I studied Coach Lee’s book and Skyped with him a bunch of times, and I learned and used most of his methods, as so well described on WSSA’s website. All of this was of incredible help to me. In this process, I stumbled on a crutch of my own, which Coach Lee now calls “the Alex Twist”. It was the final straw that I used to break Satan Stuttering’s back. WSSA asked me to summarize my crutch in this blog. So, here goes.
The main reason I had speech blocks was I felt I wouldn’t be able to connect the first sound of the feared word to the second sound. Essentially, I felt a block between the two sounds. Because I wanted to say the whole word altogether, I would wait until I felt I could connect the two sounds before even starting to make the first sound.
So what I did was, instead of waiting until I was ready to say the whole word altogether, I said the first sound as if it was the only sound I was going to say, and then immediately after making that sound, I said the rest of the word. I was almost always able to say the rest of the word without a hitch. I’ll use my name as an example. Sometimes I felt like I was unable to connect the “A” to the “lex”, so I felt the need to wait until this felt possible before starting to make the “A” sound. My twist was to say the “A” sound on its own and then immediately after say the rest of my name as if it were a separate word. Another example, to say “stutterer”, I would say, “Ssss..tutterer”. The dots being a pause.
The result was virtually completely normal sounding speech, with the first and second sound said only slightly more slowly than normal because I was deliberately making the first sound and then switching to the second sound. Nobody even noticed I was doing this.
After doing this for a while, I realized that I did not have to use any sort of trickery on myself at all. I didn’t even have to pretend the first sound was the only sound I was going to say. The simple solution was, if I ever felt the sensation of there being an “invisible hurdle” (the feeling that triggers speech blocks), I would simply ignore it and begin saying whatever the next sound was anyway.
This sounds counterintuitive because most people see stuttering as a problem where one’s speech gets involuntarily hung up. However, for me, stuttering was an imaginary condition. There was nothing outside of my own imagination that caused the invisible hurdle. Even when I felt it’s presence, if I simply decided to begin saying the feared word anyway, nothing got in the way. The “hang ups” were therefore completely voluntary. I simply stopped speaking because I decided to stop speaking.
John Harrison’s book Redefining Stuttering provides an explanation for what this “invisible hurdle” is. It’s a subconscious desire not to say a particular word. It’s the way our subconscious mind stops our speech whenever it feels we are entering “unsafe” territory and believes we better shut up to stay safe. I believe the primary reason why I had this subconscious desire was a fear of saying something inappropriate or revealing my social awkwardness and lack of “street smarts”. Interestingly, before I even discovered this crutch, after improving my social skills and street smarts, the stuttering decreased on its own.
Because I believed the speech blocks were involuntary and there was nothing I could do to stop them, my subconscious was able to continue playing this “trick” on me over and over to get what it wanted. In the past, whenever I felt the invisible hurdle, I would stop speaking and either wait until I felt it had disappeared or began trying to “break free” of it with a variety of strategies such as facial contortions, swallowing, clicking noises, head jerks, filler words, etc. However, there was NOTHING AT ALL to wait out or break free from. This realization was the final nail that locked Satan in his coffin for good. My subconscious mind now knew that it couldn’t play any tricks on me anymore, so the invisible hurdles stopped appearing.
I feel it may be hard to fully realize and accept this without experiencing it for ourselves, so I recommend using any crutch or combination of crutches that work for you, reading aloud, and mind training to build fluency memories and fully convince ourselves that if we can say ONE word, anywhere, anytime, we TRULY CAN can say ANY word, anywhere, anytime.
So, the above, coupled with all of the other methods discussed on WSSA’s site led me to victory. By the time you read this, I will have added my Success Story to the many already posted by students of Lee’s/WSSA’s methods. WSSA is full of ex-stutterers who can help you. So, join us and get on board. I beat it. Now, it’s your turn.