much notice of differences between themselves and their peers. By grade one though, there may be problems with teasing and imitating. Some teachers have introduced the topic of individual differences to the class. They have asked each student, and themselves, to reveal a trait or habit which makes him/her different from the others. Emphasize the idea that we are all different and that these differences make us more and not less valuable.
If the student is clearly upset by teasing, speak to him/her privately - at a time when s/he will not feel s/he is being punished (e.g. don't keep the student in at recess for a chat). Tell the student that you know s/he is having difficulty with certain people in the class. Help him/her identify those few who are teasing and also help him/her recognize that most of the class is on his/her side. Let the student know that you are available for more talks, if s/he wishes. Assure the student that you don't regard his/her speech as a problem and that you are really interested in what s/he has to say.
To increase self-confidence, consider making the student your helper. Maximize and praise his/her skills and achievements - be it in math, or simply his/her neatness.
Teasing may be a very difficult problem and one which is not easily solved in the upper grades. It will depend a great deal on the personality of the student. Probably the most helpful and positive move would be for the student to speak to the class about the problem. Most children respond sensitively when a problem is discussed openly and many speech-language pathologists encourage students who stutter to discuss the problem openly with their peers.
A classroom discussion of individual differences with personal input from everyone may also prove beneficial in the intermediate and senior grades.
I have encountered a few problems with teachers in the past simply because they knew that my son was being treated for stuttering by an external specialist who was not connected in any way with their school board. Most of these teachers thought that because the problem was being taken care of, they didn't have to do anything. This kind of attitude is wrong. Parents should encourage communication between speech-language pathologists, whether they provide a therapy service from within the education system or as an external fluency specialist. If the teachers remain unaware of the progress made by your child in therapy, they would not be able to help the him/her maintain his/her current fluency skills when at school.
Speech-language pathologists are the professionals qualified to manage stuttering in children and adults. They work directly with the speech problem itself; help the student deal with his/her problem and assist parents and teachers and all those involved with the student to understand and deal more effectively with the stuttering.
The speech-language pathologist normally contacts the classroom teacher to discuss the student's therapy program. The classroom teacher may be asked to help by documenting the student's daily speech behaviour using a simple checklist, or s/he might be asked to set aside a short time each day to allow the child who stutters to practice the techniques s/he has learned in therapy. (Mr. Somenzi).
The amount and severity of stuttering is affected by the situation and the alert teacher can help structure the school environment so that the student will encounter more success than failure. For example, avoid asking questions on a day when s/he is having a great deal of difficulty speaking, but do capitalize on a good day.
Another important topic I would like to discuss with you today is how stuttering affects your child's siblings. At our house, my youngest son has always had the additional stress of having to deal with an older brother who was not always tolerant of his speech difficulty. As teachers have to deal with students who like to tease, parents may also have to deal with teasing at home. Both my children have always had my undivided attention, but because of all the unfortunate situations surrounding the younger one's stutter, it was inevitable that my oldest son felt left out at times. When I took Lucas to LA for instance, I simply could not afford to take both of them. I remember Jonathan saying: "He's getting all that just for stuttering!" Being the great hockey fan that he is, Jonathan was green with envy when he heard that his brother was going to meet with Dave Taylor, of the LA Kings. It's impossible to do the same for both at all times, but I found that as long as I reminded Jonathan that he would always be just as important to me as his younger brother, he could accept all the extras I had to do for Lucas. I do not tolerate teasing at home, however, kids will be kids and some teasing does take place, but teasing his younger brother about his stutter is absolutely forbidden. It took a while to get Jonathan to understand that but he did move on to other methods of antagonizing, much to Lucas' relief. He doesn't seem to mind being teased about anything else. I have also tried to make Lucas understand that it is healthy to be able to laugh about your own foibles. Teasing can be healthy if the approach used is not a mean one. I have always discouraged competition to speak when at the dinner table. This is an important strategy that I have been successful at implementing at home. Everyone has to wait their turn. It has not been easy, but when I notice the impatient looks from Jonathan, I try to appease them and give him the floor as soon as Lucas is through speaking.
Our life is different now. In spite of his stutter, Lucas does great with new people, but when he does encounter someone who is non-receptive to his way of speaking, it still hurts. But at least now I can explain to him that the reason some people react negatively to his speech is because they know nothing about his struggle. Unfortunately for people who stutter, many attitudes are still out there, but I'm hopeful that things will improve. With more people talking about the stuttering experience, it can only pave the way for a better future for our children.
In November 1991, I decided to form a provincial group for parents of children who stutter. There are groups dedicated to supporting people who stutter, but I felt that it was time to set-up an organization for the many others who share their life. Like with any other self-help group, The Ontario Stuttering Project was formed so that members could connect with each other and know that they aren't alone. I had been trying to improve the situation for my son at school for many years, and specialists encouraged me to share my experience with others. I think that I have been able to do just that. An initial meeting was held in January 1992 so that I could get a feel for the interest in such a group in Ottawa, and shortly after I received so many requests from parents living all over Ontario that I formed a provincial group. Reaching out to as many parents as I could was not an easy task in that treatment centres and schools could not provide me with a list of patients, so I wrote letters and articles for publication in many newspapers and magazines and parents started to get in touch with me. I have no magic cure for stuttering, but I let parents know that if they want to talk to me, I'm available. I consider myself to be a good referral system as I can tell parents where to go if they want their child to receive therapy.
Letting parents know that I'm there for them if they need me was not my only goal. I wanted to find a way to get information about stuttering into our schools. ON TARGET, my bi-monthly newsletter was the only way I could accomplish that. I started mailing it out to all Ontario School Boards and many have subscribed during the past year. Not only does the newsletterprovide parents with a message of hope, but it also gives children an opportunity to share their feelings about stuttering. I wanted everyone to know that it's O.K. to talk about stuttering. How could we possibly change things if we don't voice our concerns? Fluency specialists and other friends have written excellent articles, for which I am very grateful, and teachers are asking about my publication so in a way, I think that I have been successful in creating greater awareness for stuttering. It was long overdue.
Before we move on to the question period of this workshop, I would like to remind you all that the films "Speaking of Courage" and "Voices to Remember" will be shown in the Vladimir Bondarenko workshop.
CAPS Ottawa '93 Conference
July 29 - August 1, 1993
I love me - especially when I stutter. You can love you - especially when you stutter.
Have you ever considered yourself lucky because you stutter? Stuttering can be your reason for looking at yourself - and that can lead to loving yourself. Looking at your stuttering may be the start of your journey - the tip of the iceberg.
I think that fluency is a holistic happening. I think it involves your whole being.
The first step in the journey and the basis for becoming a whole person is acquiring self-esteem. So, what is self-esteem? Some people misunderstand what self-esteem is. It is not narcissism which says in essence, "Hey, ain't I enthralling". It isn't bragging - "Look at how great I am". Self-esteem is the opposite of arrogance, "I'm better than you are", and miles apart from self-centredness, "The whole world revolves around me".
Robert Schuller says that self-esteem is being poised instead of tense. It's being confident instead of confused. More than anything else, it's being self-forgiving instead of self-condemning - self-respecting instead of self-disgusting.
When you start to love yourself, you find out what a worthwhile human being you are. You realize that you can have what you need, want or desire (now doesn't that bring up some interesting ideas). You will realize you can have dreams. Sharing my understanding at this conference is a dream come true for me. Most of my life, I didn't think I could have dreams, I didn't think I was worthy.
Life began to change for me at a Bob Proctor seminar on January 21, 1989. Boy, I'll never forget that day. You always remember awesome dates in your life. (That's another goal of mine - an absolutely awesome date). Am I advertising? Certainly.
Seriously though, talk about the student being ready for the teacher! The seminar taught that the mind is in control of the body, so I started to look at the fact that I could be in control of my speech. I started to wonder if my stuttering might be caused in part from my habits or conditioning and my fear - we all know what that word means, don't we?
And I began to ask myself "Why". Why do I do this, why do I feel this way, why does that make me angry. One "why" I asked has had a great effect on my life - "Why don't I like to stutter?" The answer to that one is that I don't think people will like me if I stutter. This is what was at the bottom of my fear and anxiety for 45 years - all those years of feeling lousy about myself. Now I knew what I had to work on - my self-esteem.
There are people who say we shouldn't ask ourselves why. When you ask why, you understand, and when you understand a situation, it is easier to handle - easier to fix.
So let's look at a few ideas of how we can love ourselves - especially when we stutter. We are so much alike, but so very different. What has worked for me may or may not work for you. We are here to learn from each other. So for that reason, we will have an open session for about 20 minutes at the end of this presentation so you can share your experiences and I can learn from you.
How will self-esteem help us?
1. We will realize we are okay just as we are - we don't have to be perfect - our speech doesn't have to be perfect. I think I was a perfectionist because I wanted everything else in my life to be perfect because my speech was not perfect.
2. We will do things we didn't have the confidence to do before. Like joining Toastmasters, speaking to people we didn't speak to before, asking for a job we didn't ask for before, asking for a date without thinking "He won't go out with me because I stutter."
3. We won't feel so rotten when we stutter. A little voice inside will say "It's okay" instead of saying "Screwed up again, didn't you."
4. Our whole world will change because of how we feel about ourselves. It is like starting all over again - starting a new life.
You will attract different circumstances into your life because you are different.
We are very special people. We are usually very intelligent. And we are certainly very persistent. Who else has stuttered 18,349 times while saying their name, and still keep on trying.
Dave, a fellow in our self-help group, met a very attractive lady in a local bar one night. She introduced herself, and he thought "What am I going to do? I always stutter on my name." And so he replied, "My name is Ralph." He started to go out with her, she introduced him to her family and friends. It was driving him nuts because everybody was calling him Ralph. So one night he sat with her at the kitchen table, and said "I have something to tell you. My name really isn't Ralph. She looked at him and said "Thank heaven for that."
Have you ever used an alias? I know I have. One of mine was Mary Smith. How dull and boring! Not very creative, was it?
Let's look at some good things that have come into our lives because we stutter. Good things, you say, you're right out of the trees. But here are some of my good things.
I am at this conference - I wouldn't be here today if I didn't stutter.
I am on an incredible journey - I wouldn't be on this journey if I didn't stutter.
I have met so may incredible people over the past 4 years - I wouldn't have met these people if I didn't stutter.
I have a magnificent obsession - I wouldn't have this if I didn't stutter. I was so absolutely amazed when I found out that there was hope for me and my stuttering that I want to help people who stutter realize there is hope.
Because I stutter, I have faced my greatest fear and realized that I have the courage to face many other fears that were lurking. I sat one day and wrote out 3 pages of fears that I had at one time. I got all depressed and then decided to look at the fact that I have overcome many of them.
You might say that I could have been some place else if I didn't stutter. But I am so happy where I am that I know this is where I'm supposed to be.
So, change your perception and you change your life.
One college student said to the other, "Joe, why are you so popular?" "What do you mean," Joe replied. "Well," said Steve, "don't take this the wrong way, but you are going to be our valedictorian at graduation, you seem to have more friends than anyone on campus, all the teachers really like you. Everything is positive for you even though" (and he hesitated) "you have the birthmark." The student had a huge birthmark which covered one whole side of his face. It was purple and some thought it grotesque. "The birthmark is a real advantage for me", Joe replied. "Ever since I can remember, my dad told me that I was special because of it". He recalled how his father made him feel important because of the scar which other people thought was ugly.
"As a child, my father told me that God really loved me and had a special plan for my life. He wanted to be able to pick me out of a crowd, so he sent an angel who kissed me on my face and left this mark. Now God knows exactly where I am."
Change your perception, and you change your life.
When we start to accept ourselves as we are, this will affect many aspects of your life. Accept yourself as a person who stutters and feel good about yourself.
It's time to tell ourselves that we really matter and it's OK to stutter.
So, here are five ways to improve our self-esteem.
1. Think positive thoughts.
2. Have a good self image.
3. Understand and control our feelings.
4. Like your body - that's not an offer - that's a statement.
5. Look at your higher self, your purpose, your spirituality.
It just knocked my socks off when I found out how powerful our thoughts are. Thought is compared with the speed of light. Our thoughts travel at the rate of 186,000 miles per second. No other force or power in the universe yet known is as great.
Positive thoughts attract positive circumstances into our lives - negative thoughts attract negative circumstances into our lives. Positive thoughts empower us - negative thoughts weaken our ability to perform.
We have positive thoughts by saying positive things to ourselves. Did you know we can say as many as 50,000 things to ourselves on a single day. And 77% of what we say is negative. That means we say 38,000 negative things to ourselves every day - 14,052,500 negative things in a year - and 1,053,937,500 negative thoughts in a lifetime.
Who needs it! That sucks! If you had a friend who was as negative as this to you, how long do you think they would be your friend? And yet we do this to ourselves every day.
Our self-talk depends on our programming - the thoughts we have sent to our subconscious mind over many years. The subconscious mind is listening and waiting for instructions. It doesn't care what we tell it - it just follows orders. Isn't that awesome - and a little scary at the same time.
Our programming then creates beliefs, beliefs create attitudes, attitudes create feelings, feelings determine actions, and actions create results. So, it all begins with our programming.
Did you know that our attitude is either 90% of our solution or 90% of our problem? I think we should do attitudinal therapy before speech therapy. If we go into speech therapy with a good attitude, our results will be so much better.
We can change our programming through affirmations which are positive statements we say to ourselves. Say an affirmation for 30 days, and it is yours - you own it. Affirmations are such powerful tools. How may you use affirmations? I'd like to share a couple of my favourites with you.
Number one on my hit parade is "I am love, I am joy, I am enough" For many years, I didn't know that I was "enough". I thought I needed someone else to make me feel good. Just nine little words - but have they ever made a difference in my life!
Another one is every day in every way, I am getting better and better. The third one is "no matter what you say or do to me, I am still a worthwhile person". Has that one ever come to my rescue on many occasions.
Your worth is established by the fact that you are here. You are all winners. You won the greatest race of all - the sperm race. When you were conceived, 50 million sperm were racing to reach that egg. And you won! There are no losers in this room - only the winners made it.
And then we entered the real world - we listened to what people told us we should do, listened to what they told us we should be, how we should act, how we should think (if you were taught to think at all). Now we have to change this programming because most of it isn't ours - it is somebody else's.
What we think about is what we get. My stuttering was a self-fulfilling prophecy for me. When I answered the phone, there was this little voice in my head that said, "Mary, you're going to stutter". When I said my name, I expected to stutter. When I spoke, I expected to stutter.
What we think about is what we get!
What we produce in our minds is what manifests in our world. We need to change our programming! We need to think positive thoughts.
Do you know how important your self image is? It can either make you or break you. It is either for you or against you.
What is your self image? Is it of someone who is lacking in self-confidence, of someone who is not well dressed and well groomed, of someone who feels uncomfortable in a group, of someone who cannot ask for what you really want in a restaurant.
If this is how you see yourself, you are seeing someone who is not capable, not able to have a normal lifestyle. To change this, you must change your self image because you must have a picture of what you want to be or do.
We have all tried to lose weight at one time or another. I can't count how many diets I've been on! Do you know what picture some people have on their fridges? A pig - so what does that reinforce every time you open the fridge door - that you are a pig.
A friend of mine kept saying that she was gaining so much weight she felt like an elephant. And guess what - she was getting to look like one.
When I came out of high school, they hired me at Stelco as an experiment because I stuttered. I was very hurt and angry. Those feelings were there because of my own self image. I did not see myself as a person capable of getting a job even though I was a Grade A student. I think I would have taken any job anybody offered me because of who I imagined myself to be.
Marcia is a Down Syndrome adult. She is also a nationally sought-after public speaker and author. She is an educational assistant with the Hamilton-Wentworth Roman Catholic Separate School Board. She is also the founder and president of the Hamilton chapter of People First, a self-help group for disabled adults. Not bad for a woman whose parents were once urged to place her in an institution because she'd been born with the extra 21st chromosome.
What do you think her self-image is? This is what Marcia says "I expect to be living in the community like a regular person, to have my own job and wages. We should live independently like a normal person. We're adults. We're not kids any more. Treat me like an adult. Give me opportunities."
Marcia is doing what she is doing because this is how she sees herself.
A lot of times we scare ourselves rather than motivate ourselves with the pictures in our head. As an example of this, let's try a little imagery.
Sit up straight and close your eyes, and you will have a big surprise. Imagine that you have been asked to speak at a conference. there are at least 500 people in the audience. You are standing on the stage, peaking around the curtain, looking out at all those faces. A man walks out to the lectern and introduces you. Your heart is thumping so hard you think it is going to jump out of you chest.
You start to walk across the stage and everyone can hear your heels on the hardwood floor. You can hear a pin drop the place is so quiet. Your heel slips on the shiny floor and there is a gasp from the audience as you teeter back and forth for a second.
You arrive at the lectern, put your notes down, and look out into the audience. They are all staring at you, waiting for you to speak. You open your mouth, but no sound comes out. You are blocking on the first word.
How many noticed something change in your body when you did that? What were some of the changes? What did you feel in your body?
Now let's look at the same situation in a different way.
You have been asked to speak at a conference. There are more than 500 people in the room, but that is okay. You know that speaking to 500 people is no different than speaking to 5 people. It's all in your head. You peak around the curtain on the stage and see that everyone is smiling and happy to be there.
A man walks up to the lectern and gives you a wonderful introduction. This really makes you feel good. You walk across the stage with confidence and put your notes on the lectern. You look into the audience and can feel their good thoughts and see their smiling faces. You open your mouth and say "I am so pleased to be here today".
How did you feel now? Any difference in your body changes?
You didn't leave your chair and yet you've gone through all those body emotions.
Your body cannot tell the difference between a real event and an imagined event. We scare ourselves all the time by imaging bad pictures. When we image bad pictures, we feel the fear as if it is real and then we don't act. If you are feeling scared, you are scaring yourself. It is the imagined response that is scaring you because you feel you can't handle it.
This is what happens when you are scared to answer the phone - or any other situation. It is the picture of the person answering the phone and laughing at you or making fun of you that scares you. We usually think about the bad experiences we've had on the phone - not the good ones.
Has there ever been anything in your life that you couldn't handle? Raise your hand if there has.
I would like to suggest that's not true. If you couldn't handle it, you wouldn't be here. It might have been tough to handle it, but we make it.
Image yourself to be relaxed (I've been doing that all morning - is it working?), confident, comfortable in a large group, able to order what you want in a restaurant.
So, have pictures of who you want to be in your mind, on your walls, on your bathroom mirror, so this image is always with you.
On my night table, I have a picture of me speaking to a Toastmaster meeting. This reinforces who I want to be and can be. It also reminds me that I have come a long way. It just amazes me that I want to spend the rest of my life doing what I feared the most.
Image good things in you life. Image yourself who you really want to be - not who somebody says you should be - but who you really want to be. Remember, the picture we have up here can mean either success or failure.
Our problem is not our stuttering, but how we feel about it and ourselves!
We feel embarrassed, we feel worthless sometimes, a lot of the time we feel angry and scared. Fear and anger are two of our worst enemies. Because we spend so much time feeling angry and afraid, we need to understand these emotions.
I hid my feelings about stuttering for so long. I didn't know how to talk about my feelings because I didn't understand them. So let's see if we can understand some of these feelings.
There are several levels of feelings. First, there is anger - the self hurt - then fear and doubt, remorse. Then there is an "I want" stage, and finally forgiveness.
Getting angry doesn't help. It only attracts more anger. The only person it really hurts is you! So let's get rid of that stuff.
Under the anger is self hurt. If someone laughs at us when we stutter, our first reaction is to get mad because they're laughing. Underneath that, the more vulnerable feeling is that we're hurt, that they don't understand how we feel when we stutter.
Underneath that is the fear and the doubt. The fear that we're not lovable and capable, that we're really not important, that maybe they won't like us because we stutter. Maybe they treat us that way because we are only people who stutter.
When someone used to ask me who I was, the first thing that came to mind was that I stuttered. Now, lots of marvellous things come to mind - I give them a list. I'm positive, intelligent, have a good sense of humour, I'm a good mother (have you got an hour or so?) - and somewhere down the line (if it is there at all any more) is that I stutter.
And then there is remorse, a sense of guilt for our actions. The feeling that says "I've done it again. It's all my fault. I should've done better."
We can't stop here. That's where a lot of us stop. We have to do the next stage.
And that is the "I want". I want you to look at me when I stutter. I don't want you to laugh at me when I stutter. We have to ask for what we want. Listeners are not mind readers and they need to be told.
When we can do the "I want" stage, then the next stage is easier.
The next stage is forgiveness - the forgiveness stage isn't for the other person, it's for you. I forgive you for laughing at me when I stutter. Wow - isn't that a heavy one! But how do you feel when you had the guts to say something. There is a real sense of accomplishment. Your self-esteem goes up a notch.
So something that you thought you were doing for somebody else, you were really doing for yourself. Knowing this might make it easier to talk to the person about forgiveness.
Everybody wants to be loved and appreciated, and the above exercise will help us to feel that way. It might seem like a lot to do, but it's worth it.
Most of us don't talk about our feelings because we don't want to look at what the self doubt is. Whenever you are upset about anything, there is some fear inside.
Let me give you an example. My boss called me into her office and gave me heck for not getting a project done, even though I was doing another girl's job and mine at the same time. I got mad at her. But why was I mad? The self-hurt was that she didn't understand how busy I was. What was the fear underneath? Our office is still waiting for the decision on this social contract and we are not sure where our funding is coming from. So the bottom line is I thought I might lose my job if my boss isn't happy with my work.
One of the most important lessons I've learned is that we are in charge of how we feel. Other people don't make us feel stuff! When we are angry, it is our own feelings of inadequacy somewhere inside that make us feel angry. When we feel scared, it is how we feel about ourselves inside that makes us feel scared. Nobody makes us feel anything. We do that to ourselves.
If I said to you that I didn't like you because you have orange hair, what would you say to me? "I don't have orange hair". But if I said I didn't like you because you're a thoughtless and inconsiderate person, you might get angry because somewhere inside you might feel that you are thoughtless and inconsiderate. It's not what I say that is making you angry, it's how you feel about what I say.
Our self-esteem has to get better so these things don't bother us anymore. So that when people laugh at us when we stutter, we can hear that little voice that says "no matter what you say or do to me, I am still a worthwhile person."
For people to accept us, we first have to accept ourselves. People feel awkward when we speak because we feel awkward. They can read our energy.
I don't think it is the other person's responsibility to make us feel good when we stutter. That is our responsibility.
I feel it is our responsibility to educate our listeners about how we feel when we stutter. Have we ever thought about how they feel when we are taking two minutes to say something that should take thirty seconds. How they feel when we block on a word and make weird faces and hand gestures? Have we ever asked them to have patience with us. How do we expect them to understand when we don't understand. We have to know and let them know.
If we educate the public, maybe somebody won't have to go through what we went through; some child in school won't have to go through the hell in school that we did. Vlad's films are such a wonderful example of this.
Love yourself when you stutter - feel good about yourself just the way you are. Actually, this takes away some of the fear, the anger, embarrassment and anxiety. When some of that goes, your speech gets better too.
Changing is firstly a matter of becoming honest with your feelings. We cannot be ashamed of our feelings. We must express them. Look at them and understand them.
What is your body for? Your body is a vehicle for getting the more important parts of you around - your brain, your mind, your feelings, your essence.
Don't expect this vehicle you are in to be a Mercedes-Benz - don't envy those bodies that look like a Mercedes-Benz. I drive a Volkswagen. It doesn't look like a Mercedes and, better still, doesn't cost like a Mercedes, but it still gets me where I want to go.
How much time do we spend thinking that we don't like our nose, we don't like our legs, we don't like our chest. For men, too much hair or too little; for women, chests are either too big or too small. I never liked my hair because it is too thin, but then I thought that at least I have hair. Can you imagine a bald woman. Now bald men are different - they're sexy.
Look for the positive and not the negative. Look for what you have - not what you don't have. Concentrate on what works, not on what doesn't work.
An excellent example of this is the story of Judge Sam Filer. It is one of the most inspiring stories I have read in a long time.
Judge Sam Filer has Lou Gehrig's disease. This incurable, terminal neurological illness has gradually made the 57 year old judge a quadriplegic and robbed him of almost all movement. He can't walk, talk or breath on his own. But Judge Filer has chosen to live life to the fullest.
Together with his wife Toni, who is his loyal sidekick, Morse Code interpreter and chief cheerleader, Judge Filer has chosen to fight to remain on the Bench. So far, he's succeeded.
Although he no longer hears cases in court, Judge Filer goes to the courthouse twice a week to adjudicate on matters in his chambers where the parties don't have to be present.
He moves in a wheelchair, breathes through a respirator, eats through a feeding tube and, using either the baby finger on his left hand or his jaw, taps Morse Code onto an electronic switch which translates the words to a laptop computer with a voice synthesizer. Just imagine, all that to speak.
He also blinks his eyelids in Morse Code which his wife painstakingly translates letter by letter. "I love the law", he blinked in a recent interview (that's his magnificent obsession). "I am proud to be able to serve my community in my present capacity which in no way impinges on my ability to see, to hear, to think, to read, to reason, and to remember".
Talk about concentrating on what is working for you. Whenever I get upset because my day isn't going well or my stuttering is going well, I think of Sam Filer.
When you love your body, your body knows it. It will work so much better for you. Take care of it - maintain it, just like you do your car. Eat healthy, exercise regularly. Lead a balanced life. We need to remember to go out to play. You're never too old for recess.
We have to learn that who we are on the inside is much more important than what we are on the outside.
You can spend $5000 to have a face lift. But most of the lines in your face come from what is happening within. Heck, if I ever got my face done, then the whole body would have to be done. And I don't have that much money.
And then there are women who get breast implants. What they are saying is that "he won't love me unless I'm a 38C".
People do these things because they don't have enough self-esteem to realize that people will like them just as they are. They think the outside is more important than the inside - and just the opposite is true.
Sometimes we need cookies and milk in the afternoon, and a nap now and then. Ask for a hug if you feel like one. Hugs are a very important part of life. Virginia Satir says we need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and twelve hugs a day for growth. Man, what an excuse to get hugged.
Loving your body is part of loving yourself. You are so much more than the outer shell that everyone sees. People will start to see some of the inner you when you know it is there.
There are three levels to a well-balanced life - spiritual, intellectual and physical. We need to acknowledge the first level - our spirituality, our purpose in life, our higher self.
Dr. Wayne Dyer states that "we are all spiritual beings having a human experience". Most of the time, we perceive ourselves the other way around.
So we have to look at this and believe in the wisdom that created us. When we do this, we will banish our doubt and overcome our fears (sounds pretty good, doesn't it).
We need to get in touch with our inner self, our soul, or whatever we call the force we all have inside of us to find direction in our lives. We need to get our minds on the purpose and forget about the outcome. By doing this, we won't be caught up in the fear that accompanies any endeavour.
What is your purpose in life? What are you here for? Finding out what you are here for adds a dimension to your life that wasn't there before. Suddenly you have a focus, a reason for living. It makes your days more exciting, and makes decisions about your future a lot easier. It makes your life simpler.
We are entitled to be, and have the ability to be, the person we choose to be. We can achieve all that we think we can. there are no limits. As the Bible says, "As you think, so shall you be".
May you reach this understanding. May you wake every morning just happy to be alive. May you realize how wonderful you are.
Four years ago, my #1 goal was to be fluent. Now my #1 goal is to love myself, just the way I am.
We have so many good things working for us, we are so much more than people who stutter. We are okay just the way we are.
I never expected to receive the best because I didn't think I was worthy of it. We can ask for the best - because we are the best. We have more persistence than anyone else I know. We keep trying to speak fluently every day of our lives when some days it would be so much easier to just say nothing. We keep going into situations that have been painful for us in the past.
We really matter!
Up until four years ago, I spent two hours a night sitting on my couch watching TV. Now I might watch two hours a week because I've got other things to do. Last year, five other women and I wrote a book entitled Winning Women - a book written by six women who found that they can take charge of their lives. I am doing speaking engagements. What I feared most in my life is the way I make a living - speaking in public. I am sharing with others the understanding that has led me from the living room couch to the lectern.
In 1977, Laura Schultz came running out of her house to find her grandson trapped under the rear wheel of her car. She picked up the car, all by herself. just imagine - a 63 year old grandmother who picked up a Buick. The only other heavy thing she could remember lifting was a bale of hay.
Later when asked how she did this, she said she didn't want to talk about it. It made her realize that if she picked up the car and didn't think she could, how many other things had she never done because she didn't think she was capable.
The person interviewing her asked her what she really wanted to be when she grew up. She told him she wanted to be a geologist. So at 63 years old, she went back to school, got her degree and started to teach geology in a Florida college.
You can do whatever you want to do. Don't let your life go by without taking the risks, without loving yourself, without asking for what you want, without knowing what a powerful loving being you are.
Change your belief system, find the truth, and then have the high self-esteem you deserve. This doesn't happen overnight. But it is worth every single minute.
The ending of this conference is really the beginning. May you realize that you can have dreams, and may your journey be the amazing journey it should be.
We really matter! We can love ourselves - especially when we stutter.