Well Said: Toronto Speech Therapy

One of the things I wanted to try to do a long time ago was to have guest posts and interviews with SLPs. So! Finally after a few years, here we are.

Melissa James, B.A., M.H.Sc. (Reg. CASLPO), was nice enough to send along a post. She is the director at Well Said: Toronto Speech Therapy.

From their site:

We are Toronto’s speech therapy clinic for adults where you can work with registered speech-language pathologists to improve your speech, social or communication skills. Our work focuses on practical, real-world outcomes. From a lisp to social skills, our registered professionals help you develop the confidence that you need. Our services are always founded in research-based approaches that have helped thousands of others.

From Well Said: Toronto Speech Therapy:

Top 6 Tips for Letting Go of Your Feelings About Stuttering

Stuttering is painful, not in the stub your toe kind of painful, but a deep, chronic worry and frustration, emotional kind of painful. This leads many adults who stutter to a speech therapist’s office to help reduce their stuttering. In the past, you would expect to work on slowing down, using voicing, breathing, and other tricks to help you speak more fluently. While this type of therapy has research efficacy, a significant proportion of adults find that this therapy works only as a temporary fix. And another common complaint with this type of tools therapy is that people feel like they’re putting on a mask. Masking the disfluencies can be a great thing for someone who feels neutral about their stuttering. Unfortunately, most adults who have an emotional history with their stuttering that is far from neutral. For someone who has struggled with stuttering their entire life the feeling about their stuttering: the anxiety, negative thoughts, avoidance of situations are worse to cope with than the actual stuttering.

For these people who stutter a new approach to stuttering treatment has been developing steam in the speech therapy community. This type of treatment focuses on healing the psychosocial and emotional aspects of stuttering. Years of coping with stuttering certainly does take a psychological toll and this approach to new stuttering treatment is designed to alleviate the emotional pain rather that the stuttering itself. This new approach (let’s call it a counseling approach) to stuttering therapy has some good research behind it. Research has shown that not only were people who stutter feeling more accepting of their stutter and positive about themselves after working with a speech-language pathologist who used this approach AND –  the frequency of stuttering decreased and gains were still evident three months later. This means that working on your stuttering with a speech therapist who uses the counseling approach will help you feel better and decrease the number of stuttering moments at the same time. Are you surprised to hear this? Probably not. As someone who stutters, you know that when you are having a bad day when your mind is cluttered with worry and negative thoughts, your speech is less fluent. And, when you are feeling care-free, like during a relaxing vacation, your speech becomes your most fluent. This research does well at capturing something you already knew: your mood affects your fluency. And so, now speech therapist’s can work with you on helping you reduce anxiety, increase vulnerability, feel more positive, and more accepting of your stuttering which together will reduce the stuttering.

Here are the top 6 tips for letting go of your feeling about stuttering:

1. Journal – Journalling has life-changing powers to develop your self-reflection, emotional processing, and insight. When you journal about your experience with stuttering, you are reorganizing your feelings into thoughts and confronting them in a safe way which will allow you to get all the “feels” out and down on paper rather than ruminating over how you should or could have said it better.

2. Practicing Gratitude –  Getting into the habit of noticing why you are lucky or what you are grateful for has been demonstrated in research to improve one’s wellness. For adults who stutter taking a few minutes to take perspective on what you have going for you can be very helpful in improving your feeling about stuttering.

3. Mindfulness – Mindfulness is a hot topic in the psychology disciplines right now. Several articles are written on a daily basis on the benefits of mindfulness from depression to anxiety, to anger management to stuttering. Mindfulness is essentially taking time out of our modern 2017 lives to disconnect and focus gently on our being without judgment. I personally like yoga as a mindfulness practice. Some people really like guided relaxations. You can find guided relaxations on the internet here.

4. Envisioning your goals realized – I often ask clients to collect images and put them together in a collage that represents how they want their lives to look in 5-10 years. This task of visualizing the future for my clients who stutter has been helpful in shifting the focus away from speech and on to the real values. By focusing on how you want your life to look in five years, we can at a glance see what is important to you. And from there, we can work backward and formulate a plan for how we get there with stuttering.

5. Checking the evidence – See if you can challenge your own thinking when you notice a negative thought passing through your internal dialogue. For example, did you just think to yourself – oh, she probably thinks I am incompetent – stop yourself and ask ok, wait a minute this thought is unhelpful and what evidence do I have to prove this is true? You may want to read more about unhelpful thoughts if you think this strategy would work well for you.

6. Most importantly, you shouldn’t feel bad about stuttering and you shouldn’t call your a dysfluency a “mistake” or a “mess up” We have to change our language about our stuttering to make it neutral. When we describe something using neutral language, our minds are less likely to associate it with a negative emotion.

Do you have any strategies that you used to deal with the unhelpful feelings and thoughts around stuttering?

My 2017 Stuttering Plan

That’s right! I have a plan for how much I’m going to stutter this year. Not really. I looked back at the beginning of 2016 — what were my resolutions on this site for stuttering? Avoid less? Engage more? Sadly it turns out I didn’t blog at all in January 2016 so … guess I didn’t have anything to work on!

If you’ve somehow managed to read this blog for enough months, you’ll notice my enthusiasm (maybe that’s not the right word) for posting has dropped off a lot in the past few months. It was great in the first year (as expected). I talked about all this with a close friend, and it was suggested I just set a simple goal and work toward that.

So let’s do that. Two posts a week.

There’s no shortage of what to blog about — my own life, movies, pop culture, articles out there, international conferences, and of course the annual NSA conference.

What works for everybody? Tuesdays and Fridays?

Blogging and Stuttering

So it turns out that keeping up a blog is a lot like keeping up good habits with regards to stuttering. There’s a lot of enthusiasm at first, you practice almost every day, you get some encouragement, you go to a conference, you meet some people, and you think it’ll magically carry on on its own.

Well, it definitely doesn’t.

I don’t always remember to breathe. To make a call plan before using the phone. To run conversations at my own pace.

But, much like this blog, it’s something that’s always at the back of my mind. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I really want out of this blog and how to schedule my life around it. I think maybe the bigger question is, what do I want out of my stuttering and how do I want to schedule my life around making that better? Are they the same question?

I suppose this proves a point

Been a month since I posted! I suppose this proves a point, though. As I’ve said before, I get more comfortable in situations — new city, new job, new people. I moved into this job back in January. It’s been nearly 10 months, and yes, I’m pretty comfortable.

What was intimidating and a bit nerve-wracking at first (speaking up during some meetings, making a call here and there, explaining things to strangers) has become a normal routine.

And so, since I’m not thinking about stuttering as much (but still, of course, stuttering) I think my mind is off of the blog.

That being said! I still have plenty of conference stuff to go through as well as the ISAD on Oct 22 and the ongoing online stuttering conference. And of course the twitter feed on the right is always a good source for stuttering articles.

I think I need to still find a good balance between posting and living with my stutter. I’m thinking a 2 or 3 times a week thing would be good. Daily was definitely too ambitious, but it did work out for a while when I had stuttering on my mind more.

The other thing that’s been happening is simply the busy of work. The days are passing by very, very quickly now. The weather in Saudi is changing (for the better) and the days are heinously short.

And what am I stuttering on? Well, I did have to make a few doctors appointments this evening. I did that in person. And I felt comfortable. Took a big deep breath, explained what I needed (checkup for the daughter, Botox refresh for me — yes, it’s already worn off!). And it was sorted as I hoped. I even managed to stutter only a little bit on the “one” in my telephone number. Nice win.

Overthinking Things

Two hundred posts! Finally made it. The past few days were slow due to the fun times at the hospital and the MRI (they didn’t find anything in my head).

I wanted to talk today about how those of us who stutter may end up overthinking things. I know I do this all the time. It’s a well established base — because I stutter, I don’t like to communicate, because I don’t like to communicate, I don’t get the right answers all the time. Because I don’t get the right answers, I have to spend more time and energy finding things out on my own. Because of spending that time and energy, I either get bored or tired and then the overall objective isn’t met. Something along those lines. Then I associate any failure in communication or achievement with my stuttering.

What happened with this MRI thing? Well, when I talked to the doctor, I told him (and stuttered) about my previous MRI experience. It wasn’t pleasant — I had a go in a smaller, older MRI and freaked out. Then I was told about the more “open” MRI. I was able to do that without any kind of sedation. It was fine. The doctor here said the MRI they have is smaller, so it can get a better scan. So I automatically asked about the sedation or anesthesia. This lead to a longer road of testing and waiting and whatever else.

When I finally got the call to go down to the MRI (after waiting in a hospital room all morning) they asked me again if I really wanted or needed the anesthesia. I told them about my concerns. The tech asked if I wanted to see the unit. Sure, why not. (Note that when I got into the MRI suite and realized that this was actually going to happen, my heart starting pounding a bit. Hilariously, I compared this to heart pounding when everybody is “going around the table” doing introductions, and it didn’t even come close.)

And which MRI was I going to go into? It was the bigger one. The one I could deal with without any drugs.

So all this runaround with the sedation or anesthesia — was that because of stuttering? No. Sometimes you just don’t think to ask. There’s no need to be hard on myself at every turn in the road. Now I’ve learned a little more. Ask to see the MRI. Someone’s definition of small or old might not be the same as mine.

I think part of accepting my stuttering is also accepting that if I’m going to get across what I want to get across, things are still not going to be perfect. I still need to work on other parts of my life. I need to continue to learn from experience and grow as a person.

Here’s to another 200 posts — and hopefully many more than that. I can’t believe it’s already May and the NSA Conference is less than two months out. In 60 days from now, I’ll be blogging about workshops and experiences from Baltimore!

Stuttering Favorites

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of this blog. So I thought I’d take a look back at the year and my favorite posts. The other benefit is that I can update a few of them over the next few weeks …

Covert and Overt Stuttering — Transitioning from covert to overt was a big deal, and it’s not done yet. But I’m making progress every time I say what I want to say and not just what I can say.

Conference Calls — they’ve gotten much better already in the new job — I know most of the people on them, and they’re patient anyway. But it’s crazy how your mind works when the mute button goes on and off.

Summing Up a Day of Stuttering — a long thought exercise — something for those of you who know someone who stutters. This is what life is like. And this is what those of us who stutter go through to make ourselves feel normal.

My Kind of Stuttering — My early exposure (before the NSA Conference) to people who stuttered was very minimal. Almost nonexistent. So it was interesting to see that stuttering has variety of faces (and sounds … or not) and I do some and not others.

I’m Telling You That You Can’t Do That Job — Message boards, Facebook, wherever else — there’s a lot of negativity about what people who stutter can do. If you put in the effort and do the work, you can make a major change. And if you’re young and undecided, you still have every opportunity open to you. There’s no time for haters.

Meeting the Stuttering Brain — this capped off my Stuttering Vacation that included the 2014 NSA Conference. Tom Weidig and I talked about stuttering, and he offered blunt advice that really resonated.

Slight stuttering blog changes

A little over a month ago I talked about making some changes to the site. I’ve finally started doing so now. There’s a menu bar across the top that points to several pages. At this time, those pages are just a framework. There are some links, but not nearly enough. Now that it’s up there, it’ll keep me accountable to mine the Internet for specific information about stuttering.

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