Ch 3. Play with your speech

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It has been seen that if you can change your stammer a little bit-
just a wee bit, you can eventually change it a LOT. You can almost
modify it to appear normal! So, can you modify the way you talk? Just
for fun? Just for few minutes? If you talk in a fixed, frozen way and
believe that this is the only way you can talk- if you believe that
you can stammer just one way, your way- then, path ahead is
difficult. But in our experience, every PWS is capable of making
small changes at a time- and a lot of changes over a period of time.

You must have tried your hand at mimicry or taken off the boss in
office just for fun- or may be you like to deliver the famous
dialogue from Deewar, in Amitabh Bachhan’s style and his
baritone. May be you think that you are not good at these things- but
if you have tried a little bit, you can try a little more, especially
if you know, that this is the key to your problems. Yes, it is.
A)
Vocalization exercises
:

It will be
good if you begin with some relaxation exercise- Inhale deeply and
tense all muscles, beginning from feet, hold the tension for 2-3
minutes and then gently relax whole body in the reverse order- as you
breathe out slowly. Next, you sing out consonants in all combinations
of vowels (Ka, ki, ke, ku, ko, mi, me, ma, mo, mu etc.) in a relaxed
and stretched way: kaaaaa… Kiiiiiii…… etc. (Look at this video
for better understanding:
http://www.ehow.com/video_2385250_the-mi-ma-mo-mu.html)
After
one full cycle of all consonants, start a new cycle, wherein you add
variations in volume
(low, almost whispering and then raising it to a loud shout and then
again back to a whisper). Next, add variations in pitch
put a hand on your throat to get the feel, as you manipulate your
vocal cords to get a high note (kiiii…), followed by a very base
note.
Most
attempts at personal change fail to sustain, because they are often
devoid of FUN. A fun way of beginning this journey would be SINGING.
First, sing alone, record it and review it. Begin with simple popular
songs. Try to pay attention to notes, melody and rhythm. After a few
recordings, you will feel good about your singing abilities. Next,
sing for a friend, who stands a little away. You may also try
reciting shloka, chants, poetry, shayari etc. Consider learning
classical vocal music.
B)
Play with your stammer
:

Now,
let us try and change the way we stammer. There are many ways of
doing this, but two very simple and effective methods are bouncing
and stretching. In bouncing, we just repeat the first sound of a word
gently couple of times before saying the full word in the normal way.
We dont slow down; we say rest of the word at normal speed. In
stretching we, start the word but hold on to the first sound till we
are ready to say the rest of the word, again at normal speed and in
normal style. Learn and approach both these methods systematically as
given below.
Bouncing
We have
noticed that sometime, under stress, our mouth just runs away with
words and we feel helpless, as if we have absolutely no control over
our sound box (throat & mouth). Bouncing is a technique which
gives us back the control over our speech mechanism and related
emotions. It also teaches us to stutter in a relaxed way- as very
young children do. This is the purpose of the self-therapy here: to
teach us to stammer as a four year old child does – no struggle, no
secondary behavior, no shame, no fear. That effortless stammering is
less tiring to us and less distracting to the listener. Lastly, it is
a nice way of letting people know that we stammer and getting used to
their reactions. Here are the main rules:
  1. Start
    with easy, simple words. Bounce on difficult words only after 2-3
    months of regular practice with easy words. By difficult words we
    mean sounds which pose problems regularly- for example for some of
    us, it could be K (as in Kanpur); for others it could be B (Bimal),
    P (Peepul) etc. Dont start with these difficult words. Speak them as
    you have been doing all this time. Start bouncing on easy simple
    words.
  2. Practice
    alone for a few days; When comfortable, do it with a friend or in
    the self help group or on phone with friends or strangers and after
    many months, in the work-place or in a bus or train etc. You may
    have to reorganize this protocol depending on what situation you
    find least to most stressful where speaking in concerned. Start a
    new exploration or technique in that particular order: easy to
    difficult situations.
  3. Read
    a story book or news paper and bounce on every second or third word
    in every sentence. Finance
    m-m-m-minister has d-d-d-decided to l-l-l-lower the interest
    r-r-rates…
  4. You just
    repeat the first sound (syllable) slowly. SLOWLY is the key
    principle here.
  5. Avoid
    bouncing rapidly, which happens sometimes during uncontrolled
    stammering:
Finance
mmmminister has ddddecided to llllower the interest rrrates..
This is
bad bouncing. This can be avoided by stopping completely and being
totally relaxed between two bounces. If this happens, dont get
discouraged. Start all over again with easy words and with less
stressful situations.
  1. Vary the
    number of bounces. Start from 6 or more bounces and then gradually
    reduce it to 2-3. Then, again increase it to 5-6 or even more. The
    idea is to get totally comfortable with this technique and develop
    good control.
  2. Keeping
    relaxed while bouncing in a controlled way is important. When you
    achieve this target, only then increase the level of difficulty by
    choosing longer / difficult word in a more challenging situation as
    mentioned above. If you have difficulties, go back to the lower
    level and practice for a few days before taking up the challenge
    once again.
  3. Finally
    after some months’ practice, you should be able to say a word with
    just one small relaxed unnoticeable bounce: Finance
    m-minister has d-decided to lower the interest r-rates…
If you
watch TV carefully, you will notice many speakers, anchors using this
little (sometime even bigger) bounce frequently.
  1. While
    learning to bounce, pay close attention to your emotions. Bounce as
    a child
does.
No fear, no struggle and with total acceptance. Give
me a ticket for Ha- Ha- Herbertpur.
  1. Gradually,
    try to bounce on a difficult word in a spontaneous conversation on
    phone or in person. Remember: failing to bounce on a word in a given
    situation is only a temporary setback. It does not mean that this
    technique is not for you. Whenever you fail to bounce properly on a
    word go back couple of steps and start again. Bounce on that very
    word, alone, then with a friend and then with strangers.
You
have stammered for many years and therefore you must give some months
to yourself while trying out a new way of stammering. Also, dont get
influenced by unthinking feedback from friends or relatives. Since
they know nothing of your stammering and speech therapy, they may say
that your new way of talking seems unnatural etc. Remember, you will
not be bouncing like this for ever. As your fluency and comfort level
improves, need to bounce will reduce and manner of your bouncing will
become unnoticeable.
  1. What
    decides your success is (a) following a plan (easy to difficult
    words, easy to difficult situations) (b) consistent practice over a
    long period (at least six months) and (c) keeping your moral high
    over this long period.
Gentle
onsets & Prolongation
Gentle
onset means that we pay close attention to the way we begin a word or
a sentence. PWS often tense up, tighten their lips and jaw and start
in a jerky uncontrolled fashion. With some practice and conscious
attention, it is possible to start a sound gently. And then, prolong
the sound. To beginner it may seem like speaking with a foreign
accent. It involves prolonging the vowels, especially the initial
sounds. It helps us to slow our speech down and be comfortable with
the act of speaking itself.
  1. To begin
    the practice, read a newspaper or book with prolongation of vowels
    in every second word or more: Aai weel go too Kaaanpooor
    toooomorrow
    (I will go to Kanpur tomorrow).
  2. Then,
    practice it with a friend in general discussion. To understand what
    does prolongation mean, you may have to talk to some PWS already
    practicing it or watch a video of the technique. The latter is
    available on web.
  3. You begin
    with non-feared words and situations and VERY gradually move to
    feared words and situations over a period of some months (same as
    above for bouncing). For example you may talk like this to your pet
    dog and then gradually to your friends and family members for
    increasing durations. You may slide back once in a while, which is
    okay. But regular and motivated practice is very much needed to turn
    this technique into a useful skill, you can rely on.
  4. Gentle
    onsets may even mean, to soften the hard consonants at times: Khum
    on- leeet us
    plaaay
    (Come
    on- let us play). Similarly, sounds consisting of double consonants
    may have to be separated in the process of prolongation: Perroompt
    (Prompt); Currocin (Crocin), Burrave (Brave).
  5. Initially
    speaking like this might seem very strange to us but if we observe,
    many nationalities speak English (and other languages) in
    significantly different ways and are understood well enough: Pay
    attention to a Russian speaking in English, for example.
Your
colleagues will get used to it quiet soon. It definitely sounds no
more stranger than your old way of stammering!
Common
Mistake
:
Many people short circuit the whole process- by starting to bounce on
difficult words, straight away in difficult situations like
workplace, hoping to master the process in 2 days and finish the
whole cycle in one week! Obvious result is- what starts as a bounce
becomes uncontrolled stammering or block, soon; they lose all hope of
mastering it ever and give it up. Sometime, they get totally sold on
a chance comment from a colleague and make a U-turn: yaar,
your old way of talking was so much better- what is this new thing
you have learned? sounds weird! 
In this case, it is time to find a better coach than such friends, to help you in this process. TISA has many such people.

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