Audacity.sourceforge.net/download/ & the pause

“See the pause?” I ask my students as we sit facing a laptop examining speech on the screen. I am asking them to find moments of silence. This is a lesson about creating pauses and we are using a free download from http://www.audacity.sourceforge.net to see them. Silence is easy to locate; it’s represented by the absence of any speech waveform. It’s a straight line. Speech, on the other hand, takes a variety of shapes. And while this download is not so refined that I would expect scientists would use it in research, it serves us just fine. We can see pauses, easy onsets, voluntary stuttering, prolongations, repetitions, and even some blocks and hard articulatory contacts. We can even measure them. We are careful observers and we are having fun.

This blog is about pausing. You can read more about pausing in an article by Peter Reitzes, MA, CCC, SLP, “Pausing: Reducing the Frequency of Stuttering at http://www.journalofstuttering.com/1-2/Reitzes.2006.JSTAR.1.64-78.pdf . He also has a video to demonstrate pausing at “Peter Reitzes talking about speech tools he uses” http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=g8biSBPsoeg. . I recently discovered these resources because one of my students likes pausing the best of all the speech tools. I was looking for a way that he could experiment with frequency, placement, and length of pauses at home. Speech can be difficult to monitor because it is invisible! Reading aloud was a way to monitor pauses at first. We could mark up a text with crayons to cue of when to pause. But it was time to shift to brief spontaneous narratives. Audacity gave us a tool for concrete, visual feedback.

I’d recently revisited principals of motor learning and found an intriguing concept: “attentional focus.” An internal focus is when we concentrate on what movement feels like. Speech language pathologists sometimes encourage internal focus so that students can find and reduce the physical tension they experience during a block, prolongation, or repetition. They request an internal focus again when teaching fluency enhancing skills. An external focus is when we concentrate on the effects of the movement. That is, does the movement achieve our goal? Reducing muscle tension and practicing speech tools are meant to make speech easier and increase self-confidence when communicating.

When my students say things like, “If I just think about what I want to say, my speech is easier.” it is time to shift focus of attention. Maybe this is what the “inner game” refers to, as in “Winning the Inner Game” by Winton Bates at http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/isad9/papers/bates9.html . I read The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy W. Gallwey and it seems to draw upon this concept of external focus of attention. A recent article in the American Journal of Speech Pathology says, “An external focus of attention…would allow for more automatically executed motor routines…” How this applies to speech motor control needs more research, as usual. In the mean time, when my students evidence a readiness to shift focus, professional judgment is good enough reason to try this route. Audacity shifts focus of attention to combine both auditory and visual goals. It may be a helpful tool for some students.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.