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Roland Paulis Nachbereitungs-Methode
Nachbereitung means optimized revision
HOW DOES THE ROPANA-METHOD WORK?
This predominantly mental method has its roots in high performance sport. Speech behaviour is shaped in such a way that new learning can overlay older structures related to stuttering.
Practising starts at the first symptom of stuttering. The entire sentence is patiently repeated while paying attention to proper breathing technique, behaviour and voice pitch until the complete sentence is produced in a relaxed and fluent manner. If fluency is not fully achieved after two to three repeats and the speaker does not feel that further repeats are likely to improve fluency, he should simply move to the next sentence. Often this alone helps to increase self-confidence which, in turn, affects later speech positively. Stuttering, in other words, is no longer ignored, but the difficulties are addressed and immediately worked on, until the speaker is able to appreciate and enjoy his or her newly found ability of fluent and relaxed speech.
In daily life with its stressful situations, experience has shown that no more than one or two new starts are needed for the experienced student. Increasing number of situations are relearned and increasing fewer situations cause difficulties. Once basic fluency is achieved, additional rhetorical elements are addressed and incorporated. Voice intonation and speech rate, appropriate to the situation and at a personal comfort level, are practiced. The individual can identify with such behaviour and enjoy its daily practice.
In keeping with personal progress, and in increasingly demanding situations, telephone conversations, presentations and job interviews are practised to assist the individual to attain more natural and self-confident speech.
WHICH PRINCIPLES LED TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS METHOD?
Every person, capable of fluent speech while in the privacy of his or her room, demonstrates that he or she has the organic capacity to do so. Each specific situation is tied to and assocoiated with previous experience. Some of those give rise to stuttering, others do not. However, the inner tension in certain situations rises to such a degree that the smooth collaboration of the muscular apparatus participating in the speech processes is disturbed or even temporarily paralyzed. When someone suddenly enters the room while the affected person is engaged in speech practice or is reading aloud, it frequently happens that the speech falls back into stuttering. Has there been a change in the attitude of performance expectation of the speaker? Had the person a sudden fear that he would be unable to perform, was he simply diverted or was he suddenly reminded of a previous situation in which he was stuttering? Is he now annoyed, frustrated, irritated or indifferent? Every person affected perceives the event, compares it with previous experience, evaluates and stores it in memory.
WHAT HAPPENS TO MY EMOTIONS?
The processing of our emotions takes place in the amygdala, a part of the limbic system in our brain. The amygdala is responsible for the emotional quality of our experiences and expectations. It also serves as the center for fear. In the amygdala each sensation, every thought and action is assessed, compared and integrated. If of no interest they are forgotten, if of significance they are stored in memory. Fear has thereby a greater influence than excessive pleasure. But the amygdala can, with its impulses, disturb or fully derail in each case the delicate speech pattern in us stutterers.
Sensations and thoughts are stored and become memories, which are linked into a neural network by means of synaptic connections (transmission points between nerve cells).
To remember means that events are recalled together with emotional values linked to them. Many stutterers are familiar with the phenomenon, which allows them to speak in one set of circumstances consistently without difficulty, while stuttering under other conditions. How can this be explained? One can assume that at similar stuttering events nervous impulses follow the same synaptic route which terminates in neurons that cause stuttering to occur. Repeated use of the same synaptic connections enables the established path to respond more quickly and with greater ease.
The more often I stuttered in a given situation, the more certain I became that I would find myself in the same situation helpless to refrain from stuttering again. In my fear of likely failure I was unable to breathe calmly, I had the feeling of tightness around my chest. In this state I was unable to speak with relaxed fluency.
HOW DO I MANAGE MY FEAR?
Stuttering is often beset by fear. People experience fear if they are meeting the unexpected, the unknown which is, or appears, threatening and they can see no easy escape. Subconscious thought of a previous fearful situation alone can give rise to fear. In my despair I remembered some previously learned strategies from the field of athletics training to convert negative fear of failure into constructive thought objectives. This is possible by means of optimized repetition. This means that I acknowlege my first emotion and attempt to judge the situation objectively and reassess my action in light of my objective.
I repeat the stuttered words I can recall, by myself and in privacy, with intensity and several times fluently and connect the now fluent speech sample of my speech mechanics in my thoughts with the previous situation. With this I have connected the previous event with successful speech.
The brain does not differentiate between my vivid imagination and the actual event. The subconscious stores whatever is offered. When, at a later date, I encounter the same or a similar speech situation, I deliberately recall the optimized repetition exercise and with this can access the stored fluent engrams (remaining trace of a neuro-physiological event) and can recall these more and more frequently. In future my amygdala will interfere less with my speech mechanics if the circumstances are assessed to be less threatening and I spoke well in the optimized repetition exercise. The inner command to react the next time more appropriately and calmly weakens the interference of the amygdala noticeably. The more often I use optimized repetition, the less my amygdala can throw me off course. I imagine the interference by the amygdala to be like the effect of an improperly grounded hairdryer on the performance of an antenna-fed radio.
Stuttering should no longer annoy me, but rather should merely serve as an indicator for the need to take action and engage in optimized repetition, a call to the pleasant expectation to get a handle on this situation as well. So I take care to produce fluent speech patterns, call them to my awareness and classify them as important to the future learning process. With this method I can replace stuttering structures with fluent speech patterns.
HOW DO I LEARN TO SPEAK NATURALLY?
Speech should sound as natural as possible and be experienced as such. In the long run only complete identification with fluent speech patterns secures sufficient motivation to carry on with the needed speech exercises.
In order to store speech patterns of fluency, speech exercises are interrupted at the first appearing symptom of stuttering and the sentence is patiently repeated in its entirety after breathing preparation, correction of behaviour and voice level, until the complete sentence is easily and fluently produced. It is very important that the person involved practices in the same manner as he or she will make use of it later on. If one wishes to speak fluently at home in one's dialect one must practice this with deliberation. High German and dialects have their own speech melodics and rhythms and have to be programmed specifically.
This method has proven to be quite successful to overcome fear from specific letters, sounds or words. In some instances the level of apprehension may initially rise when the repetition of difficult words is required, but slowly this condition evaporates as more fluent speech is attained from optimized repetition. Only those elements are integrated into the optimized repetition process which serve to make speech more fluent and are gladly accepted as being helpful.
The essential elements consist of the control of natural breathing, sufficient time for speech planning, controlled speech start and speech rate in keeping with the situation. For the advanced student, speech melody, articulation, emphasis, speech volume, posture and concentration on the internal perception are added. Repeated optimized repetitions, supported by video images, which allow for analysis, open unimagined opportunities for the student for objective assessments of applied modes of behaviour. This, in turn, boosts the student's ability to exercise increased control over his speech behaviour.
WHY IS OPTIMIZED REPETITION SO EFFECTIVE?
He, who affords the necessary time to follow up on previously stuttered sentences will observe that speech becomes progressively easier and more fluent. Firstly, because the speech content is already familiar and, secondly, because the inner attitude towards repetition without time pressure provides a relaxing atmosphere. After a fluent repetition of stuttered speech which is now stored in the short-term memory, this version is more likely to be recalled by the subconscious mind during later sentences. Experience shows that after only two or three repetitions in the therapy session often unusually fluent speech occurs which rarely is in need of further follow-up.
For maximum efficiency, the subconscious consistently compares situations. The subconscious mind follows the familiar. Such automated reactions save time. New decisions are more time consuming and the subconscious avoids this in order to react quickly and with minimal energy consumption. To re-route undesired synaptic pathways of previously learned behaviour, therefore, requires intense concentration and major energy expenditure. Often used neural pathways can only be altered by consistent and specifically aimed correction.
CAN REPETETIVE EXERCISES BE FUN?
Starting in childhood many people who stutter have developed an aversion against advice with punitive character, like: "Now start over again correctly", "take a deep breath first", "don't be so hectic" "remain calm, after all we are listening to you" etc. Such advice is rarely helpful and often is experienced as patronising when it is recognized that the current situation does not permit sufficient relaxation to attain fluent speech. The inability to satisfy both, ones own and the other party's expectations ends easily in helplessness, frustration, anger, aggression or worse. Only when the adult rational mind decides voluntarily to make use of the optimized form of repetition, because the meaning of the underlying principles of learning has been recognized, can a new beginning blossom. The previous advice is good, but much depends on the personal understanding and the proper sequencing of the elements involved.
Once I can see sense in the described elements and the first successes become visible, I am more prepared to undertake the work of optimized repetition and may even have fun doing it.
If I prepare myself, for example, for a reading in a church service, then I like to read the biblical passages several times aloud, using different intonations to find the best way to convey the significance of the text to the members of the parish. The positive feedback from visitors and other team members motivate me tremendously.
HOW CAN I LEARN TO DIRECT MY SPEECH BETTER?
If, for example, I want to ask a question, then I can afford to take about three seconds before I allow my breath to come and then ask my question calmly and clearly. Should a symptom appear I could stop at once, give myself even more time to allow my breath to come more gently and if necessary ask my question at a slower speed. Success demonstrates to me that I have a better chance to direct my speech with these elements than when I stumble into a situation without preparation. Because during stuttering I hardly, if ever, notice that when breathing in my breath feels cool as it passes gently across my tongue, the mucous membranes and toward the relaxed larynx, I can now connect this sensation with the experience of fluid speech. Now, if I wish to speak fluently all I have to do is recall this pleasant sensation and chances are that this will be followed by successful speech.
We know that when Pavlow rang a bell each time he fed the dog, soon the dog would salivate by the ringing of the bell even in the absence of food.
Tennis professionals, for example, know that pre-action rituals like the bouncing of the ball, the smooth turning of the racket handle in the hand, or the side to side swaying of the body before launching the ball bring calmness into the play. This ceremonial behaviour directs the attention to something essentially neutral and familiar in which the actual target action is rooted and from which it takes its impetus. What is important here is that such ritualized behaviour is not only practised when it appears to be important, but always. If I only practise it inconsistently the brain will not evaluate it as unequivocal. Only when my brain receives clear-cut signals with a high rate of repetition, can the desired effect be attained.
If I have practised my short pause to recall the coolness of breath, the adaptation of speech rate etc. over weeks and connected them with fluent speech, only one of these elements may suffice to create the same effect. The remaining elements are automatically added. At the final step I say what I wish to say without any of the above efforts. My subconscious mind has taken over.
WHAT DOES SPORT HAVE TO DO WITH SPEECH?
Every world class tennis player makes mistakes, but in the end, the one who will be more successful is also the one who has learned to overcome his mistakes faster. Who grieves less about his mistakes and is focused on his aim and forward looking, gets out of his low and soon finds his old strength. For the mentally trained the next ball is always the most important one. For this one he wants to be particularly well prepared and thereby creates the conditions for success. The faster I can get my mistakes behind me, the less they can detract from my self-confidence. I replace negative thoughts with positive ones and even re-hearse them encouragingly to myself. How often do we hear tennis players say to themselves: "come on" in an effort to rejuvenate themselves or to drive themselves when not just strength but also concentration begins to wane.
To give up or to engage in self-recrimination is never helpful in overcoming obstacles. Only when I leave this negative track can I find back to my best performance. There never has been a straight way to the top of the world. Every world-class player had to train hard and long, had injury lay-offs and personal problems. Changes in style, motivational disruptions and defeats had to be accepted. Only the one who can walk this long way with determination and without accepting defeat can reach the aim.
Among tennis instructors, it's claimed that a player who over the years has used a choppy and tense overhead serve can no longer learn to serve in a fluid and powerful manner. With deliberate and consistent repetition of a new move including many carefully staged increments, it became possible to teach a 17-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man to use a totally new serve, this against all common assumptions to the contrary. Amazingly, the new movement was not only maintained during practice sessions but also during actual matches when success counts more than good technique. Especially under pressure when self-expectation for success is high, fluid co-ordination is often lost. It seems to me that a reliable fine-motor-co-ordination is one of the most important factors on which tennis as well as speech is based. The fact that the 17-year-old was successful in the changing techniques is perhaps less surprising. After all she still relatively young to learn. However, the fact that a 65-year-old man after 30 years of using a choppy overhead serve was able to master in the timeframe of eleven months a fluid forehand serve, astounds the experts.
When I asked my pensioner during a video-take to demonstrate his previous overhead serve, he was unable to do it. Much to his own consternation he was not able to reproduce the serve even in a second attempt. He had executed the new move so frequently that the old neural pattern had faded away and a new engram had been created.
I became aware that I had already taught for many years with complex learning material and strategies, often under emotionally charged conditions and I noticed more and more parallels between the motor training in speech and sport. I understand speech to be a voluntary (planned) as well as involuntary (autonomous) action of the muscle apparatus involved in breathing and vocalization. I have learned in sport as well as in speech that maximal fluency and control can only be achieved with regular and concentrated training. I also understand that I must respond immediately with the desired motion pattern when I experience an involuntary recurrence of undesired motion patterns. This becomes particularly effective if I can repeat the same situation, use the proper pattern deliberately and praise myself of any success. Following an error it is useful to execute the same move correctly several times to allow the desired pattern to gain the upper hand.
WHEN DID I HAVE MY BIG BREAK-THROUGH?
With reference to the efforts to correct my once quite marked tonic and clonic stuttering, my experience is that it does not suffice to correct only a word. The entire sentence is thereby not fluent and naturally retained and there is a risk that I will always stumble over the same spot. With the less time-consuming method of only repeating the stuttered word I was unable to achieve what I wanted. The resulting speech, chopped into little blocks, was not satisfying me. I felt that I had greater potential. I could only experience a real break-through after I was prepared to repeat the entire sentence, never mind its length, until it was fluent. Once fluency was attained I kept on practising in private until intonation, articulation and speech rate reached a level consistent with my expectations. In this manner I also learned to express the emotional qualities of what I was saying. I deliberately reinforced the achievement of the optimized sentence and commanded myself internally to continue to speak in the same natural manner. By systematically following up on each sentence prior to a speech exercise or telephone conversation, I suddenly noticed that after only a few conversations there remained little need for ongoing repetition.
After eleven month I found myself almost symptom free and since October 1998, apart from some lapses under especially trying conditions, quite stable and able to withstand stress. Being able to give oral presentations, attend panels and act as moderator in discussion groups today enriches my life. My former panicky fear of the telephone has yielded much enjoyment of this instrument and I appreciate the effectiveness of conference calls.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING PRACTICE SESSIONS AT THE ROPANA SEMINAR?
We start with very simple and positively oriented sentences and read them together aloud. Many participants manage this at the first try with a high degree of fluency. Then we read individually and apply the previously discussed follow-up method. Now we begin to increase the demand in carefully measured steps, offering each participant a maximum of fluent speech samples for retention. Soon we practice in pairs to heighten practice intensity. By means of deliberately induced interference factors, the by now quite fluently speaking participants learn to react appropriately and constructively to these challenges. Following a weekend's work it is possible to say much in fluent and natural speech. Some newcomers even manage to give brief presentations with bravura. Because fluent speech samples at this point in time still remain in mid-term memory but not yet in long-term storage, further practice is needed over several months to stabilize the speech patterns permanently. Long-term practice with this method is just as unavoidable as with any other, however, the noticeably early success serves on-going motivation well.
Group meetings in eight-week intervals are recommended to learn from each other's experiences. It seems easier to persist in practice if this occurs in groups. Participants are encouraged to retain regular telephone contact with each other in between the weekend seminars. Some are especially eager and truly enjoy speaking on the telephone.
HOW DO I COPE WITH IT DAY BY DAY?
During the therapy session emotional challenges are gradually increased to the level of everyday situations and linked with successful experiences. Deliberate challenges are only selected after the level of speech confidence has grown to the point where fluent speech in daily situations may be expected. Some follow-up work is usually required here, at least at the beginning. Optimized repetition, if not otherwise possible, may now follow the completed speech situation. With the assistance of a checklist I clarify for myself the conscious and subconscious stress factors. By means of analysis and re-evaluation of the situation and its related stress factors follow-up on the remembered stuttered sentences is done in private until each sentence has been spoken fluently, has been reinforced and stored in memory. During this process I have the opportunity to also optimize my pitch and intonation, word choice and even my conduct. This follow-up should be repeated until one has the feeling that one can master the same situation in the future fluently. This results in an inner preparedness for similar speech situations in the future.
Many fluent sentences are experienced and placed into intermediate memory by independent daily practice using this method. Over weeks and months many of these fluent speech samples and their linked success experiences arrive in long-term memory and may overlay, even erase earlier stutter experiences and speech failures. Now the fear of speaking can become the joy of speaking. Embarrassment, anger and helplessness may be changed by successful experiences of pride, joy and self-assurance. This raises the willingness to go on and practising comes more and more easily.
WILL I MY SPEECH SOUND NORMAL WHEN USING THIS METHOD?
In the final phase of this conceptual training one should be able to begin correction by anticipatory sensation of a symptom. Therefore the only rarely externalized efforts towards correction will not differ from those made by persons with normal speech in an effort to revise speech content.
This high social compatibility permits the application of the Ropana method with considerable ease in every-day situations. Since at this level correction takes place prior to the external appearance of a symptom, the no longer stuttering person will simply be perceived as a normal, but thoughtful person.
CAN I SPEED UP THE RELEARNING PROCESS?
My speech can become more quickly fluent and stabilized by reading aloud the currently 62 positive statements on a regular basis. Those inner commands remind and motivate me time and again to continue on this promising path. To these sentences belong for example: "I start each conversation cool-headed. I always start with a full voice. I pause for three seconds until I have full control of my breathing. I take as much time as I need. I speak calmly and controlled. My voice has an agreeable pitch. I adapt the pace of my speech to the situation. My daily practice is rewarding. I allow the process of over-learning to mature in its own time. I feel a dream-like ease while speaking." Those and other sentences every morning and evening spoken aloud for about five minutes strengthened my motivation and endurance and mobilized the desired speech parameters.
In the meantime I make only occasional use of this form of autosuggestion, either prophylacticly or for relaxation. Whoever can acquaint himself with the accompanying autosuggestion is likely to attain his goal easier and faster.
HOW DO I DEAL WITH RELAPSES?
Stuttering will occur from time to time in our daily living, but since it can be dealt with by appropriate follow-up I need not feel anger. I rather can accept it as feedback on my current status of progress. Often following therapy the new speech fluency is taken for granted.
Perhaps some of us may think, "I had to work hard for this". When the transfer in a situation which remindes me of a stuttering event does not turn out well, then the feeling of frustration can sometimes comes quickly and severly, and may cause me to classify the event as a relapse. Negative feelings can easily gain the upper hand and my best course of action is to analyze the situation unemotionally. If I am truly honest I may confess that I still was much better than in the past.
With the help of follow-up I can forgive myself my stuttering at any time and don't have to be ashamed or aggrieved, because I work consistently to get a handle on my stuttering. People who work on themselves and set themselves goals are respected in our society and often admired. Errors, perceived stagnation in learning when seemingly nothing moves because the brain is still busy reorganizing, lapses in form and relapses will occur and are part of every complex learning and re-learning process and of life itself. With regular practice severe relapses usually only occur under unfamiliar and demanding emotional challenges. However, with intensive follow-up such lapses can be caught up with within a matter of days.
Once I accept that errors, perceived stagnation in learning, and relapses naturally occur during my learning process, they no longer have any power over me. If I am prepared for their appearance and equipped with a way out, even fear cannot impact me anymore. Relapses may delay my relearning process briefly, but if I keep practising with determination, success becomes unstoppable.
Roland Pauli is personally or by telephone available to advise in such situations free of charge.
Tel.: 00 49 91 31 60 15 61
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I PRACTICE?
Since this is a process of over-learning daily practice is needed. The best would be in the morning and during the evening because this is when the subconscious mind is most receptive.
Try to recall the method as often as possible and use it deliberately. If you stumble in your daily situation, retreat to a place, which offers you comfort and security and strengthens your self-assurance. Select simple situations in your everyday life that provide real success possibilities. Do not over-stretch yourself. Each stuttering event feeds the old structures and every sentence spoken fluently, even if only modestly, helps to make your speech more fluent and stable. The adages "to eliminate radically" and "don't let the foot into the door" come to my mind.
No longer used synaptic pathways decay, while repeatedly used pathways grow and develop new neural networks. The more stable your fluent speech becomes, the better you will react even under high stress. Forgive yourself your failures time and again, be patient with yourself and be pleased about every little bit of progress. Each ever so little progress gives you new motivation.
HOW SOON CAN I COUNT ON SUCCESS?
Since stuttering structures over years and decades leave their traces in the brain, a full over-learning right to the elimination of old patterns is as a rule only possible within one or more years of training. However, already after one month some success can be expected. Many determined course participants now enjoy use of the telephone, communicate with public officials, give talks and successfully completed employment interviews.
The fastest result will be yours if you abstain from looking suspiciously at your daily progress, but let the over-learning process ripen and develop calmly. What is the saying? "In peace is power".
Guidelines of the Ropana-Method® (version 21)
1. With the following sentences I will have a good start to my day.
4. After I pause for three seconds I let my cool breath flow.
7. My voice has a pleasant pitch.
10. My voice sounds very appealing.
13. Allowing my speech to be melodic gives it a likeable quality.
16. I use pauses to inhale calmly.
19. I raise or lower my voice to attain the appropriate expressiveness.
22. I speak clearly and articulate well.
25. I am understood well.
28. A powerful confidence fills my heart.
31. I recall situations with positive outcomes.
34. I can speak fluently.
37. I like myself the way I am.
40. I am pleased about my ability to speak calmly and fluently to my audience.
43. Daily practice gives me a great deal of security.
46. I allow the process of overlearning to ripen in its own time.
49. I feel that I can continue talking confidently now.
52. I say everything as clearly as I intend to say it.
55. I feel completely self-secure.
58. I sense a heavenly ease in my speaking.
61. With those guidelines I conclude my review every evening.
Tel. +49 (0)91 31 - 60 15 61
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