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Australian Speak Easy Association
Australian Speak Easy AssociationSaturday, July 16th, 2016 at 9:44am
WHAT WORKS, WHAT DOESN’T
by Geoff Johnston, National Executive Officer, Australian Speak Easy Association
This article contains some random thoughts about what I have found helpful in improving our speech and what hasn’t. My opinions are based on observations of myself and other people who stutter particularly during the 13 years working with over 1,000 such people on the McGuire Programme.
If you want to get good at anything…a sport, playing music, business, career, etc. you would do well to find someone who has excelled at that particular vocation, find out what they did and follow that example with the same attitude and persistence and it is likely you’ll get similar results.
How brave the person is and their attitude and motivation to change will determine their level of permanent success.
I want to run through a list of strategies that have worked for people in the hope that even one or two may help you.

WHAT WORKS?
• They take ownership of the problem and are committed to work hard with courage and persistence. They are not victims waiting for someone or something to cure them! They set goals and GO FOR IT!
• They completely and assertively accept themselves as a person who stutters (PWS). That is they don’t accept themselves as a PWS forever but at this time a PWS who is working hard to become an effective communicator.
• Assertive self-acceptance is an active task requiring the person to be open about their stuttering, to disclose that they have a stutter and to demonstrate they have a stutter by stuttering on purpose in a relaxed manner, great eye contact and a smile. Lack of assertive self-acceptance, trying to hide the stutter and trying to be fluent are the main causes of turbulence and relapse after initial treatment! Rule: If you go into a speaking situation and you’re afraid you might stutter that’s exactly what you must do! Under your control NOT out of control!
• They research and engage a treatment strategy that suits their objectives and personality.
• They learn a speaking technique in an intensive environment that will give them an initial boost of self-confidence, self-esteem and the courage for the battle ahead.
• They drill and practise that technique making it their speaking pattern of choice at least in the short to medium term in ALL situations. It becomes natural, second nature. You have to think about the technique less and less
• They refuse to entertain negative thoughts around speaking situations choosing instead to focus on past successes and the feelings that flow from those experiences.
• They learn to control their fear and anxiety by controlling their thoughts rather than allowing their thoughts to control them. If they suffer from social anxiety in speaking situations, they seek treatment options such as CBT to supplement their treatment.
• They realise to be successful they need to change their speaking world and the meaning they give to speaking situations so adopting the appropriate ego state when communicating to people.
• They embrace every speaking situation and go out of their way to create new speaking situations. For example, if they’re afraid of public speaking they join Toastmasters.
• They display great courage.
• They expand their comfort zone to the nth degree with NO avoidance. Avoidance fuels the fear and anxiety that maintains the stuttering mentality
• They join a support group or self-help group that provides ongoing coaching and support. We cannot do this alone! However, support groups for people who stutter lack ambition…what we should be setting up is support groups to help people OUT of stuttering!
• They live by their intentions rather than their own or someone else’s expectations.
• Over time they change their perceptions and beliefs about their speaking personality.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
• Trying to be fluent – fluency should be the end result of life changes, shifts in attitudes and changes in the system which is you, NOT as the main focus. Measurements such as stuttered syllables per minute focus on fluent speech which in my opinion re-enforces “trying to be fluent”.
• Attending a treatment option because mum, dad or your partner wanted you to. Lack of ownership and personal responsibility.
• Negative attitudes – thinking why this won’t work for you rather than looking for reasons why it will!
• Using tricks and avoidance to try to hide our stuttering – a life of fear and anxiety awaits!
• Looking at stuttering as a problem which can be “fixed” rather than understanding changes in your speech will follow changes in you!
• Thinking a technique will cure you. Technique is 10% of the solution. How you use it and what you do with it in the real world is the other 90%!
• After an initial period of consolidation, not going for free expression, with your technique only a tool to be used as and when required. Initially we have to control the stutter to have positive experiences in talking situations. There will come a time when you can go for “fluency” but when fear and anxiety exists or turbulence hits, we have the well-practised tools to “change gears”, and cope with the situation.
• Being “people pleasers” putting the needs of others always ahead of ours, agreeing, being door mats, being passive. In the book “The Disease to Please” by Harriet Braiker the author believes the people pleasing trait, even though it sounds nice and sweet, is a serious psychological co-dependency condition. People pleasing is often a trait of PWS negatively affecting our self-esteem, self-confidence and our ability to communicate effectively.
Effective treatment therefore requires the PWS to be empowered to take ownership of their own recovery but then access resources such as the McGuire Programme, speech pathologists, psychologists, life coaches, social workers, self-development programmes and other self-development activities by attending courses, reading, listening to CDs, etc.
Our stuttering does not define who we are. It is just a negative behaviour resulting from our reaction to events in our world either current or in the past. Recent studies have shown that the brain has great plasticity and the ability to change patterns from the past is very achievable.
Is stuttering genetic, physiological, neurological or psychological? To be honest I don’t much care. I do know that the goal of effective communication can be attained by brave and persistent work and that recovery is a reality for many, many people. Knowing the root cause of something doesn’t mean that it will solve the puzzle. It is far more effective to look at the decisions that one makes RIGHT NOW TODAY as they will affect one’s future and quality of life.
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Australian Speak Easy Association
Australian Speak Easy AssociationMonday, June 27th, 2016 at 11:19am
Great speech sums it all up really well. Inspirational for everyone who stutters.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpYWwsjLABo&feature=youtu.be
Australian Speak Easy Association
VP Joe Biden delivers heartfelt speech on stuttering at AIS Gala
youtube.com
June 6, 2016 - Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, made a surprise visit to the 10th annual gala for the American Institute for Stuttering. He sp...
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Australian Speak Easy Association
Australian Speak Easy AssociationFriday, June 24th, 2016 at 3:54pm
THE 10 COMMITMENTS

by Geoff Johnston
National Executive Officer, ASEA

Over last Christmas I read an interesting article about being happy. What occurred to me was that the 10 top tips to be happy could be transposed directly to the processes required to recover from stuttering.

1. Know where you're going
Successful people working to improve their speech have clear, well-defined goals. Work out where you want to be and what you need to do to get there. Ensure your goals are:

Specific – clearly defined and measurable
Realistic – based on where you are now
Attainable – within your present situation
Short range – daily or weekly
Worthy – of value to you

2. Know why you're going there
Remind yourself continually why this journey is important to you. Why did you begin the journey? Why is it still worth the work and effort? While working out where you want to get to, make sure you have a good reason for going there. What’s your compelling reason to transform?

3. Go with your strengths
Recovering from stuttering long-term requires confidence and self-esteem. Work out what you're good at and find ways to do it as much as possible. Recovery is not as much about fixing your faults and overcoming weaknesses as about finding ways to focus your life on your talents and qualities, and use them to continually expand your comfort zone.

4. Don't go alone
Enlist the support of family, friends, work colleagues and your support network. Those who have good relationships and those who actively and consistently work to improve the quality of their relationships tend to be happier, more confident and successful. So invite others to join in your endeavours, share your experiences, and don't forget to support them as well.

5. Go with a positive attitude
One of the most significant, contributing factors to recovery is optimistic thinking. Changing those negative “stuttering” thoughts into positive “can do” beliefs. Although you won't always have a choice in determining what goes on around you, you will always have a choice in how you think about it. Learn from your “bloopers” and decide to do it differently and better next time, then cancel the experience as soon as possible.

6. Ensure you have the energy to go all the way
Being eloquent depends, at least in part, on having a healthy and positive “system”. It depends on keeping active and exercising regularly, eating an adequate and well-balanced diet, and ensuring you attain enough sleep and rest. Attend to your emotions and ensure that your intentions always follow through with appropriate behaviour.

7. Control which way you go
Maximise the control you have over your life. Life has many distractions that will seduce you along paths that many times do not benefit your end goal. Practise being a cause rather than effect when it comes to daily decisions in your life. Take control by not letting circumstances dictate our lives but rather be empowered to take control over the circumstances. Accept that we will make wrong decisions but with our new found goals ahead, we can accept our mistakes, take control and enjoy the journey.

Learn and practise skills such as problem solving, time management, meditation and communication. At the same time, however, no one has complete control and so it is also important to be realistic and to accept that over which you have no control.

“Grant me the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change,
the strength to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)

8. Maintain discipline along the way
Eloquence is the result of good technique used all day, everyday. Stuttering/blocking and relapse are bad habits, tricks and avoidance repeated every day. Although desired eloquence might not be yours today, you can certainly implement the recovery strategies today. Maintain focus and the improvement and your speaking confidence will improve day by day.

9. Be present every step of the way
Successful people tend to spend more time thinking about and "being in the present" as opposed to dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Learn from your mistakes and plan to achieve, but practise living life in the moment and enjoy improved eloquence now.

10. Go, and keep going all the way
We all face problems at times. Successful recovering stutterers don’t expect perfection and when the problems arise they respond immediately and intensely with good technique and self-discipline. All of the components required for recovery are skills that can be learnt. Just like perseverance. Stick at it and effective verbal communication will be yours.

Acknowledgement: Dr Timothy Sharp, The Happiness Institute.
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Australian Speak Easy Association
Australian Speak Easy AssociationWednesday, June 8th, 2016 at 3:23pm
THE GREAT BENEFITS OF STUTTERING ON PURPOSE

By Geoff Johnston
National Executive Officer
Australian Speak Easy Association

Stuttering on Purpose? You must be crazy! Geoff’s getting senile in his old age! Why would I ever do something that I’ve been trying to avoid all of my life!

Many of us have spent our lives trying very hard to be fluent, to NOT stutter! Has it worked for you? If yes, well done and good luck to you. However, I suspect for the rest of us, it has failed dismally! If this is true for you, please read on.

The psychological model System Theory tells us that if we zero in on our ultimate goal (ie fluency) we can in fact make things worse because we deny the complexity (feelings, emotions, thinking processes, and context) in which stuttering arises; eg you can’t pursue happiness directly but rather we do things that may result in happiness long-term.

The old saying that “only a fool continues to do what one has always done and expects a different result” is true with our stuttering behaviour. If what you’ve been doing isn’t moving you forward to your satisfaction, why not take a risk and do something different?

There are many things you could try but the topic of this article is about voluntary stuttering or deliberate dysfluency as they call it on the McGuire Programme. I personally prefer to call it “advertising” because it defines the attitude we must apply to the strategy; ie let people know we have a stutter.

Voluntary stuttering is not new. In fact, it’s been around since the early 1950’s with Joseph Sheehan and Charles Van Riper. I put to you however, that the psychology behind it is still valid today.

A good part of the reason we stutter is “holding back” behaviour, being torn between the desire to express ourselves freely and the fear that if we try to do that we’ll stutter and be perceived by others as abnormal, incompetent, disabled, whatever.

We spend our lives pretending, trying to present ourselves to the world as fluent speakers. Whether we like it or not, by doing that we’re not being true to ourselves. We aren’t fluent speakers. We’re people who stutter and assertive acceptance of that fact will release us from the anxieties that get in our way of improving our speech. Please note that I’m not saying we just accept that we stutter and give up trying to do anything about it. I’m saying that at this point in our lives we do stutter for complex reasons of which anxiety plays a major part but we may have an action plan to change that over time.

Denial and avoidance are the things that fuel and perpetuate the stuttering behaviour. By not being true to ourselves as a person who stutters, we create confusion within ourselves and hence the holding back of emotions and our speech leading to stuttering.

The fear that we might stutter and make fools of ourselves is always there.

How then can we release ourselves from the fear of stuttering, the denial, the avoidance? How can we project to the world the true person? How can we unmask ourselves and look the world squarely in the eye rather than dropping our gaze and avoiding eye contact?

By doing the thing we most fear. By stuttering on purpose, the main difference being that we control the stutter rather than allowing it to control us! To overcome any phobia, and I believe that stuttering is essentially a social phobia, we need to face our fear and do exactly what we’re afraid of. We need to “kiss the dragon” if you like.

Stuttering on purpose achieves a number of benefits including being in control of our speech and desensitising ourselves to the reactions of people when we do stutter.

Are you game enough to give it a go? If you are, I promise you it will be one of the bravest things you’ve ever done. The benefits though are enormous and will show you that controlling your fear and anxiety around speaking situations is achievable.

HOWEVER, it must be done correctly with the following technique.

To voluntary stutter by just r-r-r-r-repeating the first sound with almost certainly result in a real uncontrolled block. The technique is to say the first sound of the word assertively then release all your air, pause for around two seconds, then take a big breath and say the entire word assertively.

By P … release ... pause … big breath … Practising this form of V… release … pause … big breath … Voluntary stuttering with a great smile on your face you show your listener that you’re very much in control.

Drop a couple of those at the start of a feared conversation and the fear will drain away. You’ve “disclosed” right up front that you have a speech problem so there’s no need to try to hide it anymore. You can then be the true self! The emotional release is enormous.

Just who are we doing this for? Not only our listener. We’re doing it for ourselves. Giving ourselves permission to be who we are!

Another method of voluntary stuttering is called the slide or long hit and hold. This method involves ssssssssaying the first sound of a word and holding that sound for say wwwwun second and then fffffffffinish the word. It must be done assertively with “attitude”. It’s not a method I personally favour or use because I think it’s not overt enough. The success of voluntary stuttering is all about disclosing and demonstrating to your listener that YOU AREN’T a fluent speaker so then you can stop trying to be one.

Occasionally, I set a goal of doing 1,000 voluntary stutters in a day. I have a small clicker to count them. Sounds a lot? Often I’ve achieved the goal easily by lunch time. It keeps me grounded and reminds me not to get too complacent. After, I feel bullet-proof!

So there it is…a short description of voluntary stuttering. Are you game enough to give it a go? And not just once or twice. Like any skill you need to practise it to be able to use it effectively.

Above all, choose to be in control and have some FUN with it!
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Australian Speak Easy Association
Australian Speak Easy AssociationFriday, May 20th, 2016 at 9:46am
Using Your Technique in the Real World
by Geoff Johnston
National Executive Officer, Australian Speak Easy Association

During our intensive treatment programme or sessions with our speech pathologist we generally learn a technique of breathing and speaking which helps us speak well. Therefore, during the intensive or within the speech pathology clinic we experience the freedom of speech we’re all looking for.

However, outside the clinic or intensive many people relapse within weeks or even hours. Why is this so? The most common reason I believe is the focus in the real world of trying to be fluent, trying to pretend that we’re normal speakers, trying to bluff our way through life by not being honest with ourselves, friends, family and work colleagues.

If this applies to you I simply ask, "has it worked for you?" Perhaps in 80%-90% of speaking situations it has. Perhaps you survive by avoiding speaking situations or specific words and sounds. However, being thrust into a situation that you can’t avoid (job interview, wedding vows) or having to say that dreaded word (your name), results in severe stuttering behaviour (blocking, repetitions, etc.). What’s that old saying, “Only a fool keeps on doing what they’ve always done and expects a different result!” Is it time for a radical shift in your thinking?

Many people have received treatment, have overcome their fear of stuttering and other triggers to stuttering behaviour such as social anxiety disorder and have moved on with their lives without the need to focus on technique to the degree they have in the past. By expanding their speaking comfort zones they have replaced the old negative thoughts, feelings and behaviour with positive ones resulting in quite different attitudes and therefore behaviour in speaking situations.

If this is not you, the likely reason is the lack of assertive self-acceptance that you are NOT a normal speaker but a person who stutters. If you’re actively working on a strategy to overcome your stutter, then perhaps you’re a recovering stutterer.

If you’re still struggling and battling with stuttering the way forward is to be honest with yourself and the world around you by demonstrating that you’re not a normal speaker not so much for other people, but for your own benefit.

How do we do this? Regardless of the technique you’ve been taught the strategy is the same.

You can simply disclose to your listener that you have a stutter and may be a little slow in your speech and asking them to be patient, a great thing to do right up front at a job interview. It takes away the urge to try to be fluent, to try to fool them that you’re a normal speaker which is a recipe for disaster. Just that simple statement shows the interview panel that you’re honest, assertive, self-motivating, etc. Hey, you’ve practically got the job already!

Another way you can be upfront and honest about your status as a speaker is by using really exaggerated technique whatever your technique may be. For example smooth speech at 120 spm or McGuire five words per breath with a good two second pause between phrases. The listener thinks, “There’s something unusual about the way this person is speaking but he has great eye contact and he’s smiling so it’s all OK.” Very often the problem for the listener is when we’re obviously out of control. They don’t know how to react.

Finally, we have perhaps one of the most powerful tools to demonstrate that we’re not a normal speaker and that’s stuttering on purpose. Controlling the stutter rather than allowing it to control you. What better way to overcome the desire to try to hide the fact that we stutter? What better way to smash the silliness of trying to pretend that we don’t stutter? I promise you, we care so much more about whether we stutter or not than our listener! Besides, what other people think about us is really none of our business. We may be able to influence their opinion but in the end they’ll have their own thoughts and beliefs as is their right.

The elusive goal “fluency” will happen as the CONSEQUENCE of all the other activities we engage in to change our perceptions and beliefs, not as the main objective; activities such as joining Toastmasters, being President of the local sporting club, joining a drama group, etc.

Seek out the speaking situations you fear and do them with the attitude “I am a recovering stutterer NOT a fluent speaker”. As long as we pretend to be fluent speakers we will continue to stutter which is why I disagree with the speech pathologists’ main success indicator which is stuttered syllables per minute which places the entire emphasis on “fluency”. How effective is this measure in the case of a covert stutterer who is skilled at avoiding specific words and sounds? It also places the emphasis on speech rather than the beliefs and perceptions which results in stuttering behaviour.

Measure your success by moving forward and embracing speaking situations that you’d previously avoid. Measure your success by your enjoyment when speaking. Measure your success by becoming an effective communicator!

The beginning of that goal for many of us is assertive self-acceptance that we aren’t “normal” speakers by using exaggerated, technique, doing disclosures and voluntary stuttering.

GO FOR IT! What’s the worst that can happen!
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