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Author Topic: The god complex  (Read 10454 times)


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The god complex
« on: September 28, 2009, 05:30:54 am »

Original post for The god complex can be found at https://www.castledragmire.com/Posts/The_god_complex.
Originally posted on: 01/05/08

Oops, life kind of hit me like a ton of bricks the last few days and I haven’t had time to get much done.  It didn’t help that I had a 72 hour straight run of wakefulness, then slept for about 24 hours straight :-).  *Shakes fist at certain medications*.  But now to continue on the second section of my previous medical post...

Medical science has come a very long way in the last 100 years, making very large important jumps all the time, but there is still a very very long way to go.  The “purpose” of the appendix was just “officially” found not too long ago, and if something that simple took that long to find out... But anyways, most of where we are in medicine still involves a lot of guessing and fuzzy logic.  While we do know many things for certain, diagnosing is still more often than not guess work due to what the patient can describe.  Even when we know what the problem is, we still aren’t even sure of the definite cause, and without that, we can only make educated guesses in how to treat them.  Sometimes we even have the knowledge to diagnose a problem, but it may be too expensive, in a time+effort vs gains manner, or possibly too early in developmental stages and not considered proper yet.  Then again, sometimes we even do have the answers but they are being withheld for “evil” purposes.  Anyways, I have 4 stories I’d like to share today on this topic to drive my point home.

First, I’ll get my own story out of the way.   A couple of years back, my appendix burst, I assumed it was just my IBS, as stated in my previous post.   Two days afterwards, I went to the doctor and we specifically said we wanted to rule out appendicitis as a cause, so they took my x-ray, and it somehow turned up as negative... so I was diagnosed with constipation, as my mother was often noting as what she thought it must be.

So on the way out of the office, stepping out of the door, I stopped and asked the doctor if they could take a blood sample so I could see how my cholesterol was doing (been fighting high cholesterol for a long time, the medication I take for it works wonders), and they did.   So I took some laxatives, and 3 days later I was still in lots of pain and lots of other problems.   So the call from the doctor came in the middle of that Monday, having gone to the doctor mid-Friday, right before I was about to call them back, and I was instructed to go straight to the hospital, as my (white?) blood cell count was super high.  Thank Thor I asked them.

So I go to the hospital, they do a few tests, one involving drinking a liter of a liquid that tasted like chalk beforehand, which I had to do once on a return visit too, and they come back and tell me my appendix had burst, and somehow, miraculously, I wasn’t dead due to a pocket forming and containing the toxin, and I was to go into surgery within hours.  Obviously, everything went relatively well, as I am still here.

There was one really painful night, though, with a temperature so high that I was apparently hallucinating, and I don’t remember.  So I got out of the hospital after a week... and then immediately went back in that night due to a bacteria infection and was on antibiotics for another week.  At least I didn’t need morphine (ah gee...) that second week.

On a more silly note, right before going into surgery, I jokingly asked my female surgeon how long it would take, as I had to log into my computer every (5?) hours for security or it would erase all my porn (or something like that).  Well, the poor naive doctor took it seriously, and literally turned as red as an apple, at which point I had to rescind my statement and explain I was just joking ^_^;.

Second story is much more recent.  Can’t go into details, but a friend of mine was at the hospital with some stomach problems, and the doctors came back with congratulations, in that she was pregnant.  After finally convincing them that she could not possibly be pregnant and was pretty sure she wasn’t carrying the reincarnation of Jesus, they did more tests and found out it was a rather nasty cyst in her (uterus?); good job doc(s)... so she had it removed.  They determined very soon after when the bloodwork came back what type of cancer it was... so she’s been in very aggressive therapy since.

The next story has been a long time upset of mine.  A female cousin of mine, who has always been as sweet as can be, contracted lime disease.  This in and of itself wouldn’t have been a problem normally, except that she and her parents had to go doctor hopping for well over a year to finally get it properly diagnosed. By this advanced stage of the problem, it was too late to be able treat it properly with no after effects, so she has lost most of the last 5+ years of her life to the disease and the incredible lethargy and problems it causes.

They have been trying many many ways to cure the problem, and are finally hopeful at a new possible solution they’ve found.  I hope to Thor it works out and she can start living her life to the fullest again; which actually parallels the next story quite well.

I saved this one for last because it involves a celebrity :-).  Scott Adams, creator/artist of the Dilbert comic strip, had been afflicted for a few years with Spasmodic Dysphonia, which causes an inability to speak in certain situations.  After going through the prescribed medical procedure involving long needles several times per year for the rest of your life, he finally found a doctor who had a very large success rate of curing the illness, and it worked for him too.

Apparently, the pharmaceutical industry shuts out any info they can about the proper treatment, as they make fists of money peddling out their very expensive temporary botox treatments that often don’t work well or at all.

Long story short, our medical industry has a long way to go before I consider it a true science, the first step being saving it from the grip of the pharmaceutical giant.

Scott Adam’s Blog Posts:
Good News Day (October 24, 2006): Original Post, Archive

Good News Day

As regular readers of my blog know, I lost my voice about 18 monthsago. Permanently. It’s something exotic called Spasmodic Dysphonia.Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down insome people, usually after you strain your voice during a bout withallergies (in my case) or some other sort of normal laryngitis. Ithappens to people in my age bracket.

I asked my doctor – a specialist for this condition – how manypeople have ever gotten better. Answer: zero. While there’s no cure,painful Botox injections through the front of the neck and into thevocal cords can stop the spasms for a few months. That weakens themuscles that otherwise spasm, but your voice is breathy and weak.

The weirdest part of this phenomenon is that speech is processed indifferent parts of the brain depending on the context. So people withthis problem can often sing but they can’t talk. In my case I could domy normal professional speaking to large crowds but I could barelywhisper and grunt off stage. And most people with this condition reportthey have the most trouble talking on the telephone or when there isbackground noise. I can speak normally alone, but not around others.That makes it sound like a social anxiety problem, but it’s really justa different context, because I could easily sing to those same people.

I stopped getting the Botox shots because although they allowed meto talk for a few weeks, my voice was too weak for public speaking. Soat least until the fall speaking season ended, I chose to maximize myonstage voice at the expense of being able to speak in person.

My family and friends have been great. They read my lips as bestthey can. They lean in to hear the whispers. They guess. They put upwith my six tries to say one word. And my personality is completelyaltered. My normal wittiness becomes slow and deliberate. And often,when it takes effort to speak a word intelligibly, the wrong word comesout because too much of my focus is on the effort of talking instead ofthe thinking of what to say. So a lot of the things that came out of mymouth frankly made no sense.

To state the obvious, much of life’s pleasure is diminished when you can’t speak. It has been tough.

But have I mentioned I’m an optimist?

Just because no one has ever gotten better from Spasmodic Dysphoniabefore doesn’t mean I can’t be the first. So every day for months andmonths I tried new tricks to regain my voice. I visualized speakingcorrectly and repeatedly told myself I could (affirmations). I usedself hypnosis. I used voice therapy exercises. I spoke in higherpitches, or changing pitches. I observed when my voice worked best andwhen it was worst and looked for patterns. I tried speaking in foreignaccents. I tried “singing” some words that were especially hard.

My theory was that the part of my brain responsible for normalspeech was still intact, but for some reason had become disconnectedfrom the neural pathways to my vocal cords. (That’s consistent with anyexpert’s best guess of what’s happening with Spasmodic Dysphonia. It’ssomewhat mysterious.) And so I reasoned that there was some way toremap that connection. All I needed to do was find the type of speakingor context most similar – but still different enough – from normalspeech that still worked. Once I could speak in that slightly differentcontext, I would continue to close the gap between thedifferent-context speech and normal speech until my neural pathwaysremapped. Well, that was my theory. But I’m no brain surgeon.

The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, Inoticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn’tconsidered. A poem isn’t singing and it isn’t regular talking. But forsome reason the context is just different enough from normal speechthat my brain handled it fine.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.

I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It waseffortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyedrepeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almostflawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech.Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it’sjust plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Thensomething happened.

My brain remapped.

My speech returned.

Not 100%, but close, like a car starting up on a cold winter night.And so I talked that night. A lot. And all the next day. A few times Ifelt my voice slipping away, so I repeated the nursery rhyme and tunedit back in. By the following night my voice was almost completelynormal.

When I say my brain remapped, that’s the best description I have.During the worst of my voice problems, I would know in advance that Icouldn’t get a word out. It was if I could feel the lack of connectionbetween my brain and my vocal cords. But suddenly, yesterday, I feltthe connection again. It wasn’t just being able to speak, it wasKNOWING how. The knowing returned.

I still don’t know if this is permanent. But I do know that for oneday I got to speak normally. And this is one of the happiest days of mylife.

But enough about me. Leave me a comment telling me the happiestmoment of YOUR life. Keep it brief. Only good news today. I don’t wantto hear anything else.

Voice Update (January 14, 2007): Original Post, Archive

Voice Update

No jokes today on “serious Sunday.”

Many of you asked about my voice. As I’ve explained in this blog,about two years ago I suddenly acquired a bizarre and exotic voiceproblem called a spasmodic dysphonia. I couldn’t speak for about 18months unless I was on stage doing my public speaking, or alone, orsinging. The rest of the time my vocal cords would clench and I couldbarely get out a word.

Other people with this condition report the same bizarre symptoms.We can also often speak perfectly in funny British accents but not inour own voices. We can speak after we have laughed or yawned. Sometimesit helps to pinch our noses or cover our ears. I found I can talk okayif I stretch my head back and look at the ceiling or close my eyes. Andwe can all sing and hum just fine.

It looks like a whacky mental problem, except that it comes onsuddenly and everyone has a similar set of symptoms regardless of theirpsychological situation at the time. (It’s not as if we all have postpartem depression or just got back from war.)

The only widely-recognized treatment involves regular Botox shotsthrough the front of the neck and directly into the vocal cords. Butbecause the Botox takes some time to reach full impact, thenimmediately starts to wear off, you only have your best voice abouthalf of that time. And the shots themselves are no picnic. I was hopingfor a better solution, especially since I couldn’t do my publicspeaking after Botox injections because it weakened my voice too muchto project on stage.

One day, long after the last Botox shot had worn off, I wasrepeating a nursery rhyme at home. I found that I could speak a poemfairly well even though I couldn’t speak a normal sentence. Suddenlysomething “clicked” in my brain and I could speak perfectly. Just likethat. It was amazing.

[Note: I doubt the choice of poem had anything to do with it, but it was Jack Be Nimble.]

Many of you asked if it lasted. It did last, for several days. ThenI got a cold, my throat got funky, I had to speak different because ofthe cold, and lost it. After the cold wore off, it took a few weeks toget back to my current “okay” voice.

At the moment I can speak okay most of the time in quietconversation. In other words, if there is no background noise, I cantalk almost as if I never had the problem. That’s a HUGE improvementover the past.

But I still can’t speak in noisy environments. That’s common withthis condition, and it has nothing to do with the need to speak loudlyto talk over the noise. It has something to do with the outside soundcoming into my brain and somehow disabling my speech function. If Icover my ears, I can speak almost normally.

Unfortunately for me, the world is a noisy place. So outside ofconversations with my family at home, I still can’t have a normalconversation.

Today I am flying to Los Angeles to spend a week with Dr. MortonCooper. He claims to be able to cure this problem completely – in manyif not most cases – using his own brand of intensive voice exercisesand feedback. I’ve communicated directly with several people who saythat he did indeed fix their voices. The medical community’s reactionto his decades of curing this problem is that they say each of hiscures is really just a case of a person who was misdiagnosed in thefirst place, since spasmodic dysphonia is incurable BY DEFINITION. Butmany of his cures have involved patients referred by the topspecialists in the field of spasmodic dysphonia. So if they are allmisdiagnosed, that would be a story in itself. Maybe I’m lucky enoughto be misdiagnosed too.

I’m not sure how much blogging I will be able to do this week. I’lllet you know at the end of the week just how it went. It’s not a suddencure, and would involve continued voice exercises to speak in the"correct" way, but I am told to expect significant progress after aweek.

Wish me luck.

Voice Update [2] (January 21, 2007): Original Post, Archive

Voice Update

Asregular readers know, about two years ago I lost my ability to speak.The problem is called spasmodic dysphonia (SD). This update isprimarily for the benefit of the other people with SD. Many of youasked about my experience and for any advice. The rest of you will findthis post too detailed. Feel free to skip it.

First, some background.

There are two types of spasmodic dysphonia.

Adductor: The vocal cords clench when you try to speak, causing a strangled sound. (That is my type.)

Abductor: The vocal cords open when you try to speak, causing a breathy whisper.

You can get more complete information, including hearing voiceclips, at the National Spasomodic Dysphonia Association (NSDA) website: http://www.dysphonia.org/

The NSDA site describes the two medical procedures that are recommended by medical doctors:

1. Botox injections to the vocal cords, several times per year for the rest of your life.

2. Surgery on the vocal cords – a process that only works sometimes and has the risks of surgery.

What you won’t find at that site is information about Dr. MortonCooper’s method of treating spasmodic dysphonia, using what he callsDirect Voice Rehabilitation. I just spent a week with Dr. Cooper. Dr.Cooper has been reporting “cures” of this condition for 35 years. He’sa PH.d, not MD, and possibly the most famous voice doctor in the world.

According to Dr. Cooper, the NSDA receives funding from Allergan,the company that sells Botox. Dr. Cooper alleges, in his newself-published book, CURING HOPELESS VOICES, that Allergan’s deeppockets control the information about spasmodic dysphonia, ensuringthat it is seen as a neurological condition with only one reliabletreatment: Botox. I have no opinion on that. I’m just telling you whatDr. Cooper says.

Botox shots are expensive. Your health insurance would cover it, butI heard estimates that averaged around $2,500 per shot. I believe itdepends on the dose, and the dose varies for each individual. Eachperson receiving Botox for spasmodic dysphonia would need anywhere from4 to 12 shots per year. Worldwide, Dr. Cooper estimates that millionsof people have this condition. It’s big money. (The “official”estimates of people with SD are much lower. Dr. Cooper believes thoseestimates are way off.)

I have no first-hand knowledge of Allergan’s motives or activities.I can tell you that Botox worked for me. But it only gave me a “good”voice about half of the time. Individual results vary widely. Evenindividual treatments vary widely. I think I had about 5 treatments.Two were great. Two were marginal. One didn’t seem to help much. Andthe shots themselves are highly unpleasant for some people (but notvery painful).

I’ve heard stories of people who feel entirely happy with Botox. Forthem, it’s a godsend. And I’ve heard stories of people who had okayresults, like mine. Dr. Cooper says that people with the abductor typeof dysphonia can be made worse by Botox. I know one person with theabductor type who lost his voice completely after Botox, buttemporarily. Botox wears off on its own. It’s fairly safe in that sense.

I can tell you that Dr. Cooper’s method worked for me, far betterthan Botox. (More on that later.) And you can see for yourself that theNSDA web site doesn’t mention Dr. Cooper’s methods as an option. Itdoesn’t even mention his methods as something that you should avoid.It’s conspicuous in its absence.

Dr. Cooper claims that spasmodic dysphonia is not a neurologicalproblem as is claimed by the medical community. He claims that it iscaused by using the voice improperly until you essentially lose theability to speak correctly. Most people (including me) get spasmodicdysphonia after a bout with some sort of routine throat problem such asallergies or bronchitis. The routine problem causes you to strain yourvoice. By the time the routine problem is cleared up, you’ve solidifiedyour bad speaking habits and can’t find your way back. Dr. Cooper’smethods seek to teach you how to speak properly without any drugs orsurgery.

Some people get spasmodic dysphonia without any obvious trigger. Inthose cases, the cause might be misuse of the voice over a long periodof time, or something yet undiscovered.

Botox Versus Dr. Cooper

Botox worked for me. It was almost impossible for me to have aconversation, or speak on the phone, until I got my first Botox shot.

But I had some complaints with the Botox-for-life method:

1. Botox made my voice functional, but not good. There was anunnatural breathiness to it, especially for the week or two after theshot. And the Botox wore off after several weeks, so there was always aperiod of poor voice until the next shot.

2. It looked as if I would need up to ten shots per year. That’s tenhalf days from my life each year, because of travel time. And the dreadof the shot itself was always with me.

3. The shots aren’t physically painful in any meaningful way. Butyou do spend about a minute with a needle through the front of yourthroat, poking around for the right (two) place in the back of yourthroat. Your urges to cough and swallow are sometimes overwhelming, andthat’s not something you want to do with a needle in your throat.(Other people – maybe most people – handle the shots without muchproblem.)

4. I couldn’t do public speaking with my “Botox voice.” It was tooweak to project on stage. People with spasmodic dysphonia can oftensing and act and do public speaking without symptoms. That was mysituation. Public speaking is a big part of my income.

I used Botox to get through the “I do” part of my wedding in July of2006. Then I took a break from it to see if I could make any gainswithout it. My voice worsened predictably as the last Botox shot woreoff. But it stopped getting worse at a “sometimes okay, often bad”level that was still much better than the pre-Botox days.

I could speak almost perfectly when alone. I could speak well enoughon stage. I could sing. About half of the time I could speak okay onthe phone. In quiet conversations I was okay most of the time. But Icould barely speak at all if there was any background noise.

Do you know how often you need to talk in the presence of backgroundnoise? It’s often. And it wasn’t just a case of trying to speak overthe noise. There’s something mysterious about spasmodic dysphonia thatshuts off your ability to speak if there is background noise.

As I wrote in a previous post, one day I was practicing my speakingwith a nursery rhyme at home. Something happened. My normal voicereturned. It happened suddenly, and it stuck. The media picked up thestory from my blog and suddenly it was national news.

My voice stayed great until I caught a cold a few weeks later. Thecold changed my speaking pattern, and I regressed. With practice, Ibrought it back to the point where I could have quiet conversations.But I was still bedeviled by background noise and sometimes the phone.Despite my lingering problems, it was still amazing that anyone withspasmodic dysphonia would have that much of a spontaneous recovery.I’ve yet to hear of another case. But it wasn’t good enough.

After the media flurry, I got a message from Dr. Cooper. He listenedto me on the phone, having an especially bad phone day, and he said hecould help. I listened to his spiel, about how it’s not really aneurological problem, that he’s been curing it for years, and that themedical community is in the pocket of Allergan.

Dr. Cooper is what can be described as a “character.” He’s 75, has adeep, wonderful voice, and gives every impression of being a crackpotconspiracy theorist. His price was $5K per week, and he reckoned frommy phone voice that I needed at least a week of working with him, witha small group of other spasmodic dysphonia patients. Two weeks of workwould be better. (The hardcore cases take a month.) I would have to flyto LA and live in a nearby hotel for a week. So it’s an expensiveproposition unless you can get your insurance to pay for it. (Sometimesthey do if you have a referral from a neurologist.)

Needless to say, I was skeptical. Dr. Cooper sent me his DVD thatshows patients before and after. I still wasn’t convinced. I asked forreferences. I spoke with a well-known celebrity who said Dr. Cooperhelped him. I heard by e-mail from some other people who said Dr.Cooper helped them.

You can see video of before and after patients on his web site at: http://www.voice-doctor.com/

I figured, What the hell? I could afford it. I could find a week. If it didn’t work after a few days, I could go home.

With Dr. Cooper’s permission, I will describe his theory and his treatment process as best I can.


People with spasmodic dysphonia (SD) can’t hear their own voicesproperly. Their hearing is fine in general. The only exception is theirown voices. In particular, SD people think they are shouting when theyspeak in a normal voice. I confirmed that to be true with me. I neededthree other patients, Dr. Cooper, a recording of me in conversation,and my mother on the telephone to tell me that I wasn’t shouting when Ispeak normally. It has something to do with the fact that I hear my ownvoice through the bones in my head. In a crowded restaurant, if I speakin a voice to be heard across the table, I am positive it can be heardacross the entire restaurant.  Most SD patients have this illusion.

People with SD speak too low in the throat, because society gives usthe impression that a deep voice sounds better. Our deep voice becomesso much a part of our self image and identity that we resist speakingin the higher pitch that would allow us to speak perfectly. Moreover,DS people have a hugely difficult time maintaining speech at a highpitch because they can’t hear the difference between the higher andlower pitch. Again, this is not a general hearing problem, just aproblem with hearing your own voice. I confirmed that to be true withme. When I think I am speaking like a little girl, it sounds normalwhen played back on a recording.

(People with abductor SD are sometimes the opposite. They speak attoo high a pitch and need to speak lower. That doesn’t seem to be asocietal identity thing as much as a bad habit.)

Since SD people can’t “hear” themselves properly, they can’t speakproperly. It’s similar to the problem that deaf people have, but adifferent flavor. As a substitute for hearing yourself, Dr. Cooper’svoice rehabilitation therapy involves intensive practice until you can“feel” the right vibration in your face. You learn to recognize yourcorrect voice by feel instead of sound.

People with SD breathe “backwards” when they talk. Instead ofexhaling normally while talking, our stomachs stiffen up and we stopbreathing. That provides no “gas for the car” as Dr. Cooper is fond ofsaying. You can’t talk unless air is coming out of your lungs. Iconfirmed this to be true for all four patients in my group. Each of usessentially stopped breathing when we tried to talk.

The breathing issue explains to me why people with SD can oftensing, or in my case speak on stage. You naturally breathe differentlyin those situations.


He calls it Direct Voice Rehabilitation. I thought it was a fancymarketing way of saying “speech therapy,” but over time I came to agreethat it’s different enough to deserve its own name.

Regular speech therapy – which I had already tried to some degree –uses some methods that Dr. Cooper regards as useless or even harmful.For example, a typical speech therapy exercise is to do the “glottalfry” in your throat, essentially a deep motorboat type of sound. Dr.Cooper teaches you to unlearn using that part of the throat forANYTHING because that’s where the problem is.

Regular speech therapy also teaches you to practice the sounds thatgive you trouble. Dr. Cooper’s method involves changing the pitch andbreathing, and that automatically fixes your ability to say all sounds.

To put it another way, regular speech therapy for SD involvespractice speaking with the “wrong” part of your throat, according toDr. Cooper. If true, this would explain why regular speech therapy iscompletely ineffective in treating SD.

Dr. Cooper’s method involves these elements:

1. Learning to breathe correctly while speaking
2. Learning to speak at the right pitch
3. Learning to work around your illusion of your own voice.
4. Intense practice all day.

While each of these things is individually easy, it’s surprisinglyhard to learn how to breathe, hit the right pitch, and think at thesame time. That’s why it takes anywhere from a week to a month ofintense practice to get it.

Compare it to learning tennis, where you have to keep your eye onthe ball, use the right stroke, and have the right footwork.Individually, those processes are easy to learn. But it takes a longtime to do them all correctly at the same time.


I spent Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 2 pm at Dr. Cooper’soffice. Lunchtime was also used for practicing as a group in a noisyrestaurant environment. This level of intensity seemed important to me.For a solid week, I focused on speaking correctly all of the time. Idoubt it would be as effective to spend the same amount of time in onehour increments, because you would slip into bad habits too quickly inbetween sessions.

Dr. Cooper started by showing us how we were breathing incorrectly.I don’t think any of us believed it until we literally put hands oneach others’ stomachs and observed. Sure enough, our stomachs didn’tcollapse as we spoke. So we all learned to breathe right, firstsilently, then while humming, and allowing our stomachs to relax on theexhale.

The first two days we spent a few hours in our own rooms humminginto devices that showed our pitch. It’s easier to hum the right pitchthan to speak it, for some reason. The point of the humming was tolearn to “feel” the right pitch in the vibrations of our face. To findthe right pitch, you hum the first bar of the “Happy Birthday” song.You can also find it by saying “mm-hmm” in the way you would say ifagreeing with someone in a happy and upbeat way.

The patients who had SD the longest literally couldn’t hum at first. But with lots of work, they started to get it.

Dr. Cooper would pop in on each of us during practice and remind usof the basics. We’d try to talk, and he’d point out that our stomachsweren’t moving, or that our pitch was too low.

Eventually I graduated to humming words at the right pitch. I didn’tsay the words, just hummed them. Then I graduated to hum-talking. Iwould hum briefly and then pronounce a word at the same pitch, as in:


We had frequent group meetings where Dr. Cooper used a 1960s vintagerecorder to interview us and make us talk. This was an opportunity forus all to see each other’s progress and for him to reinforce thelessons and correct mistakes. And it was a confidence booster becauseany good sentences were met with group compliments. The confidencefactor can’t be discounted. There is something about knowing you can dosomething that makes it easier to do. And the positive feedback made ahuge difference. Likewise, seeing someone else’s progress made yourealize that you could do the same.

When SD people talk, they often drop words, like a bad cell phoneconnection. So if an SD patient tries to say, “The baby has a ball,” itmight sound like “The b---y –as a –all.” Dr. Cooper had two tricks forfixing that, in addition to the breathing and higher pitch, which takescare of most of it.

One trick is to up-talk the problem words, meaning to raise yourpitch on the syllables you would normally drop your pitch on. In yourhead, it sounds wrong, but to others, it sounds about right. Forexample, with the word “baby” I would normally drop down in pitch fromthe first b to the second, and that would cause my problem. But if Ispeak it as though the entire word goes up in pitch, it comes out okay,as long as I also breathe correctly.

Another trick is humming into the problem words as if you arethinking. So when I have trouble ordering a Diet Coke (Diet is hard tosay), instead I can say, “I’ll have a mmm-Diet Coke.” It looks like I’mjust pausing to think.

Dr. Cooper invented what he calls the “C Spot” method for findingthe right vocal pitch. You put two fingers on your stomach, just belowthe breastbone, and talk while pressing it quickly and repeatedly, likea fast Morse code operator. It sort of tickles, sort of relaxes you,sort of changes your breathing, and makes you sound like you aresitting on a washing machine, e.g. uh-uh-uh-uh. But it helps you findyour right pitch.

Dr. Cooper repeats himself a lot. (If any of his patients arereading this, they are laughing at my understatement.) At first itseems nutty. Eventually you realize that he’s using a Rasputin-likeapproach to drill these simple concepts into you via repetition. Ican’t begin to tell you how many times he repeated the advice to speakhigher and breathe right, each time as if it was the first.

Eventually we patients were telling each other to keep our pitchesup, or down. The peer influence and the continuous feedback wereessential, as were the forays into the noisy real world to practice.Normal speech therapy won’t give you that.

Toward the end of the week we were encouraged to make phone callsand practice on the phone. For people with SD, talking on the phone isvirtually impossible. I could speak flawlessly on the phone by the endof the week.


During my week, there were three other patients with SD in thegroup. Three of us had the adductor type and one had abductor. Onepatient had SD for 30 years, another for 18, one for 3 years, and I hadit for 2. The patients who had it the longest were recommended for aone month stay, but only one could afford the time to do it.

The patient with SD for 3 years had the abductor type and spoke in ahigh, garbled voice. His goal was to speak at a lower pitch, and by theend of the week he could do it, albeit with some concentration. It wasa huge improvement.

The patient with SD for 30 years learned to speak perfectly whenevershe kept her pitch high. But after only one week of training, shecouldn’t summon that pitch and keep it all the time. I would say shehad a 25% improvement in a week. That tracked with Dr. Cooper’sexpectations from the start.

The patient with SD for 18 years could barely speak above a hoarsewhisper at the beginning of the week. By the end of the week she couldoften produce normal words. I’d say she was at least 25% better. Shecould have benefited from another three weeks.

I went from being unable to speak in noisy environments to beingable to communicate fairly well as long as I keep my pitch high. Andwhen I slip, I can identify exactly what I did wrong. I don’t know howto put a percentage improvement on my case, but the difference is lifechanging. I expect continued improvement with practice, now that I havethe method down. I still have trouble judging my own volume and pitchfrom the sound, but I know what it “feels” like to do it right.

Dr. Cooper claims decades of “cures” for allegedly incurable SD, andoffers plenty of documentation to support the claim, including video ofbefore-and-afters, and peer reviewed papers. I am not qualified tojudge what is a cure and what is an improvement or a workaround. Butfrom my experience, it produces results.

If SD is a neurological problem, it’s hard to explain why people canrecover just by talking differently. It’s also hard to understand howbronchitis causes that neurological problem in the first place. Sowhile I am not qualified to judge Dr. Cooper’s theories, they do passthe sniff test with flying colors.

And remember that nursery rhyme that seemed to help me the firsttime? Guess what pitch I repeated it in. It was higher than normal.

I hope this information helps.