Monday, May 11, 2009

I was trapped...and then I learned how to run and gun!!!!

Good evening everyone,

As I am typing this blog tonight, I'm settling in focusing dually on my thoughts and those surrounding the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Those of you who have known me for so long know how big of a fan of the sport I am, and for me, this is the best time of the year, with the exception of the NSA conference. For those fans who swear by the coolest game on earth, this is the win to win sixteen in the spring to get the ring, you must do what you normally wouldn't do. As Mark Recchi put it in an interview in The Hockey News, "Guys step out of their comfort zone."

One of the biggest strategies in hockey for so long was the neutral zone trap. If you happened to be on a team that utilized this strategy, basically it was a way to strangle the opposition by cutting off their scoring chances, preventing any movement through the area between blue lines. But what so many players realized is that while this works to a point, it also prevents one from doing what they wish to do. They also take away their own chances to make success for themselves.

When I was starting out in speech therapy as a young boy, my first exposure to techniques was "stretching." I very easily recall a speech pathologist on the other side of the desk explaining how to prolong the sounds, in essence, instead of saying the sentence "My name is Steven," it would come out as "Mmmmyyyyy nnnnaaaaame iiisssss Steeeven," and looking back on it now, I must have sounded like a complete android. Most of my NSA teammates would say this is a treatment that is far outdated and really now has no substantial value. While I did use that technique, I too found myself being "trapped." How I longed to speak the way others could, even if I blocked several times on the way to completing my thoughts.

As my evolution into speech therapy continued, my techniques began to follow suit. I learned the "easy onset" and the "airflow" method, learning how to breathe from the diaphragm and try to get a running start on the words. But the more I did that, the more it seemed like the words just were a stream of dominoes falling, but never in rhythm. I'd have one good word...and then the spasms returned.

I also realize in my younger years, I was painfully difficult to work with. I went through five speech therapists in seven years, and when you do not have the continuity that you need, you find yourself facing multiple challenges and setbacks. If you watch any hockey players perform, the top ones that will tell you they need a system to work with where they can continually understand what is expected. Change the strategy too many times, and the results will speak for themselves.

I now like to use what I call a run-and-gun strategy. Watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you need to have that mentality where you'll going to do whatever it takes to accomplish the job. Put yourself on offense, and when you block hard, you run and gun even harder. You need to tell your stutter that it does NOT own you....but you own it. You WILL say what you want. You WILL stand up for yourself and your teammates. No matter the situation, you know that you will achieve your goal and not let some vocal spasm stop you. My days of running away from my stutter have died. My flame to speak now burns strongly than ever. When you tell yourself you are capable of running-and-gunning when it comes to your speech, you give yourself all the power you need to kick stuttering's ass. And it is such a great why don't you learn how to run-and-gun when it comes to your speech? Get in the game!!!

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

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