Recently a friend said to me, "John, you must have dealt with your stuttering well because you are the most talkative man I have ever met."
There are situations in which I am talkative. And yet, there are situations in which I am also silent. People think I am embarrassed to speak because I stutter. They are wrong.
I do not like to stutter. It is embarrassing, and the more I stutter, the more physically tired I become. Fluency reverses the negative physical affects of stuttering. Still, when I am silent, in most circumstances, I am silent because I am listening, learning and I have not thought of anything meaningful to say.
Still, stuttering in a fluency world makes me stand out. People look at me strangely when I stutter. Some people ignore me. Some people praise me for being courageous. Some people do not know how to react, and some people still try to finish words or sentences for me. Finishing words or sentences for me is a no, no, and I politely tell people I can speak for myself. And so, as a person who stutters, I live in a world of somes.
Having stuttered for close to 55 years, I can survive in a world with people responding to me differently from the way they respond to others who do not stutter.
I prefer being fluent, because I can speak more. By being fluent, others can speak more. By being fluent, people do not stare at me. By being fluent, I have more energy and people listen to me.
I have strived for fluency for five and a half decades, and I have had speech therapy many, many times. Sometimes it has worked temporarily. Reflecting upon the various therapies, I was either too immature to do the required therapy outside of the class or the therapy was too outrageous that I could not bring myself to do it.
An example of an outrageous therapy was swinging my arms forward and backward and simultaneously speaking in a rhythm. Another therapy was speaking to a rhythm to the beat of my finger.
And yet, I have had success in using technology to give me fluency, not all the time, but most times.
Two years ago, I was reintroduced to the SpeechEasy. I use it often, especially when I am doing an interview in person or by telephone. It has made a major difference in my life.
The SpeechEasy is small and inconspicuous and easy to be used outside of clinical environments. The philosophy behind the SpeechEasy is based on a natural phenomenon called the "choral effect." The choral effect occurs when people who stutter speak or sing in unison with others and their stuttering is dramatically reduced or even eliminated. This choral effect has been well documented for decades; however it is only recently that scientists have been able to recreate it in a small, wearable device for stuttering treatment that can be used in everyday life.
SpeechEasy fluency devices are worn similar to a hearing aid, using Altered Auditory Feedback. However, unlike hearing aids, rather than amplify sound, SpeechEasy devices use a system of Altered Auditory Feedback (AAF) to recreate and optimize the choral effect. What this means is that when I wear a SpeechEasy device and speak, my words are digitally replayed in my ear with a very slight delay and frequency modification. As a result, the brain perceives that it is speaking in unison with another person. This perception of "speaking in unison" creates the "choral effect", thus becoming a stuttering treatment that can reduce or even eliminate stuttering.
When I wear the SpeechEasy, people ask me, "How long have I been deaf?"
When I tell them I am not deaf, but I am wearing a fluency device and then explain its benefits, I usually hear, "Good for you." I know they mean it.
As part of the therapy, every morning and evening I read out loud for 10 minutes. I wear my SpeechEasy during this process. I find this time relaxing and physically and psychologically uplifting.
My SpeechEasy has to be cleaned nightly. I do it carefully.
My SpeechEasy runs on batteries. Each battery lasts about 50 hours, and I buy hearing aid batteries in packs of four for under $5.
My biggest problem with the SpeechEasy is too often I forget to take it with me. When I forget it, I am the loser.
The SpeechEasy works for me. I am grateful for it and for the fluency it gives me.