January 6, 2012

Is there a cure?

No offense meant to anyone but TISA encourages pws to share their therapy history to promote awareness about various options available to us and also to explore the possibility of “cure”. As we know, almost ANY technique will help pws in the short term. But the real test of claims of cure need to be examined in the long term. Here is a sharing from Kushal from Kolkata:
I have been stammering as far back as I can remember. I remember few glimpses of my childhood where I did stammer when called out to speak. I also recall avoiding participating in Debates and Elocutions owing to my stammering. I did however take part in Theatre, where like most of stutters my stuttering “vanished” onstage. I also remember my parents taking me to a few speech therapists in my early childhood, however I was totally unconcerned about my stammering at that stage of my life and did nothing in this regard back then. In fact I remember vehemently refusing to see any therapists again.
The environment in which I was brought up during my schooldays was very congenial and I never really felt the pinch of being a stammerer. Friends, teacher and acquaintances were very accommodating of my stammer. Also I feel that being quite good at academics and sports compensated for this drawback.
My first effort at speech therapy began which a local doctor, specializing in speech and hearing disabilities. This was during my maiden year of college (2005). He focused on reading and speaking in a prolongated manner and on relaxation techniques. However I had little benefit as I took those sessions in an isolated mannerapply the taught manner of speech outside. Also honestly the urge to overcome my stammering was not there at that point of time. Looking back, I feel that the sessions were a substantial waste of money. and never did
My next and a very important step towards overcoming my stammer came when my father took me to a two weeks workshop on Stammering Cure held by Mr P B in Kolkata. This was held between 24th December 06 and 7th January 07. There were around 50 – 60 participants in the workshop. The energy was electrifying and I made great progress there. It must be stated that I was among the group of 3 or 4 severe stammers in the batch of 50 plus. I made rapid progress and Mr B’s technique worked wonderfully for me, in fact I remember that my progress attracted the attention of many including that of Sir’s.
However the road ahead is seldom smooth. I soon hit a roadblock. I began to be afflicted by doubts. Doubts whether I will actually cure my stammer, whether I will have to carry on speaking in this “slow and artificial manner” etc etc. It must be noted that I had acquired this habit of worrying and getting tensed over trifles (probably due to my competitive nature from childhood) and this completely spilled over to this area. Owing to this, the doubts kept multiplying and impeded my progress to a great extent. I expressed my concerns to Mr B, who somewhat downplayed it. Looking back I really wish that I hadn’t spent those hours and hours worrying about the difficulties “that may happen in the future”.
Anyways continuing, I did my practices with dedication and when college reopened, my progress in speech was evident. It made me feel real good. However I faced the problem of not “applying the suggested style of speaking”. Though I regularly practiced my speech in the morning (eg Deep Breathing, Vocal Exercise, Slow Reading etc), I was completely failing to apply it in real time. In real time, the old and my natural style of speaking(which many have remarked contains a lot of excitement appeared everytime). Also doubts resurfaced time and again. Eventually the hours of practice decreased and stopped altogether after some months. One point to be mentioned here, that prior to Mr B’s course, I suffered facial distortions while speaking. These decreased to a great extent after the course, and now I think I rarely suffer from facial distortions while speaking.
That year, 07 can be compared to that of a child’s first year at school, where he/she recognized the alphabets, can read and write a little in those large “out of shape” manner, but progressing.
Mr P B came back the next year for another two week workshop, and I attending it with heart and soul. Also he was gracious enough to let all the ex-students including me attend his workshop for free. I clearly remember speaking absolutely fluently (in the suggested style) when conversing individually with my batchmates there. They were impressed with my progress. However problem persisted to quite an extent when called on to speak on the Microphone and when asking questions in front of everybody. However I feel that I did reasonably well during the workshop.
Following the workshop I did considerable practice for a few days and researched about stammering on the internet for the first time. I came to know of the American Stuttering Center, The Maguire Program and read the book on Stammering cure by Malcolm Frazer. The book by Malcolm Frazer I felt was well written and addressed some of my personal conflicts. Another inspiring video was the journey of overcoming stammering by Gareth Gates, the runner up of Pop Idol. He did suffer from a severe stammer (displaying different symptoms from me), but had overcome it to a large extent over the years. He had undergone the Maguire Program. Another inspiring speaker was Gareth Gates personal guide and recovering-stammerer himself. His words still ring in my head, “And I practice every day……”
That year 08, I practiced in an on-off fashion, practicing for a couple of days then abandoning it for a couple of days and again taking it up. Also there remained the lacking issue of applying. I also came across a very disturbing article in the net titled “Incurable Stammering” by Dr Eugene or so. He had written the article on a patient of his, Todd. Todd had had a sever stammer and though he had overcome his stutter to a great extent under Dr Eugene, he had not been satisfied and had taken a speech therapy course somewhere. There he was taught to speak in a slow prolonging manner etc. (exactly like Mr B’s technique). This did a short term good, but worsened his state in the long run. This article really disturbed me from inside, reviving my old fears and doubts to the very core. (A note here, Mr B discourages the practice of Internet research regarding Stammering and to accept his method as the complete solution – something, though I respect him very much, disagree to). I worried for a long time regarding this issue and eventually decided to do Mr B’s practices in the morning but instead of applying his suggested manner of speaking follow the guidelines written in the book of Malcolm Frazer as that appeared to be do-able in real time.(I had all along been ingrained with the belief that Mr B’s style of speaking is too artificial and not practically applicable. Also I had through experience felt that during the days in which I had done Sir’s practices in the mornings, my speech was better off and I experienced less blocking. Also Vocal Exercises seemed very effective in reducing the blocks I experienced).
I am tremendously ashamed to admit that though I did practice almost regularly I again never implemented the guidelines of Malcolm Frazer. It only remained and continues to remain in blueprint. (This is the single most important point why I have to admit that my progress in stammering cure has been so tardy and continues to).
The years 08 and 09 where spent in bouts of practices and then relapses. In between I had my campus interviews, during which I remember stammering abnormally severely, but nevertheless made it to a reputed MNC. These years where like the Sensex graph, marked by uncertain fluctuations but gradually rising overall.
In the year 2010, during March I again went to Mr B. This time I attended a prolonged session of 3 to 4 weeks in Bangalore where he runs the centre. He was again gracious enough to accept only half the course fees . However this time, my mind was not solely concentrated on stammering unlike the previous two workshops. I was busy with my admissions to my Masters side-by-side. This I feel took the shin of the progress to an extent. Also I was determined that I would not speak in his suggested technique which appeared artificial to me. I would rather concentrate on a blend between his techniques and that of those suggested by Malcolm Frazer. During the course, I expressed my apprehensions to him, the chief being that “Through experience I had realized that whenever the focus on stammering cure was lost in the course of the days owing to work, studies etc, my stammering returned rapidly. What was the way out? One obviously could not devote exclusively a period of a year or two to stammering cure, one has to attend to other duties, and this very event caused the mental focus to shift from stammering whereby stammering resurfaced rapidly.” He acknowledged this fact, I remember his words ,”Yes. For examples Cricketers eat cricket, sleep cricket.” However, to my question he showed me a mail written by one of his ex-students, now a researcher at Harvard, Dr S P. Dr P had written to Mr B thanking him profoundly for the huge impact he had made on his life. This caught my attention and made me rethink.
I subsequently contacted Dr P and was convinced that Mr B’s techniques were indeed effective. and that I ought to follow it more closer to the letter. (I had no doubt realized long ago the effectiveness of his method of stammering cure, the only objection I had was the “artificial and seemly emotion-less” manner of speaking suggested)
Another interesting and inspiring incident worth mentioning is, for a brief period I was employed as a Research Assistant in a research center in Gurgaon, there a MIT professor Dr M S had come to give a seminar. To my surprise, he had a stammer, easily recognized by a fellow stammerer, but not easily noticed by others. I later approached him in this regard and he said that he previously had had a very severe stammer, which he overcame by self-talk for hours and hours. Some of his words were ,”I had to work bloody hard to overcome my stammer.” “You have to find out how you can overcome your blocks, what works for you.” He also suggested the point of Gentle Phonation, to counter the tendency of stammers who apply excessive pressure during the commencement of speech.
Thus the years 10 and surprisingly 11 have passed away in this mind-frame. I have sort of chosen my path to overcome my stammer, but must confess that I am applying it to a very small degree. Progress has been made in the fronts of like, I had rid myself of facial distortions to a large extent, I almost now never try and hide my stammering and hence am less tensed inside. I have in the course of these years opened up more and have become quite a gregarious person from the once introvert. I have as a repeated practice, spoken to a lot of strangers and have felt really good about it.
Having said that I can point out the single most point of lapse. That lies in implementation. This I find is the hardest step in the journey to overcoming my stammer. During the course of any normal day out of say 40 instances of speech, I probably speak 1or 2 instances in the style suggested by Mr B and rarely have my mental focus of stammering while speaking. This I feel is very important, and aught to be thoroughly focused on in the coming year 2012. Also the other important point is Focus. Just like only the concentrated sunrays can burn a piece of paper, likewise only focused and sustained effort on stammering day-in and day-out will bear worthwhile fruits. In fact I am just a beginner here. I can’t recall more than 5 days in succession (apart from the workshop days) where I have maintained a concentrated focus on stammering and it various implementations. However I sincerely believe that 2012 is going to be a very different year, marked by a big leap towards stammering cure. Personally I feel that a lot of “secrets” of overcoming my stammer is known, what remains is the implementation.


lalit said...

thanks kushal for sharing ur experience honestly ... while reading ur post i was feeling like life is moving in backward direction...
keep sharing :-)

J P Sunda said...

Reading you post makes me feel that you are already "cured" because only a pws who has come out of that stuttering mindset can see things so objectively...

D B said...

Thanks KUSAL for your in-depth analysis and I,a PWS, want you to express your technique so that other stammer can get help.

Prajukta Banerjee said...

Thanks for your info. Actually one of my friend was faced earlier same stammering. Then we visit Bengal Speech clinic at Kolkata. For there we find some good clinic whom are well as good about Stammering cure.