Discovering Fluency through Technology

By John M. Williams

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I have stuttered for 53 years. I have never liked it. Hundreds of times I have cursed it.

Throughout my life, I tried a variety of therapies and devices to assist me achieve fluent speech. The therapies worked briefly. Their effectiveness collapsed because I lacked the discipline to carry through on the therapies.

In 2001, I was introduced to the SpeechEasy (www.speecheasy.com). After a week of using it, I returned it to the manufacturer. For me, it had more negatives than positives. It was not the miracle cure for stuttering that I had heard. It felt cumbersome wearing it in my ear. It picked up too many strange noises that were distractions.

In 2005, I was reintroduced to an upgraded version of the SpeechEasy. This time, the product wasmolded to fit comfortably into my ear. I was given practice sessions at East Carolina University, where I was taught to care for it. Wearing the SpeechEasy, my daily 10-minute practice sessions occur in the morning and evening. During practice, I read out loud. As I approach a word that I know is difficult, I stretch the vowel sounds before the word. I duplicate the stretching exercise while speaking.

Also during practice, I use the "uh" method. When I stop reading to take a breath, I resume reading by using "uh." This program increases my fluency in conversational speech, in delivering speeches and in reading.

I wear the "In the Canal" version of the SpeechEasy for a month. I warm up by reciting either the months of the year or a prayer out loud. The SpeechEasy resembles a hearing aid, and it emulates choral speech - a phenomenon that induces fluency in people who stutter. The device creates this choral pattern through Altered Audio Feedback (AAF) that consists of a combination of Delayed Audio Feedback (DAF) and Frequency Altered Feedback (FAF).

I wear the SpeechEasy eight hours daily when I am in a group, giving a speech or talking on the telephone. I do not wear it when I am writing, reading, watching TV, walking, riding a train or flying. The adjustable volume on the microphone is so sensitive that it picks up the loudest sound. Sirens and the screeching brakes of train have produced a piercing ringing in my ear that causes headaches.

The SpeechEasy has increased my fluency on the telephone, in small groups and in delivering speeches. When speaking on the telephone, I can hear myself being fluent. In small groups, where I am more comfortable speaking, since I started using the SpeechEasy, I am more fluent. Attendees have said so.

One of the benefits of increased fluency is an increase in my energy level. The less I stutter the more stamina I have, and my productivity rises.

The SpeechEasy used in unison with a good speech therapy program, coupled with discipline by the user and knowledge of the proper usage and care of the technology produced changes in my speech, and I expect future advancements.

Overall, my stuttering rate has dropped by 80%.

This article is included here because it may be helpful for many. However, this is NOT an endorsement by the Stuttering Foundation.