Tonight (8/19/08) on ABC's series Medical Mysteries, airing at 10 pm EST in the US, I'll be included for about ten seconds. The segment is about people who have my bizarre speech problem called spasmodic dysphonia.

With spasmodic dysphonia your voice functions differently in every speaking context. People who have this condition generally can't order a pizza over the telephone but can speak perfectly to their cat. Ironically, the context in which I can speak best is while being interviewed about how I can't speak. So depending on how they edit the piece, I might come off as a fraud with no problem at all.

A month ago I had surgery to try and correct the problem once and for all. I won't know if it worked for 2-3 more months, after the nerves regenerate. I made a video of my pre-surgery voice so I would have a "before" version to compare to my post-surgery voice that I hoped would be normal. This exercise was wasted because as soon as the camera came on and I started talking about how I couldn't talk, I could talk perfectly. There wasn't a trace of a problem.

So you'll have to take my word for it that when the camera crews left, I couldn't talk well enough to pronounce my own name on the telephone. That's literally true.

Anyway, check it out.
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Aug 26, 2008

There's presumably no physical reason why having a camera pointed at you would make your voice work that much better, so its presumably a mental reason. We're all familiar (and you discussed it yourself a few weeks back) how having a camera pointed at you stops you being natural.

When you're being filmed, you're aware of it, and go into what might be called "lecture" mode - this fits with what you have reported previously about being able to talk to a room of people, but not to an individual in conversation. There's thus a kind of mental shift you make when you prepare for public speaking.

I was wondering, have you tried talking to individuals while pretending that you are delivering a one-on-one lecture? To make the same mental "click" as if you are declaiming rather than chatting?

There's a risk that you may end up sounding like a boor, who is proclaiming rather than socialising, but might be worth a shot?

All the best,

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Aug 21, 2008
Just create a hat with a micro camera on it that's always faced at you and recording! You'll never have voice problems again!
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Aug 20, 2008
Interesting coming from an Atheist. I have Zero proof that you have this disease, therefore, it comes to the logical conclusion that you do not have this disease. The only evidence I have is that you say you have it, and people that report the condition say you have it, but it's never actually been proven to me. You don't have this disease at all. You're a fraud.
Aug 20, 2008
I happened on the segment in progress. With all the joy you have brought to so many people over the years, I can only sincerely pray for the best outcomes for you and your family.

And as a humble graphic artist, I envy covet that awesome drawing setup (but not the reason you had to get it).
Aug 20, 2008
HI Scott -
I saw the segment last night. As you can imagine, there are some fiery conversaions happening on VoiceMatters.net. I think everyone is generally disappointed that the segment was as short as it was. I mean, don't get me wrong, the coverage in iteself is a great thing. However, I know they could have easily done a 2-hour show on SD alone. Anyway, I hope your surgery is a huge success. There is one other member on my site who just had the surgery as well (a couple of months ago) and she is seeing very positive results!!!!
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Aug 19, 2008
I am speaking completely from ignorance here Scott, but, if your voice can come back and be completely normal on a moment's notice and be based entirely on the context, wouldn't vocal chord surgery be the wrong solution? It does not sound like a physical problem to me, so how would a knife help you? I know absolutely nothing about this disorder though and am quite sincere in my ignorance. Either way I wish you a complete recovery, no matter how it is achieved.
Aug 19, 2008
Maybe just pretend you have a camera crew? Hire a Camera Crew? You have kids now, they might work cheap, so just buy the cameras.
Aug 19, 2008
I have SD as well, and am looking forward to the show tonight and to your progress with your surgery as well, Scott. I decided not to have Botox since it took my power to manipulate my voice away, which is how I currently manage it. I find a "character voice" (currently a cross between breathy Marilyn Monroe and Kermit the Frog, open up the back of the throat) and speak in that mode, and unless I'm really tired it usually works.

As to Scottique's question, yeah, getting tipsy helps but so does the refractory period after exercise, staying away from caffeine (sob) and general meditation. Relaxation definitely helps, not sure if that is because that reduces the spasming or it opens the back of the throat to diminish the impact of the spasms, or both.

Honestly, Scott, you should write about your SD journey. It could help so many people (and I bet a lot of non-SD folks are interested as well!)
Aug 19, 2008
I think you and Terry Pratchett are about neck and neck now.
Or one part of the brain and another part of the brain.
Aug 19, 2008
Maybe this question sounds disingenuous, but I know you're always up for a wacky solution.

I have a casual friend who I've met and befriended through a series of parties thrown by a mutual friend. In the course of his day-to-day life, he has a stutter that renders him, on a regular basis, almost entire unable to speak. However, I didn't know about it for literally months, because when he gets drunk, the stutter goes away entirely.

I know spasmodic dysphonia and stuttering are different problems, possibly with entirely unrelated causes, but: does getting plastered ever help you in situations that would be hardest normally?

(Yes -- Scott)
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