Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The SpeechEasy (with ramblings)

We're coming down to the wire for my first semester of grad school. Finals are next week and then it's home for Christmas. I'm treading water right now but I know it will turn out fine. It's hard to shake old study habits, but I'm putting my nose to the grindstone, taking the bull by the horns, and any other expression that fits there. I've got 2 real finals, a take-home exam that I can bang out pretty easily, and a bunch of KASA stuff to finish. Sometimes it feels like I have too much to do, other times I don't feel too over-burdened. In any case, it will all get done before next Thursday for my artic final.

My life has been boring as hell without work. It was nice at first to be able to wake up at a reasonable time and not have anything to do, but I think I'm going crazy. If I'm not studying or writing a paper I watch SpikeTV all day or my Simpsons DVDs. I've been looking for another job, preferably one that would require me to interact with people in some way so I can get more experience. I'd be lying if I said I had worked at golf courses my whole life for any other reason than I was afraid of stuttering. I was told about an assistantship that would pay for my tuition plus a big stipend, but it looks as though that has fallen through, leaving me with my pockets turned out. I've applied to Bally's, thinking I could cancel my membership and work out for free, plus it would get me to the gym and I could stay late and lift, because the hardest part for me right now is just getting there. That could be a possibility but I'm not getting my hopes up. If nothing happens, I'll probably just find some hospital or clinic to observe. I would love to see an early intervention clinic. I always talk about how that's what I want to do, but I've never been to one and I don't really know what happens there. It just sounds cool.

Speaking of early intervention, my personal philosophy for speech therapy right now is: get them in EI before they know what's going on, or don't bother offering services until they are self-referred and actually motivated to do something. I started thinking about this after we read an excerpt from the book "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris in artic class. Sedaris is an angry gay man with a lisp who wrote about his experiences in speech therapy. The chapter we read did not speak very highly of my field, but I understood everything he was talking about. He had the mentality of "Why do you want to change me?" and how his SLP wasn't friendly and didn't develop any rapport. When you're working with someone who doesn't necessarily want to change, you will make ZERO progress. I like to think that as an SLP, it will be my job to show my clients what they need to do to progress, but after that it's up to the client to follow through. I think the percentage is 20% "How"(from the SLP) and 80% "Why" (from the client). Most of the time I spent in therapy was passive on my part. I didn't practice outside of my sessions(while lying and saying I did), nor did I really put forth any effort in the real world. So I've definitely been in the position that Sedaris was, and I still feel that way sometimes. I get spurts of motivation to improve my stuttering depending on my situation at the time, but then I almost feel a sense of guilt as to why I'm trying to change "who I am". Everyone wants to be loved for who they are, right? Unfortunately, the reality is there is a social stigma against people who stutter, so if I want to do well socially, I'm going to have to change somehow. I try to remind myself that this is important in how I present myself, but sometimes it just doesn't feel that way. What makes i so hard to change is that it's a physical feeling, not a mindset at this point.

I go to a lot of message boards for people who stutter, and one I saw was from a man who brought up the "stuttering gene" and if at some future point they could fix it before birth, it would create a "master race" of fluent speakers and ruin the whole idea of stuttering, saying this is "who we are" and we should "have fun with it." I responded to him telling him using the term "master race" was inappropriate, and if they could eliminate stuttering, they should. I don't necessarily think there's anything heroic about going through life stuttering. If it's what I've been dealt, so be it, but if there was a pill, shot, DNA transplant, or device that could fix it instantly, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Speaking of magic devices, I got my SpeechEasy back from the supplier the other day, and I'm excited. I wrote about the SpeechEasy in my first blog, but to review, it's a tiny earpiece that looks like a hearing aid and with its microphone it takes my voice and repeats it in my ear a fraction of a second later, changing the frequency to make it sound like I'm speaking along with someone else. When I first got it in September of 2003, my expectations were very high. I told myself it wouldn't cure my stuttering, but I still had that thought in mind and even if it didn't fix it 100%, it would still change my life, my friendships, and my relationships because it would allow to be free with whatever I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. It worked well at first and I was happy with it, though there were many problems.

First, there is a lot of background noise because the microphone picks up every sound--not just my voice--and amplifies it. I found it very difficult to wear in loud environments, such as bars, parties, restaurants...and all the social settings I wanted to be able to speak fluently. The earpiece goes in my left ear, so it also gave me a hearing loss from the outside which is what we in the biz call the "occlusion effect". It's the reason why if you plug your ears you can hear yourself louder. The other thing is, you don't just put it in and the stuttering magically goes away, it takes a lot of focus and practice. I have to pay attention to the altered voice in my ear and my speech just flows from there. So if you think about it, I have to listen to what I just said a nanosecond after I said it, while continuing to speak....yea, that's real easy. The technology definitely works, it's a matter of focus, and like I've explained, it's not easy to focus all the time. After a few weeks I started wearing it less and less, and at some point I just stopped wearing it altogether. Because of my expectations and lack of discipline, I was very dissapointed in the SpeechEasy.

I didn't even think about wearing it until earlier this year when I realized the microphone was broken. I sent it out to get repaired and after a month it returned good as new (actually, the more I look at it, it looks completely brand new, which is nice at no repair charge). I've worn it all week and it's helped. I'm happier with it now because I realize it will not cure me, but I do get a benefit from it, especially in conversations. I've found myself talking more, and in my artic presentation yesterday I think I did pretty well considering I was nervous (until the end when I really didn't know what the hell I was talking about). The background noise is actually enjoyable for some reason, it's like hearing everyone talk like a Chipmunk and I think it's hilarious. I have to keep myself from laughing. I'm much happier with the SpeechEasy now, and I love wearing it.

Of course now if I need some social (preferrably dating) settings to use it in. I don't plan on barhopping alone because I just feel creepy. This apartment is big and could use a woman's touch. I was just thinking how I really dropped the ball over the summer by not asking that girl Caitlin out again. We went to dinner and the movies and I had a really good time, but after she dodged my goodnight kiss I wasn't sure if she was interested anymore, so I never asked her out again, wondering if she would ask me instead. I'm kicking myself for that, because she was really hot...

Seems like a good place to stop. Till next time.