Free to Speak Voice and Speech Therapy


Followup to the First Group - August 2005 Clinic

Followup comments are in blue

Bonnie (Mixed SD, 12 years)

"Connie definitely has a great understanding of SD, as well as the aspects that involve the throat and facial muscles. She is very sensitive to each person's needs, preferences, and feelings and very approachable. Mike is extremely knowledgeable about breathing mechanics and can find the natural voice in anyone. I feel quite confident that the knowledge and tools I have received will be all I need to continue building on the progress I made here at the clinic.

"The Voice Clinic was just what I needed to show me that it IS possible to overcome SD, and to motivate me to begin my own journey to true recovery. The detailed and specific information I received during the clinic helped me to realize exactly where my problems lie with regards to my voice production. I learned that SD is not one simple problem, but a combination of many incorrect breathing habits and other bad habits we pick up along the way to try to compensate for our "bad" voices. Connie's consistent emotional support and encouragement were great motivators."

“I cannot imagine where I would have found the unique blend of therapies found in the holistic approach and the highly specific expertise that Mike and Connie bring to the clinic. I am SO GLAD I attended because it not only helped me to see the potential in my voice, but changed my entire perspective. As for the future of my voice, I feel that the clinic provided me with the physical tools and a wealth of knowledge so that when I am able to devote the time to my voice, I will definitely make progress. I have to admit I don't feel more control over my life per se, which I realize is because I have not adhered to my compliance contract. (estimated 5-10%) I DO, however, feel drastically more control over my life. The clinic gave me such a boost of confidence and facilitated such an extreme change in my perception of myself that I really feel it was a determining factor in my decision to go through with attending college(out of state). My life is vastly improved—I feel I'm really living life, rather than passively existing and telling myself I'll do such and such when my voice is better. “ VHII decreased 33 points.

L.S. (AB/SD, 5 years)

"Both Connie and Mike are heart-centered in their work and clearly wish for the highest good for their clients. I leave this workshop feeling greatly encouraged that the skills and insights I have gained here will, with continued practice, enable me to steadily progress toward a voice that is functional under all circumstances. Connie and Mike have created a client-centered approach that is both comprehensive and highly individualized. They bring great heart and spirit to work that is much needed in this world."

Responded “yes” to Voice Intensive being a good investment and feeling more control over life and voice. Did not feel the need to use the followup support and had maintained 70% compliance.

“I truly think I have come a long way and know that I am a lot better off vocally than I was a year ago. The work I did with Connie and Mike played a huge part in that and I feel like I have a lot to keep building on. I am doing well and am pleased with my progress.”

July 2008 (almost three years later) – “I’m happy to say that I no longer feel like my voice is an impediment to living on any level, even though it can be problematic at times.”

Brenda (AB/SD, 6 months)

"I was drawn to this clinic because Connie had suffered from SD and knew how I felt. She understood the devastating consequences of SD. She had put to use her knowledge of speech pathology and incorporated other methods, such as Roger Love's to help her overcome SD. I did not come to this clinic with illusions of returning home with a healed voice in 3 ½ days. I came so Connie could teach me the techniques. I was not disappointed. Connie is very up beat and optimistic, I had no where to go but up. She helped me find my optimum pitch and showed me how to practice. I learned through Mike that good breathing is the key to maintaining the voice. I believe I have all the tools I need to strengthen and maintain my new voice, improved 70% since I arrived."

“There is no question that my voice is almost back to normal; I would put it at 90%. My voice has been so much better since attending the clinic that I have had no need for the followup support. Every time one of my grandchildren asks me to read a book to them, my voice has done wonderfully. I do truly believe that my voice is back forever. VHI decreased 60 points.

April 2008: “Your seminar was life-changing for me. I think of you and the group quite often. My voice is at 95% or better. Every now and then, if I am tired or sometimes on the phone, I may have trouble getting a few words out, but I just pitch my voice and try again and get them out. When I attended your seminar, I wanted to be able to read books to my grandchildren. I can, and they love it! You have been a true blessing in my life.”

Jay (AD/SD, 3 ½ years)

"In my experience with SD, I have come to learn that breath support is crucial to maintaining an effortless voice. But it is very difficult to obtain that needed breath support when my vocal folds are tight. The Free to Speak Voice Clinic places a major focus on first freeing your breath, so that you can then produce an improved voice, and do so without effort. My voice improved 70% at the clinic."

Jay has consulted with me for several lengthy phone conversations during which his voice was very good. He continues to experience some embarrassment in his business associations and feel a need to explain his occasional hoarseness, but has been pleasantly surprised when others comment they hear no problem. He continues to practice and has some difficulty in noise and on the telephone. VHI decreased 34 points.

Sarah (Abductor SD/ 7 years) "I have always felt that there must be ways of combating SD by natural means without resorting to botox injections. What is so significant about this course is that it is run by someone with personal experience of this condition who has greatly improved her voice through her own efforts. This in itself offers hope to SD sufferers everywhere. The course teaches a variety of techniques that may help improve one's voice. But more important than particular exercises or immediate benefit is the sense this course instills; that it is possible to improve one's voice by natural means. It is just a question of finding what works for you personally and putting the practice in. I am so please that I did the course as I feel that it has given me a totally renewed impetus and many tools to attack this problem."

Sarah returned home and let life take her over. She did comply to her program and six months later, felt she needed more work. I met with her individually for some intensive therapy, during which she captured the freedom of her good voice. Here are her comments:

“The sessions with you were like a lifeline for me. Everything you said makes sense and fits with my experience of my voice. Now I have a much clearer picture of what is important in terms of voice production and what isn't. Now I see more clearly where I need to focus my energies – particularly on pitch and resonance – and I worry less about other aspects. I still get times where my voice isn't good, but overall I am definitely improved since our sessions and also determined to continue that improvement.”

Followup to the Second Group - January 2006

Nancy - The clinic was a crucial turning point in my voice process. The time spent with Connie was crucial to unraveling some emotional glitches that were undermining my practice times. I definitely feel my life has improved. The most lasting helps were rooted in a changed attitude toward the voice disability and toward myself. I am still in the process of learning the mechanics, and when I am able to devote myself to practice, I feel progress in the voice. VHI decreased 20 points.

Marie - The clinic was an excellent investment. I have improved control over my voice, and appreciate the clinic as a whole. I practiced regularly at first, but now I no longer practice. VHI decreased 50 points; moving from the severe range of disability to no handicap perceived relative to the voice. I thought you might be interested that I met my otolaryngologist in the elevator at the hospital. She looked surprised and said, "Your voice is so much better."

After the incidence in the elevator, Marie took her doctor a copy of my book. The doctor called me and asked if I might be able to train the speech pathologists who she works with at Shands Hospital in Jacksonville. She was very interested in the approach we use. - CP

E.A. - (March 2006) Breakthroughs with increased power and range. "Thanks for creating this clinic, setting the best example and steering me toward this journey of personal growth. I am beginning to identify with you - not just intellectually, but when you say you are thankful for what this illness has done fro you. It's getting me to reexamine what is and the potential of how much deeper and freer things can be once you put your mind to it. I appreciate your dedication to what you do."

August 2006 - "As was my concern, I put my voice on the back burner about two months after the clinic and have just gotten back on the horse, so to speak. I wasn't discouraged. I just reasoned that other things took priority. I am back at it again. I haven't made a lot of progress because I haven't made practicing a regular part of my daily schedule, and this is about muscle memory. On the upside, I have figured out how to project my voice and really feel it resonate in my "mask". Aside from making practice a regular routine, I'm not staying "aware" of my voice after I practice. I just go on autopilot and revert back when I engage in conversation. I have some pretty big hurdles to clear before I see/hear definite progress. I'm glad you checked in to remind me to keep at it."

Micki

I have lived with SD for six years. During that time, I have read, researched, tried to speak differently, and tried every trick I heard of. I could not get a handle on the specific mechanical problems and how to correct them. It was like a condition with a hundred variables with no specific tests to tell what helped or hurt. Through speech therapy, I learned easy onset and soft voicing, but this did not fit my personality or profession. The Roger Love study benefited me greatly and my voice improved, but allergies caused me to lose those gains four months later. This clinic is different in that it is a holistic approach to the problem and the healing. Skilled diagnosticians were able to assess my specific mechanical problems with voice and breathing, and also understand and advise on the human factors that would help or hurt my recovery. The 3 ½ days was more like a healing and wholeness retreat for the voice than a clinic. I made significant breakthroughs with voice and breathing and know what to do to recover my voice fully.

My voice improved during and after the clinic. I then had a course in ZHT therapy designed to loosen the muscles around the vocal cords. This also helped. My voice was improving steadily UNTIL the end of May, when several prolonged stressful situations hit all at once. I was under stress from a big project, a heat wave that lasted all summer, and personal family stressors (taking in a troubled teen and her mother for a month). My breathing deteriorated and my voice practically disappeared. (When I first developed SD, I was also under several prolonged stressors.)

Through hair analysis and saliva tests for adrenal stress index, I was diagnosed in the 7th of 7 stages of adrenal fatigue. I began mineral, herbal and hormonal supplementation, as well as lifestyle changes, to take the stress off my adrenals and build them up.

My voice has come back, and the quality seems to parallel the degree of calmness I feel. On good days I feel very little handicapped by my voice. I have used the techniques I learned to increase resonance and allow air through my nose. However, when my anxiety rises, my breathing gets fast and shallow, and my voice goes also. I see this mainly as a challenge to improve and maintain my physical health and balance.

Connie's original instructions to me were Resonance, Release and have more fun. (I rolled this into R&R for short) and to unstick myself.. I went back to work and got mired again in stress, which took its toll. Connie's intuitive diagnosis was confirmed by lab tests and the orders were the same - destress my life and have more fun.



Followups to the Third Clinic, June 2006

June 7-11, Apollo Beach, Florida. We had an incredibly exciting mix of individuals for this clinic, including several attorneys, a singer/song writer,  and a speech pathology major. The group solidified and provided excellent support and encouragement throughout the clinic. As promised, we addressed not only mechanics of voice and breathing, but attitudes, beliefs, life-style, nutrition, posture, strategies, and spiritual avenues. We had intense work as well as fun times together. The testimonials of the participants tell the story well.

Janet: Adductor SD (9 years) It is a blessing to work with a Speech Pathologist who has been there and has struggled with the grip of SD. She is encouraging, a great coach on what particular strategies may be the most helpful, especially how to optimize what voice one can utilize in the present. She has developed an excellent protocol of disciplines to provide a holistic approach and assembled a great team to help one effectively progress to one's own voice. My voice improved 80% during the clinic.

I now have better confidence and peace with my voice and recognize it as a "barometer". I know I can continue to improve. Life stressors have kept me from complying with the program of exercises I was given, but my voice is moderately to significantly better than before I attended the clinic.

John Paul: Adductor SD (5 years) The Free to Speak Clinic is a breath of fresh air for those who are struggling with Spasmodic Dysphonia. A cornerstone of the clinic is that Connie, a veteran speech pathologist, is herself a SD survivor. Since the prevailing though in Western medicine is that SD is a neurological and therefore an incurable voice disorder, the irrefutable fact of Connie's full recovery -- of both her speaking and singing voice -- gives clinic participants inspiration and profound hope. But the clinic is in no way a one woman show. Connie has assembled a first class team with expertise in the areas of breathing with Michael White as well as neurolinquistic programming/neuromuscular therapy and psycho-social assessment. I found all (facilitators) to be caring, compassionate and committed. Another component of the clinic is the opportunity to interact with fellow participants in a safe and loving environment where one can learn, share, and experiment without fear of sounding or feeling foolish. Finally, the clinic has an element of Christian spirituality to it that I personally found meaningful. While nothing is shoved down anyone's throat, it is clear that Connie's faith in God was the basis of her recovery and she is comfortable sharing her journey in that context. If you are a SD sufferer who has tried everything else to no avail, then I highly recommend and strongly encourage you to consider the Free to Speak clinic. You will acquire all the skills necessary to overcome Spasmodic Dysphonia and leave with a plan of action to continue your recovery.

JP reports feeling more control over his life and his voice since the clinic. He appreciates having a structured program with which to work on his voice, but that compliance has been low (at around 5-10%). He did not utilize the DVD and rates his voice just slightly better than before he completed our clinic. VHI score decreased 16 points.

Dwight: Adductor SD (20 years) A great opportunity to learn techniques and strategies to significantly improve or cure your SD in the long run with continued practice.

Reports no significant change in voice quality at six months but states that the clinic was a good investment and a good experience that helped him to have a better attitude and feel less handicapped by his voice (and secondary dysfluency). VHI score decreased 18 points. He rated his compliance at 50%.

Leslie: Adductor SD (5 years) I am supremely grateful that I was able to attend this (clinic). The atmosphere was very encouraging. We had wonderful workshops and excellent private sessions. The dynamics of the other participants provided a rich dimension. We were all supportive on one another. The stage was set for each of us to have our eureka moments, the times we discovered the voice that we thought was lost. We rejoiced in the midst of our problem. I am leaving wi6ht the tools I need for complete recovery. I go rejoicing.

Leslie’s followup is complicated by the fact that she completed the clinic while under the effects of a botox injection six weeks prior. She was able to prolong the time until her next injection to six months and decreased her dose. Her hopes are to continue to go for longer periods between botox and injections, and to be botox-free in the future. She continues to do the program exercises and uses her followup with Mike and Connie to help her to achieve her goals.

Randy: Adductor SD (9 months) Connie provided exactly what I wanted - specific instructions that I could continue to use when I returned home, encouragement from her own experience that this condition can be overcome, and an experience in which I felt that it mattered to Connie that I get better. She made every effort to see that each of us received more than what we paid for. Her vivacious and warm personality was contagious and set the atmosphere for the entire clinic (experience).

Lost to followup.

Lidia: Adductor SD (2 1/2 years) It far exceeded my expectations. This weekend I had a breakthrough. I found a confidential voice (with Connie) and with Mike, found  that elusive singing voice that I hadn't had for a long time. This clinic is the best because it includes so many aspects, it's the mental and the neuromuscular piece that flowed into the breathing piece, which flowed into the speaking piece. It all came together in a very supportive environment.  Now I begin my quest and my mission with my speech pathologist in Canada. You guys are coming to Canada!

Lidia’s VHI decreased 28 points, moving her from the Severe range of handicap to the Moderate range. She rates her current voice quality as significantly better than it was prior to completing the clinic. She continues with good compliance and has taken advantage of the followups with Connie and Mike.


 

Long Term Followups – May 2007 Clinic

Jill – Adductor SD 18 months (2 botox injections)

Jill had heard Connie speak at the Tampa SD Support Group along with her physician husband, and decided she should try this approach instead of continuing with botox. She reported that she had been practicing exercises in the book, Free to Speak: Overcoming Spasmodic Dysphonia, several hours per day in the months prior to the clinic and had experienced significant improvements.

"The group dynamics provided the benefit of fun interaction, support, and camaraderie that were invaluable. The common denominator was our voice dysfunction and only that. There is an enormous enrichment one gains in many other aspects of our human condition. There is a positive approach and certainty given to us by our teachers and fellow participants that we will improve and heal. My voice improved 70-100% throughout the clinic. Perhaps miracles do happen and I’ve had my last botox injection."

“The clinic was a good investment in that I received a plan of vocal and breathing exercises. My compliance has been only about 30% and I have not viewed my DVD or taken advantage of the free followup yet. Therefore, there has been no significant change in my voice. I believe this is directly related to the fact that I forget to do my exercises and I need to be more disciplined in order to make an accurate assessment. I have not resumed botox injections because I feel I need to give the program a chance to work by improving my compliance.”

Donna – Abductor SD 7 years; s/p bilateral silastic thyroplasty 3 ½ years ago, vocal tremor

"I learned that emotions play a big part in the quality of my voice and that I CAN practice breathing and voice techniques that make my voice better. A positive attitude is paramount. I can learn to be mindful of giving my best voice each time I speak.

"I would encourage any person with SD to attend this clinic. It was extremely worthwhile in improving the quality of my voice and perhaps more importantly, in changing my attitude so that I’m realizing I can improve my voice through practicing the skills I learned at the clinic. I am very optimistic about re-gaining my normal voice, and even improving that. Voice improved 50%."

“The clinic was a good investment as I know have the tools and techniques to practice to improve my voice and hope that it will continue to improve. My compliance has been around 30%. The DVD was extremely helpful by reminding me of what I should be doing and how much improved my voice was by the end of the clinic. My voice is moderately better than before I attended the clinic.”  VHI decreased 36 points.

August 2012: I attended your clinic in May 2007 and really felt good about my voice after the clinic ended. I had great intentions of continuing to practice, etc., but despite that, I did not continue to practice. I probably thought my voice would just stay at the improved level without effort. But, instead, my voice continued to deteriorate through the past 5 years. Then, this past Spring, I must have hit a new low and decided I needed to do something about my voice. I started Speech therapy with a local SLP. I went to a massage therapist and she released a lot of tension in my solar plexus area which allowed me, for the first time in a long time, to take deep breaths. I also started seeing an acupuncture doctor which helped my voice, as well as decreased congestion, reflux and muscle tension throughout my body.

The bottom line is that all of this reinforced what I learned at your clinic. Perhaps I wasn't ready to tackle it all when I was at the clinic. I didn't continue with the exercises it takes to overcome bad voice patterns. For the first time since the clinic, I now feel in control of my voice and my husband and others can understand me. I don't have to keep repeating everything. I re-learned how to relax my neck, hydrate, SLOW down when I speak and breathe correctly. I practice now almost every day - and continue to use parts of the notebook from the clinic, especially the exercises to reduce my tremor and Roger Love's CD/Alexander CD. I am humming and using a microphone so I can easily hear my voice.

There definately is hope, and my voice is not perfect, but it is so much better since I have been through speech therapy again. I had given up hope. Although you had put everything in the compliance contract, I think I was overwhelmed. The bottom line is that I believe your approach is 100% on the mark. I have never tried botox but had bilateral thyroplasty in 2004. I just wanted to touch base and tell you how my recent experience reinforced everything you had said at the clinic 5 years ago. It just took me awhile to see that I needed to work at getting better, and that works!

Bob – Adductor SD 2 years

Bob had read Connie’s book and taken it to his local speech therapist. They had been working through the exercises together and he had experienced some significant improvements, yet felt that the clinic might yield more rapid progress and a more comprehensive program. He was a good encourager to the more severe cases by telling them that his voice sounded just as bad before he started his voice therapy.

"The whole experience was great. The group setting to me was the best way to understand and work out the problems. Working in a group with similar conditions helps put one at ease and promotes the healing process. Connie and Mike are great to work with and fun. They keep the mood light, which is very important. They are a wealth of information, new ideas and help. The breathing development is so important and the biggest help in my recovery. They good voice was in there. I just had to bring it out. Voice improved 90%”

Bob experienced some major life stressors in the months following the clinic. He was unable to resume his speech therapy.

“I realize that stress is a major factor with my voice and am working to control that.  I know that my good voice is in there. I just need to find the key again. My voice is slightly better. The DVD is helpful in that I can hear how much my voice improved at the clinic.”  VHI decreased 5 points.

Bob’s feedback at one year was markedly different. He reported much more control over his voice, with much less effort. “The voice clinic was the best thing for me. It let me know the good voice was there. I just had to work it out. I have been 60% compliant and my voice is significantly improved.” VHI decreased 44 points.

Laura – Mixed SD 6 years
As a Christian Science practitioner, Laura faced the challenge of allowing herself to be here to receive the voice and breathing training we offered. She gained the following insights at the clinic:

"It is ok to be here and I deserve to be able to do this. Good is available in many different forms, under many different names, but it is all the same Mind at work. Using a variety of activities and developing skills – physical and spiritual – is a many pronged approach – a more effective way to achieve the goal.

"I learned practical ideas to take and use, sympathetic support, a family atmosphere among participants and beautiful and relaxing off-campus accommodations. I would have liked more time just because it was warm and fuzzy and I made daily progress. I know that with what I have I can continue to make progress."

Almost two years, after the clinic, Laura apologized for being one of our “disappearing participants.” We often wonder why people are lost to followup, so we were pleased to get her delayed report.

“I admit to not following all the exercises diligently. But I have exercised my dominion by deciding to answer the telephone and do my own calling. I have noticed that my voice gets worse when I am in high stress situations and then relaxes when I am more relaxed. One thing that is consistently true now is that the wall that used to be in my throat blocking both breathing and speaking is now always down. As a result, my voice is getting stronger – I even sit and read to my grandchildren. As I use my voice more, the easier it is to keep using it. I am finding that breathing is behaving itself more too. I think what was more valuable for me from the clinic was simply learning how my voice and breathing should be acting. Now I can monitor them and make adjustments when I catch myself off base.

July 2009:  Laura continues to experience success. "I am constantly getting comments about how much better my voice is now. I had finally decided that "yes, I can talk" and that is what allowed me to mentally let go fo the embarrassment of talking 'not well'. When the SD flares up is when we need to not give in is how I see it. When the SD started there was a constant little voice that kept saying 'you can't talk' and yet I was still talking just fine until that message took over. Now my mantra is "I CAN TALK and I know it." When I am in good conversation under good circumstances with low to no background noise, with those whom I enjoy, then there is no effort and I forget to even make an effort and my voice is 100%. On days when I have worked hard and am tired physically and mentally, the voice is more of an effort but at least I have the tools so that I do not lose my voice entirely. It was a year after the clinic when, through prayer and the realization that I do have the capacity to speak clearly. As a matter of functionally, I'm close to 100% - still working on perfect tone and pitch and projection."

December 2010: Connie I love hearing about your work and the things you are continuing to learn. I’m finding the same things to be true – immersion in work that I love leaves me free to speak without inhibition. I think that the love is the key. And fretting over the raspiness or strength is just a downward spiral. I’m also noticing that walking, or any other exercise that gets me standing up straight and tall (like ice skating) and breathing properly is also a tremendous help.

Just to illustrate how good my voice is getting, I was recently nominated to be the First Reader at our church. Keep up your good work. We love you for it!



Long Term Followups – July 2007 Clinics


Esther – MTD 8 years, s/p medialization of vocal folds, vocal fold paresis, traditional voice therapy.

"I feel so blessed to be able to come to this clinic. I have been struggling with muscle tension dysphonia for 8 years and this clinic has really helped me recover in various ways. I experienced significant changes not only in my voice, but also in my whole being; mind, body and spirit. I still have work ahead but now I finally feel I have the tools needed to end my journey with MTD. Voice improved 75% during the clinic.

“I feel I have more control over my voice and my life. For example, I’m using less effort to speak, I feel more comfortable using the phone and speaking to people. I feel people can hear and understand me better. The voice intensive made me realize the need to make some changes in my life in order to improve my voice. I have taken advantage of the followup and been 70% compliant to the program. My voice is moderately better at this point. A longer clinic with more sessions would be helpful.” VHI decreased 40 points.

Debra – AD/SD 15 months

“This voice rehabilitation clinic was so well organized and it gave me the hope and “encouragement to overcome my SD. I was told by an ENT doctor that my voice disorder was incurable and that the only form of treatment for me was botox injections into my vocal cords every three months for the rest of my life.

After researching for a more holistic approach to this disorder, I found myself enrolled in Connie’s clinic. I can’t thank Connie and Mike enough for their knowledge, determination, professionalism, and overall attitude that a person with SD can, in fact, overcome this disorder with the proper guidance, support, faith, and techniques of voice and breathing needed to find your natural voice. I knew I was determined to overcome this disorder, but I never expected to find my voice again so soon. Thanks to Connie and Mike for giving me back the hope that was taken away from me by my ENT doctor, to regain my voice at your clinic, and having me focus on what I needed to “free my voice. Compared to three months before the clinic, when I could barely speak at all, my voice has improved 100%. I now have a clear, effortless voice.”

“My voice has most definitely significantly improved. It was a great investment. I have viewed the DVD which was helpful, taken advantage of followup by email and I think you guys should keep doing what you are doing. You are great!” VHI decreased 50 points

July 2009: Two years after the clinic, Debra's voice continues to be functional 100% of the time and she visited recently to demonstrate this to me. While she feels difficutly in speaking at times of stress, she realizes that it is just about adjusting the breathing and focus and the voice is consistently there. Her VHI decreased again and is now in the No Handicap range. 

"I am thankful everyday for the changes you brought to my life I no longer that medication for anxiety because of voice problems while teaching. I remember standing in front of my students with sweat rolling down my back because of having to try to speak before your clinic. That is no longer an issue thanks to you and Mike. I have realized how much a part stress plays in how my voice is working, so I have worked to calm down my life No one ever notices or comments on my voice, and it's so great to meet new people who have no idea I ever had a voice disorder."

Peter – AD/SD 15 years – botulinum toxin injections twice yearly (Dysport) for 11 years

Peter is on staff with the Dystonia Society of Scotland and had read Connie’s book and heard her speak at the Dystonia Society of London in May of this year. Peter had learned a variety of “tricks” to help him through the times he was unable to have injections. He was allowed only two shots per year, so the time in between could be difficult. He plans to submit an article on this approach and his success to the U.K. Dystonia Society magazine.

“I have lived with Spasmodic Dysphonia/laryngeal dystonia for over 15 years. I was optimistic that the clinic could help me, but apprehensive too. I have been greatly impressed by Connie Pike and Mike White both by their professionalism and their sensitivity. The programme has dealt with general principles needed for recovery of SD/LD but has also been tailored to deal with my individual symptoms and to create a recovery programme specifically for me. There has been a significant improvement in the quality of my voice and I am hopeful that this improvement will be sustained and improved. I have no hesitation in recommending the clinic to anyone who is seeking either an alternative to botulinum toxin therapy or a complementary therapy to it. Voice improved 75% and breathing became freer and fuller as a result of the clinic.”

“Yes, I have improved control over my voice and my life and consider the clinic a good investment. I now have a tool kit to dip into as problems occur. Compliance has been 80% and my voice is moderately improved.” VHI decreased 32 points.

Rebecca – Mixed SD 3 years, traditional voice therapy, ZHT

“When I arrived at the clinic, I spoke just one or two words at a time and that was difficult, exhausting, and hard for others to understand. I have more work ahead to really integrate what I’ve learned, but today I am speaking full sentences in a mostly clear voice. It’s so much fun to talk again. I especially appreciate Connie and Mike’s holistic approach and the care and empathy they’ve given each of us. Their technical expertise and knowledge is superb. They know what they’re doing and their confidence gave me confidence in myself. The group setting and the total immersion helped make this clinic successful. I felt so much support from the other participants and we had a lot of fun together. Voice improved 40% and my whole body feels more open and larger with regards to breathing.”

January 2009:

Sorry it has taken me so long. It has been hard to face my disappointment. Also, I believe the work you are doing is good and do not want to discourage it. But for me, it didn’t work. I did the exercises religiously for 4 months during which time my speaking steadily deteriorated.

A year ago, I tried botox for the first time. It worked for two weeks during which I could speak softly, very easily, and quickly. Then my spasms started to return at which time I started speaking on inhalation. In a couple of weeks, I was speaking quite easily while inhaling and have dropped my exhaling speaking almost completely, except for practicing.  I tried botox two more times but it did nothing but give me a bad sore throat.

I get by with inspiratory speaking – people often tell me I am speaking much better. But I consider that like telling someone on crutches they are walking good. To me, I figure I can’t talk at all. I’ve also lost my ability to sing and had to leave the choir I loved.

I have not completely abandoned hope and try to keep listening for what the universe is offering. I wish you all the best.

EM – AD/SD 3 years

“50% voice improvement, deeper and longer, less intentional breathing patterns, discovered the ability to speak clearly and project the voice.”

“ I returned from the clinic with a better understanding of what was going on with my voice and how my body was reacting. I felt that I gained a little control over my voice at the clinic that stayed with me. I have just begun to do the therapy on a consistent basis and hope that will result in more control as I go along. The clinic was a good investment, not only for the education on breathing and voice, but also for the interaction that it facilitates among people with SD. Even without continuing the exercises, I feel the clinic was a good investment. The lessons with Connie on Voiceprint were helpful. The visual feedback was great. Connie and Mike pointed out specific areas that I needed to focus on and the feedback was very helpful. It also helped me become more accepting of my voice. I did not comply with the program until about a month ago. Now I am close to 100%. I have not taken advantage of the followup or viewed the DVD yet. My voice is slightly to moderately better at this point.” VHI decreased 35 points.

Lisa – AD/SD 24 years (approximately 98 botox injections, SLAD/R (failed), s/p silastic thyroplasty 3 years prior)

Lisa was finding less and less relief from her botox injections and had switched to myobloc as Botox lost it’s effectiveness. She had purchased Connie’s book and had been practicing the exercises for several months prior to the clinic. She felt the clinic experience resulted in a 50% improvement in her voice.

“I wish I had known about this approach before any surgeries. I don’t have to be fearful and my voice is not as much of a handicap as I think. Connie and Mike have designed a thorough, holistic approach to overcoming SD. Connie is an inspiration to anyone who wants to improve their voice. She knows exactly how you feel and what you are going through. Mike is a brilliant breathing coach who can teach lifelong good habits for overall health as well as improving voice. Every aspect of my life was affected by SD, and Connie knew that and brought in expertise from different fields. They used singing to getting over the fear of videotaping and recording the voice, used a computer program to assist in achieving goals. You can feel the passion they have to help others in all they do. They have thought of everything, including a counselor to help change negative thought processes that keep you disabled and a massage therapist to help relax muscles. I felt comfortable and did not ever want to leave Connie’s home and family. We even had a karoke party with her family signing backup with us. I’ll never forget the love I felt. This experience has changed my life forever for the better.”

“I now have improved control over my voice and my life. The clinic was a good investment. I have taken advantage of followup by phone and email and have been 90% compliant. My voice is moderately improved.” VHI decreased 44 points.

Ruth – AD/SD with intermittent symptoms for 3 years, but diagnosed 3 months ago

“This clinic has been extremely helpful. I have gained new insight into my abilities and feel that I can let go of the fear. I feel that I have been given the tools to regain my voice and with hard work on my part, I expect that to happen. Mike and Connie’s coaching were invaluable in giving me support to let go of my anxiety and find my voice. I’d highly recommend the clinic to anyone with SD.”

“I do feel that I have improved control over my voice, which also has improved my control over my life. Before, I was letting my voice control me; avoiding people – including family members and hiding from my voice problem. I was scared, but it did me a lot of good to just bite the bullet and tell myself that you have to do something to fix it – no one can do it for you. The clinic was an extremely good investment. Not only did I acquire the tools to help my voice, I realized that I’m not alone. There are other people like me struggling with SD, and I made some lasting friendships at the clinic. The group dynamics were wonderful. I have been about 40% compliant and have not taken advantage of the followup, although I am not sure why. My voice is moderately improved.” VHI decreased 37 points.

Jann – AD/SD 1 ½ years

“The clinic is phenomenal. Every aspect of SD seems to have been addressed. Just to be aware of the many ways we can help ourselves by using all the tools provided at the clinic gives so much hope. We all have been so excited and encouraged by our progress. Both Connie and Mike have tremendous knowledge in their areas of expertise and they zero in on each person’s individual needs. This holistic approach makes total sense – the body will heal when given the chance. Connie is proof. She has been there and has a great sense of understanding of all aspects of SD. The support and connection with the others has been wonderful and a very important part of the experience. We have had joyful times to relax around each other and just be ourselves and connect from a comfortable place within. It is an empowering, well-rounded program.”

“My voice is really about the same. I thought I could return to work after the clinic but have gone on disability. I still feel the clinic was a good investment and that my voice is in there, I’m sure. I was compliant for the first 4 months, but my voice felt strained, so I stopped. The video was helpful and the clinic was well thought out. I have had some encouraging emails from fellow participants and realize that I was putting too much effort into my exercises. It was exhausting. I became overwhelmed and worried. I am going to try to incorporate a small amount of practice everyday and back off when I feel strained.”

Ron – AD/SD 1 year (2 botox injections)

Ron had a long history of episodic spasmodic torticollis since 1988. He had been successful in managing it with physical therapy and biofeedback so thought the clinic would be a good option when he was diagnosed with SD. We were all amazed at Ron’s singing voice and the awesome resonant sound that would come and go in his speaking voice. Getting control seemed elusive, but overall, Ron felt his voice improved 25%.

“This clinic was an amazing experience. The instructors were dynamic, engaging, and very attentive to individual needs. I had a productive and wonderful time interacting with others with the same condition.”

“I feel improved control over my voice and my life. About three weeks after the clinic, I panicked that I was not going to be ready to go back to teaching in the fall and had a botox injection. It caused breathiness and weakness for over four weeks. It set me back on my rehabilitation until the effects wore off. I was then able to work toward recovery using the methods from Connie and Mike. I estimate that I am about half-way through my recovery now. I am having longer periods of good voicing. I have taken advantage of email followup and viewed the DVD. My compliance is currently at 80%. My voice is moderately improved. The overall balance of therapy, breathing and psychology seems right. The holistic approach is key, as every element has been helpful.” VHI decreased 41 points.

At almost one year, Ron’s experience with his voice recovery was remarkable. An email from 6/30/08 summarized this well. “My voice is at about 95-100%, continuing to improve. What I absolutely love about this voice is that I’m sensing that it is better now than it was BEFORE the dysphonia. I notice how lively the voice sounds now, and how expressive it is at a range of levels, tones and cadences. I’m having fun with my voice in ways that I never even thought possible. The process of “slowing down” has been key to my overall neurological makeover, including the neck. Also, I have been so much more aware of proper breathing that I now integrate it effortlessly into my daily life, without doing any formal exercises.”

July 2009:  "What is interesting to me is that when my voice is in the 100% range, it's better than I ever remembered it being before the onset of SD. And even when it slips a bit, I still have really good resonance. I think a lot of our concerns about how our voices sound comes from being more in tune with our voice mechanics, which is a very good thing. I pay more attention to other people's voices, and based on that, I would rate your voice, Connie, and mine as among the best I've heard, when the vocal cords are performing at the top of their ability"

April 2010: “My voice is the best it has ever been – and I mean prior to the dysphonia. I did have to overcome some slippage with the voice; some increased hoarseness and tightness that lasted for a few months late last year and early this year. But now, in the middle of one of the most stressful periods for me as graduate director of our Department, where everything has come due, and in the midst of working on two book projects, my voice has an energy and vitality that I’m very proud of.”

See Ron's YouTube Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXGsAsGV1S8


 

Followups November 2007 Clinic

Followup comments are in blue

Joanna – AB/SD 2.5 years

“I believe that my stay at this voice rehabilitation clinic has provided me with the springboard to recovery. It has given me the confidence and determination toward recovery. I have been given expert advice on how to use the necessary tools and exercises to re-educate my body and voice. I realize my voice is still there. I am the only one who can really work out my own programme.”


The clinic was a good investment, especially the Roger Love and breathing exercises. I have not taken advantage of the followup due to my extensive travel schedule and have been about 50% compliant. My voice is moderately improved and functions well most of the time, just about normal. I can really feel the difference when I do the exercises and if I get sufficient rest and minimize alcohol. My rushed and stressful life-style has a negative effect on my voice at times.

VHI decreased 39 points, moving from a Serious handicap to the Low Moderate handicap range.

Christine - Mixed SD/MTD 15 years – botulinum toxin injections 10 years, traditional voice therapy

“I knew I had developed a lot of bad habits but didn’t know what to do about them. Now I do, and it works! Hearing my loud, strong, clear voice for the first time in 15 years was an experience I can’t even find the words to describe. Overall voice improvement was 30% but with moments of 100%. “

The voice clinic was a very good investment for my voice. The encouragement and hope and seeing improvement in myself and others was great. I have been at least 75% compliant with my program and feel that my voice is moderately improved at the six month point.

(VHI decreased 34 points, moving from the Serious and Significant Handicap category to the Low moderate category)

Debbie – AB/SD 1.5 years

“I definitely understand the combination of breathing, voice, mental and relaxation therapy. But the essential glue to the mix is group therapy. The clinic held in Connie’s home is ideal for making sure that everyone is relaxed and supported by one another. I started the clinic with trepidations and ended up completely calm and prepared to fulfill my goals. The friendships that I formed will work toward developing into a support group that will only benefit my progress. I have seen such improvement, even when my voice still comes and goes, that I will stick to the program. I can fix my voice, improved 50% at the clinic.”

I have extremely better control of my voice. I’ve been placed in every difficult professional situation since without a problem. The clinic was a good investment that I’d do again. All of the necessary tools were provided. You just have to maintain faith and work at it. I was 80% compliant and my DVD told me everything I needed to know. My voice is mostly normal, significantly improved at its worst.

(VHI decreased 105 points, moving from the Serious and Significant Handicap category to No Handicap)

Loreen – AB/SD – 9 years – botulinum toxin injections ineffective

“I learned how to breathe and became extremely conscious of how bad my breathing was. Years of stress and emotion can compound to create SD. I learned that I try too hard and strain to push words out. I can change the way I approach SD and reprogram/re-groove the way I use my voice. I understand the holistic approach and that SD is truly far more than a vocal cord issue. Voice and breathing improved significantly at the clinic.”

I feel somewhat more in control of my voice and my life at six months after the clinic. It gave me so much more knowledge and understanding of SD and tools. I am more conscious of my breathing now. My compliance has been low, at about 5% and my voice is moderately improved.

(VHI was not returned).


 

Followups February 2008 Clinic

JD – AD/SD 4 years – botulinum toxin injections regularly 3 years with voice therapy

“Connie and Mike generously shared their knowledge of skills and attitudes shown to improve our SD voices – all in a relaxing, positive and compassionate group setting. Voice production improved 50% at the clinic.”

After three months of attempting voice rehabilitation, JD resumed her botox injections with good success. She currently feels that this is the best course of treatment for her problem. She also discovered some other medical conditions that are now under control with medication.

Jared – Hyperfunctional Voice/ AD/SD– 2 years; traditional voice therapy 6 months

“With SD, you get overwhelmed with all kinds of information. What I have discovered is that a majority of the information is incorrect or misguided. Connie’s clinic helped me put some perspective around SD; what it is, and what can be done to counteract it. I just needed guidance and a plan. Most of all, she and Mike provided the biggest thing we all need – which is HOPE. When all of our renowned, well-schooled doctors and therapists tell us it won't get any better or to look into temporary relief, Connie and Mike provide help and hope for a permanent solution. Not everyone is the same, and that is difficult with SD – some programs and exercises work for one person and totally different programs/exercises work for another. There is no magic pill, no quick fix; but over time, with devotion, faith and dedication, many people have overcome this sometimes paralyzing disorder. To those who have SD; empower yourself with the right information and attend this clinic. Give yourself a chance. To those who have overcome SD, I look forward to joining you in the months ahead!”

Jared reported that he is about the same with regard to his voice at the six month mark, that it can be better or worse, depending on the situation and the day. He felt the clinic was a good investment in that he has more confidence that he can someday overcome his SD. He did not view the DVD from the clinic and was about 50% compliant to the program. He took advantage of one followup phone consultation with Connie. We are hoping that Jared, like many before him, can continue to practice his program and see even more progress in the months to come. Those first six months can be the toughest ones.

Leslie – AD/SD 7 ½ years – botulinum toxin injections; traditional voice therapy

“I would really encourage anyone to take the clinic the first time and even a second if needed. Both Mike and Connie have quite a depth of resources to help, and are more than willing to help you adjust your particular remedy for the specific problem. They are great at diagnosing each one’s particular problem, which is unusual with SD. Other healthcare professionals tend to deal in a more generalized manner with SD. It was a great experience.”

Leslie opted to try the SLAD/R surgery several months after the clinic. We wish her the best on her road to finding her way out of SD!


 

Followups March 2008 Clinic

Wendy – AD/SD with tremor 2.5 years – one botulinum toxin injection, acupuncture

I feel that I gained tools to help me overcome my tremors. The instructors were very knowledgeable and helpful. Having an instructor who understands the emotional as well as the physical components of SD was invaluable. I appreciated the individual sessions, which helped focus on my personal recovery. But I also found the group sessions to be very constructive in expressing myself in front of others. It has truly been healing and inspirational to share this experience with others who struggle with the same disorder. I enjoyed making some good friends too.

The clinic was valuable in providing me with tools, especially to practice on the phone and to feel more in control of my voice. I still struggle with talking in groups of people. I believe the clinic was worth the investment to give me an alternative to botox. It also gave me encouragement that I am not just stuck with a neurological disease that can’t be fixed. The video was very helpful. Leaving the clinic with so much information, reviewing the video helped greatly to reinforce what to practice. I was very compliant the first month but it fell off by the 3rd month after the clinic. My voice is moderately improved.  Some days I have a pretty normal voice, but others are difficult.

VHI decreased 10 points.

Linda Jo – MTD – 2 years; traditional voice therapy: one botulinum toxin injection

During the clinic I learned how to use less effort in voicing and not push or force my voice. My voice improved 70% as I learned to hum to focus my voice into my face. I learned how to breathe more deeply into my belly and fill up to a greater capacity.

The empathy and understanding from the participants was wonderful. The group dynamics cannot be achieved with individual consultation and therapy. Just to share a common problem and frustration with those who are experiencing the same is “great company”. With Connie’s SD and her ability to truly relate to this disability is priceless. Her expertise and sincere desire to help achieve the voice within is a rare find. Being equipped with the tools and techniques that really work to improve voice and breathing will help me to recover my voice. After attending the clinic, I can and I will be able to be “free to speak” again.

The clinic was a valuable experience. I did choose to have another botox injection in mid-September. But I used my tools from the clinic often and still had a good speaking voice months later. I had extreme difficulty for about three weeks after the botox injection with absolutely no control over my voice. Eventually I was able to practice all I had learned at the clinic. Hopefully I will continue to have a good voice with continued practice and as you said, “Do something for your voice every day.”

With the combination of botox and the clinic breathing and voice exercises, VHI decreased 51 points and voice was rated as significantly improved.

Lidia AD/SD with MTD 4 years – botulinum toxin injections; traditional voice therapy; repeating the clinic experience since June 2007 following increased voice demands at work and a spinal fracture.

My voice has started to improve after a set-back. I recognized the need to “check-in” and relax and let go of effort. The body-work during the clinic reminded me to pay attention to this area. Life has a tendency to interfere with any part of rehab, and due to at set-back, I felt I needed to return to the clinic. I was very glad I did. I had made progress but needed some reminders of the basis techniques. The intensive nature or the clinic provides you with that uninterrupted time to look after yourself, always guided by two selfless, experienced, committed, dedicated professionals. The approach is holistic, which ensures a more complete strategy in overcoming this disorder. Having a professional actually having gone through this is invaluable. Spending time with other SD sufferers gives you support and understanding that cannot be easily found. Every SD sufferer owes it to him/herself to come to this clinic. It’s not a quick fix – it is a lot of work, but it is much easier than dealing with the life sentence that others claim/assert that SD is.

As of February 2009, it has now been almost 5 years since my diagnosis of AD/SD. Although the ENT who specialized in voice suggested speech therapy prior to the only other option of botox, his default position was clearly a botox injection. Although I tried speech therapy first, in hindsight, the time suggested for voice exercises and no change suggested in voice use simply could not match the intensive voice demands of my profession (namely, a prosecuting attorney) nor my extra-curricular activities that similarly were voice demanding. I eventually tried 3 botox injections but with minimal and very short-term benefits.

It was suggested that I try more intensive voice therapy that led me to a very progressive speech/language pathologist who discovered Connie Pike’s clinic and recommended I give it a try. By this time, I had gone through 2 years of entrenching voice behaviors that attempted to compensate for my SD, but in fact, worsened my condition. Nevertheless, after two visits to the clinic and a personal session, improvement was made. Although efforts were made to adjust voice use, including taking a leave from work, by the time I made the necessary adjustments to my voice, I was back at work. I felt that positive changes had been made although I was not able to converse easily at work. In October 2008, I tried botox again and this time, experienced significant improvement. Three months later, I received another injection and am able to communicate more easily.

I am convinced that the 2 years of voice work following Connie’s program contributed to the benefits I now experience with botox. Botox is by no means a cure nor has it brought back my original voice back entirely. The voice is weak and  breathy for 2 weeks and it not always consistent. Nor do I have the singing voice that I miss terribly. But I remember the tools Connie gave me and I try to use them on a daily basis to entrench those positive breathing and voicing techniques during the duration of the botox. The ENT and speech pathologist appear to be extremely pleased with my results and I am thrilled with the ability to communicate again.

I regret that I was not able to overcome this without the use of botox. I suppose the biggest regret is not having learned about Connie’s clinic at the outset of my diagnosis. I firmly believe I would have been able to achieve the kind of success she has, but that is in the past and I need to look forward.

Lidia gave voice rehabilitation a dedicated effort, but she now sees how the techniques she learned, although they did not achieve an easy functional voice given the demands of her job, can actually improve the benefits of botox. The two can work together and it doesn’t have to be a choice between one or the other.

Jackie – Mixed SD 21 years – psychiatric treatment, four botulinum toxin injections, self-directed holistic treatment

At the clinic, I acquired a smoother, stronger and more confident voice. I learned to breathe into my belly and my diaphragm is no longer “stuck”. Voice improved 50% and I am overwhelmed with the amount of new information I have learned about SD and what I can do about it. I feel I can be in control of my recovery from this disorder, finally!

This was an amazing gift to myself. I am coming away a more healed and whole woman. I am confident that I have tools to mend my voice and my broken spirit. The healing began on the second day of the clinic and continued to improve every day. With the support of Connie and Mike, I know that I will be free from the fear of speaking with an SD voice. This has plagued me for so long… a great burden is floating away.

Jackie did not return the questionnaire or VHI, but in a brief email stated, “I still have fear that people will find out that I can’t really speak. I have not watched the video from the clinic. I truly believe the answer to recovering my voice is your path and I must seek counseling and get on the horse that I never got on in the first place. Nothing changes unless I change it. Thank you again and I will keep you posted on my progress. Bless you, sweet Connie!”


 

Followups from June 2008 clinic

Barada –AD/ SD 7.5 years – four botulinum toxin injections, DVR one month improving voice 45% in 2002, acupressure massage
I attended the clinic because I had a strong intuition that Connie “got it” with SD. Here is a woman who not only had SD and came out on the other side (her voice is lovely), but was obviously dedicated to helping others with this dysfunction find their voices. In person, Connie was as genuine, open and capable as I had thought she would be. She used her huge repertoire of researched therapy tools coupled with her deep spirituality and beautiful female intuition, added to her life experience as a therapist with SD to work with each of us in the way we needed. It was not a one pattern fits all kind of therapy. Each of us worked closely with her and Mike to find his/her own programme. It was professional, safe, inspiring and genuine every step of the way. As for the breath work – there were emotional moments. Learning to breathe and practicing a lot of breathing stirs up a lot. Mike is a brilliant scientist and a patient, genuine practitioner. This is a rehabilitation process. It is not a “Five days and you are cured” program. Rehabilitation takes however long it takes, but it works and will work and has worked for many people. My “programme” of practice is completely different than it was before and my perception of myself and my SD are different as well. The experience was holistic, healing, practical and inspirational. Several friends hearing me on the phone after my return have exclaimed how much more clear, even and less broken my voice sounded. Thank you again and again for this booster shot of hope your own life’s journey and expertise has provided. It has come as a gift of confidence ensuring me that my voice will continue to be more open, free and more beautiful every single day.

I feel moderately more control over my voice, yet my life continues to unfold in spite of my wanting to control it. I feel it was the right decision for me to go to the clinic. I don’t yet see a lot of change, but when I do practice daily, I see a difference. I made one followup call with Connie, and have been 20-25% compliant and just recently viewed the DVD, reminding me of what I had planned to do. My voice is slightly to moderately better. I think Connie is a gift to everyone, especially those with SD.

Tarryn – AD/ SD 7 years – traditional voice therapy, DVR one month in 2006 with 50% improvement
I experienced significant improvement in my voice and breathing at the clinic. SD is something that needs to be shared. Only by attending such a clinic do you have the opportunity to meet people with a similar condition to yours. This makes the clinic a safe place to speak and be free to be yourself, which allows for better progress. Connie is able to tailor advice and suggestions for improvement to the individual and this is crucial as SD is a process and people are typically at different stages. Mike is able to assist with getting in touch with your breathing and finding your voice. If your breathing is stuck/restricted you are not going to beat SD. SD is beatable. Connie is a living testament to this and an inspiration. Keep up the amazing work!

(Several weeks following the clinic, Tarryn reported this in an email: “I have been really pleased with the results so far – I have maintained, which for me is great, and I have been through a lot of tests – my voice has held out – not perfect all the time but GOOD ENOUGH! The feedback is positive.”)

I definitely have more control over my voice, but having my voice back has brought up some repressed issues and anxiety that I am dealing with now. It was absolutely a good investment. I haven’t needed much in the way of followup, but have emailed Connie and Mike and have been grateful for their responses. My voice is significantly improved to the point that my friends and family say it is normal.   VHI decreased 48 points, from Significant Handicap to No Handicap.

May 2009: "I am happy to give feedback that I still have a fully functioning voice, something I rarely think of. The odd time it goes a bit croaky, I find myself noticing it more than anything and it usually helps to just relax and unwind the tension. No one I know or meet would say I had SD. That is awesome."

Rod – AB/SD 1.5 years – short trial of voice therapy, three botulinum toxin injections
The change in my voice during my time at the clinic was more of an internal change. I absolutely know my voice is better. I have deeper, more relaxed breathing and have learned to use my breath to “calm” my voice down. Prior to the clinic, I had taken a medical leave from teaching and had effectively “given up” on speaking. A typical day might include speaking 30 words (no exaggeration) with absolutely no phone, drive up windows, etc. After spending five days with Connie and Mike, my confidence and willingness to speak has soared. While my voice is nowhere near 100%, it is now to a level where I am willing to use it and actually look forward to trying it out with family and friends. I am not ready for phone calls to strangers, but I feel I am close! Most important of all, I leave the clinic with a broad array of tools and strategies to continue building my voice, a wonderful group of new friends and absolute belief that my full voice is on the way back. Thank you Connie and Mike; you are truly gifts from God to all of us!

My voice is sometimes better and sometimes worse. I feel the clinic was a good investment for my voice and my life. The strategies I learned were great, but the most lasting help is the hope it gave me for my voice. I did not contact Mike or Connie for the free feedback and did not view the DVD. I have been around 20% compliant with the program and would rate my voice slightly better. VHI did not improve.

Olga – AD/SD 7 years –voice therapy, chiropractic, herbal supplements
I felt that my voice improved 80% at the clinic. I developed more confidence in myself and a connection with my inner, powerful spirit. The clinic gave me the opportunity to allow myself to connect with others, my breath, my voice and my inner self. I have gained so much more confidence in myself as a whole. I now view SD as a gift, not as something negative. I have a journey ahead of me to enjoy every second of. From the deepest part of my heart, I thank Connie and Mike and all of my new friends that I made for sharing this “awesome” experience. I am POWERFUL!

June 2009:  "I am doing GREAT. I have never felt so good and alive! I feel like I have made a huge improvement since the clinic. I have opened up to everyone about my voice condition, and everyone has been so supportive and understanding. I find it easier to tell people about my voice than having them wonder "what is wrong with her voice?" when I am speaking to them. I feel as though I can be myself. I have been going out and meeting new people on my own. I feel SUPER POWERFUL!!!  I have more control over my voice, but not total control YET. I am more aware of my breathing and try to slow down. I believe that one day I will regain my true voice. Thanks for all you have done for me. I am so thankful that I met you, Connie, and Mike and everyone on the course. I have truly learned so much from all of you."


 

Followups from August 2008 clinic

Jane - AD/SD 6 years (but with voice difficulties beginning intermittently in 1978). No treatment other than a one-day consultation with Morton Cooper earlier this year.

For those of you that are suffering with SD, this clinic is well worth your time and investment. I never told people (family, friends, or co-workers) I had SD. I hid behind it for six years-making excuses that I had laryngitis, allergies, a bad cold, or a virus. I depended on email for communication, and I would use every “crutch” in the book, not to have to talk to people or answer the phone, to just get by on a daily basis. I was emotionally and mentally drained from not dealing with this awful disorder. Having SD is a very lonely and frightening place to be. My ENT doctor told me it was incurable and that my voice would get progressively worse, and that botox was the only treatment. I refused botox injections and finding a local speech pathologist proved challenging, as there was no one familiar with how to treat SD. I found Connie through the internet in 2007 and corresponded with her for many months (plus purchased her book) before I made the commitment to the clinic.

My five days there were shared with a wonderful group of ladies from all over the country. We bonded immediately and the group atmosphere provides participants with the support and encouragement needed to face and overcome this disorder. Connie is an excellent role-model, leader, mentor, and a wonderful speech pathologist. Her passion for helping people overcome SD is evident from the first moment you meet her. She provides us with her own story, her journey, complete with audio and video of her SD experience and how she overcame it without botox or surgery. She is a true inspiration that you can get your voice back. She is the real deal. My voice improved 70-80% and there were times I learned to speak in a normal voice with no SD at all.

During the five day clinic, we are given the tools, strategies, information, guidance, tapes, ”Hearphones”, computer software, and so many different things to assist us in our personal journey of voice recovery. It is a very intense five days of learning and worth every penny. Although it is a group clinic, every participant is given individual therapy from day one. You are given a comprehensive plan of action for everything from nutrition, posture, breathing techniques, and a lot of voice exercises to address your particular case of SD. When you leave the clinic, you feel empowered to take charge of your voice, your life, and your brain to do the things necessary to get your voice back. I know it will be a lot of hard work, but I know I can do it. Thank you Connie, Mike, Dr. Robbie, and Christine for your love, support, knowledge, guidance, and for being there. Thank you to my fellow participants for being the best group of women ever to go through this clinic with! We will keep in touch as we still need each other to share our joys, tears, and our progress in the months to come.

Jane did not comply with the program, allowing life to take over. She did not view the video or continue the exercises and almost a year after the clinic, found that she was not where she thought she would be. Her report back was, “When you get home from the clinic, you have high hopes and it takes true self-discipline to set aside the hours in the evening to take care of your voice and do your exercises. It becomes easy to say, “I’ll start tomorrow because there is laundry stacked up, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, bills to pay, and the dog needs full attention.” It is overwhelming to keep up with life. My problem is that I need to be held accountable and my husband will do it. I can’t leave my job to truly focus on my voice, but I would like a second chance, an appointment with you.”

Jane came for a short visit along with her husband. It was very productive in that we reviewed her compliance contract and evaluated that she had only complied in a limited capacity, only 17%. She had never reviewed her DVD and discovered that she could still produce a normal voice. We completed a video and watched it together so she could conquer that fear of seeing herself on camera. We re-established goals and she is on her way, with her husband to keep her accountable and renewed hope for her voice recovery. She did not complete the follow-up because she admitted to failed compliance to the program. However, we hold out great hope for her future success!

Kaye –AD/SD 2 years–psychotherapy, traditional voice therapy, acupuncture
After suffering for two years and only hearing the word “botox” for a short fix, coming to this clinic was a gift from God. Connie and Michael are both angels here on earth to help all of us that have the frustration of SD. In just the first day, my voice improved over 50% - Wow! I was, and still am, so excited! It was actually the first time I had heard my true voice in over a year. I was back in the world of being free to speak. What a great feeling that is. It is so hard to explain to someone that has never had a voice problem. Over the past 4 days, my voice has continued to improve with all the tools and exercises given to me by Connie and Michael so that it is about 80% improved. My classmates – 5 wonderful women – were also a gift. WE all learned from each other during this week as we were all so different. But what a great support group we all have – and especially Connie and Mike at the head of it.

Kaye reported that the clinic was a great investment, and that the exercises were helpful, but that she found it difficult to comply, since she was unable to take a leave from her job. In an email, she stated that, during a 2 week vacation, her voice was very good, and she realized the stress of her job made it difficult to accomplish voice rehabilitation. She estimated 50% compliance but felt that if she could quit her job, she could most likely recover her voice. She stated that she was “terrified to quit” because of the economy and simply did not feel it was an option. She also is dealing with other medical issues such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. She is going to Vanderbilt for tests and treatment and still feels under pressure to get a botox treatment, but does not want to do it. Despite all the complications, her VHI did decrease by 34 points, but her voice is not significantly better on a consistent basis yet. She is planning on seeing Mike for breathing options to avoid the CPAP machine that has been recommended for her sleep apnea.

Silvia – AD/SD 3 years but with symptoms beginning in 1992– short trial of voice therapy, two botulinum toxin injections, acupuncture, chiropractic, Reiki.

I highly recommend Connie’s clinic to any person suffering from SD. Since Connie herself suffered from SD and was able to heal herself, she completely understands the implications of SD and knows how to teach others to do the same for themselves. Connie is very passionate about her work and she is compassionate and sensitive to each individual’s needs. The clinic was much better than I expected. The flow of the sessions, the amount of days and the fact that the clinic was held at her house contributed to a wonderful experience. Also, having a group of only six was a positive aspect because it allowed our group to really bond and create a sisterhood of friendship and support, not only during the clinic, but for the future. It was great to meet other people that are also struggling with the same condition, because you get to learn not only from Connie and Mike, but also from each member of the group and their journey.

I thank Connie for giving me the gift of this experience. She taught me to accept SD as my teacher and to trust that just as she was healed, anyone suffering SD can also be healed. I thank Mike for teaching me how to breathe properly, for giving me many exercises that I can take home to practice so that I can recover my voice. I also thank Robbie and Christine for their contributions. Both were very helpful to me and my own process. Thank you for giving me HOPE!!

Silvia reported moderately improved voice and her VHI decreased 25 points. She stated that it was too easy to get caught up in everyday life, and hard to comply with the program. She continued to struggle, and eventually returned to botox treatment around 5 months after the clinic, and said that after a period of 10 days of no voice, her voice was perfect for 3 months. As the impact of the botox declined, she continued with voice exercises and felt she was improving even six months later. She recognized how much the exercises helped her when she began to struggle again. She also noticed good and bad days, according to her stress level. Silvia had never viewed the DVD because she did not want to see herself on tape. She was encouraged to do so to remind her of her success at the clinic.

Jessie– Dystonia; probably segmental involving the voice, eyes and hands and vocal tremor for over 12 years – no treatment.
If you have SD or suspect you have SD, this is the place to be. Where else can you find a licensed speech pathologist who has had SD with all of the pains, agonies, and disappointments that go with it. Connie teaches from personal experiences rather than textbook theories. Michael White is a well-known breathing expert. His knowledge, techniques, and dedication leave you well prepared to complete all you have learned with handouts to take home. Robbie Goss, the psychologist, helps you identify factors, positive and negative, in your life that can further your development.

Jessie reported back that her voice was only slightly better, but felt that the voice clinic was a good investment that gave her more control over her voice. She estimated 65% compliance to her program and did not take advantage of the feedback. She stated, “I’m ashamed to say I did not view the DVD until I received the questionnaire. I KNOW that if I had viewed it when I received it, I would be farther along in my progress. I have also been busy packing to move and the seller walked out, have issues with my health and working. Things just piled up. VHI decreased 7 points, which is not a significant change. 

Since the feedback I received from Jessie, she has been emailing me more frequently and working on Voiceprint, even sending me voice samples so we can work through what is happening with her voice. As I give her more instruction, I hear her voice getting stronger and better.


 

Followups from January 2009 Clinic

Followup comments are in blue

George - AD/SD 10 years : voice therapy, acupuncture, botox injections every four months from 1998 until December 2006

My voice improved 30% at the clinic and I learned to “let go” when blocks occur and that an awareness of deep full breathing is imperative all the time. Every instructor at the clinic has developed incredible knowledge and techniques which were all helpful. In reality, each technique, service and idea is perfectly introduced as the weakness appears. The ideas make it easier to move back to the basics and then move on with the improvement.

George reported that his voice continued to be intermittently problematic and that when he worked hardest on his humming and singing exercises, his work was at its best. He stated that “when I get so busy and push those drills down in priority, my voice falters. It is frustrating but I control my own destiny”. His VHI score had decreased 14 points.

EM– AD/SD with tremor 4 years: no prior treatment   

My voice improved 50% at the clinic. I learned to speak faster so the spasms aren’t allowed to happen. I learned to fully breathe into my belly and to breathe while talking.  Being with others who had SD was beneficial. They supported me and encouraged me. All the various techniques for breathing and voice were helpful. I learned what pitch makes my voice sound better and how to get to that pitch. I appreciated the individual sessions tailored to me and I learned what I should and should not do for my voice to improve. The techniques and instructions will help me to achieve my goals.

EM did not report maintaining the goals she attained at the clinic. She reported being 50% compliant to her program and she did not view the DVD provided. She had no suggestions as to how we might improve the clinics.

Marja –AD/SD 2 years: No prior treatment  (Marja traveled all the way from Finland, coming to the US alone, with English as her second language. We were all in awe of her courage and determination and know she will beat her SD!)

I experienced ease and more resonance in the voice and full breathing. My solar plexus relaxed and my energy was aroused. After being diagnosed with SD, you are facing big challenges. You wonder “Will I ever get my voice back and what are the options for a cure, if any?” I was offered botox and I refused it. I went to the internet and found two places to go: Dr. Cooper or Connie Pike’s clinic. I chose the clinic because of the approach used, with a multiprofessional team and a mind/body/spirit approach. I wanted to be cured as a whole. As I entered the clinic, I met my first SD colleague and was surprised by the variances and of the severity of the disease.

During five powerful days, we shared tools in terms of relaxation, breathing, voice rehabilitation, psycho-social issues, nutrition, spiritual issues, and developed a compliance plan. Being with five others with SD gave me inspiration, courage and caring love to face my SD and get rid of it. Connie and Mike are real pioneers in their fields with the courage to use this approach since 99% of the medical society treats it differently. They have chosen the RIGHT WAY and I am more than privileged to have found them. 

At six months following the clinic, Marja reported “talking nearby normally due to the lessons I got from Connie and Mike. It has taken a lot of work but has been worth it. My SD colleagues, don’t give up. You can solve this mystery and learn a lot about yourself along the way.” Three months later, after learning she had cancer metastases and needed chemotherapy, she reported that “My voice was so good during the summer that nobody noticed I had SD. Now it is worst than it was before as I’m living the worst chaos of my life.” Unfortunately in times of great stress and trauma, the voice can take a downturn. We all pray for healing for Marja on all levels.

April 2010: Marja reported successful recovery from her cancer and 90% recovery of her voice. She attributed what she had learned at the clinic, changes in job and lifestyle, chiropractic adjustments and improvement in overall self esteem as critical in recovering her voice once again. She stated, "I would like to thank you both, Mike and Connie, for keeping the faith. I have not given up in the deepest moments and now I can live the life I was dreaming about."

Johnna – AD/SD 19 years but diagnosed 2 years ago: medication, psychological consultation, EMDR, Healing Touch, herbal supplements

My voice improved 50% at the clinic. It became more resonant with fewer breaks and less effort. I gained deeper, easier breathing, awareness of abdominal breathing and supportive posture. Having the hands-on experience with Connie and Mike was invaluable. It enabled me to have “right practice”. These were actual training sessions. They were able to show, demonstrate, mold and correct in ways not possible without their one-on-one touch.

Having training take place with others going through the same process turned this into a loving and healing process for all of us. It was a much more sacred space than I had imagined and allowed for a deeper level of insight and peeling away at the many layers of SD. This could not have been accomplished without such great support. It was a life-changing experience that I am profoundly grateful for and whole-heartedly recommend to anyone who is considering it.

February 2010
"I am doing well and my voice is average, and no longer handicapping. My biggest challenge is cell phones. A few months back, I was sounding strained again. Stress was building at work, I was short on sleep, and I realized that I had not been working my program. After a couple of weeks of focused breathing and relaxation, along with Roger Love's exercises during my commute, I was back to my new normal voice. On an average day, I am about 80% of my old voice." VHI decreased 57 points, indicating a change from Severe Handicap to Mild.

Belinda – AD/SD or possibly functional dysphonia 11 years:  Dr. Cooper’s DVR, individual work with Mike and Connie over the past several years, botox

Belinda did not get the big breakthrough to her voice she had hoped for. She did develop a consciousness not to whisper and learned relaxation and breathing techniques that were helpful. She found the psychological assessment/consultation a fantastic and wonderful insight and experience, as well as the group dynamics and support. She has a plan in place and renewed hope that she will find her voice.

Belinda was encouraged to seek counseling and possible medication for her severe depression. She had been hesitant on both counts, depending rather on her faith in God to heal her. She eventually had several counseling sessions which she did not find helpful and had not yet tried anti-depressant medication. She reported resorting back to whispering because it was the only way people could understand her.

Amy – AD/SD 3 years:  4 botox injections
2 Corinthians 4:13 “…I believe therefore I speak.”

I have had SD for 3 ½ years. Following my first botox treatment, the medical community literally said these words to me, “Mrs. Harris, you need to accept the fact that you have this disorder and your only hope is botox.” Those became fighting words to me. Although I did receive 3 more botox treatments, I continued to search for other options. Botox always provided some relief from strain but my voice never sounded good.

A friend had heard about Connie Pike and I began to research. I ordered her book and for the first time, I knew someone understood. I have at least six good friends who are speech therapists and they all say that SD is so rare, they really don’t know what to do. One gave me lots of things to try but just never found much of it to be helpful. It took a speech therapist to have this disorder to fight her way out for all of us to have hope. Connie for me was that picture of hope.

The clinic was so important for me because it looked at my individual case and focused on just what I needed. All six of us had unique needs. We all had breathing problems.  Mike’s breathing techniques opened up something within me on the very first day and I could feel my chest open and air actually flow down to my diaphragm. It was a wonderful feeling to BREATHE!  We worked on this throughout the week and my breathing is so much better now. Connie was able to help me with pitch and this was huge for me. We discovered other challenges that SD brings on so there are specific exercises that she gave me to help with those.

I brought home tools (books, computer software, exercises and other devices to help me continue my recovery at home. I now have a voice. I really do! It is like an old friend has not only come for a visit but decided to stay. I have to work really hard on it because I am training my brain to speak in a different way.  This is not for the faint of heart.  If you are ready to fight the good fight, then pack your bags and get the tools you need to win your voice back. This is not a cure – it is hope!  You may always have SD but you certainly find a new pathway from which to speak. It is the equipment for success but you must have the desire and the motivation to just “do it” everyday.

When I left the clinic to fly home, I sat next to a lady and had an hour and a half conversation with her. That in itself was a huge success. At the end of the flight, she said to me “If you had not told me, I never would have known you had anything wrong with your voice.”  For the first time in years, I had a “free to speak” experience.

My prayer for you if you are considering this clinic is that you find hope to fight the good fight against SD and know that success is possible. No one has the right to take away your hope.

At seven months after the clinic, Amy reported significant improvement in her voice. She had been 90% compliant to her program, had watched her DVD, and took advantage of her free follow-up. Her biggest complaint was consistency and getting her voice to work in public as well as it did at home. Her VHI had decreased 24 points, moving from the Severe to the Moderate range.

“The progress I have made is much better than I ever had with botox, however it is different. The progress is slow but steady. I feel confident that as I progress I fully expect to maintain good voicing for the rest of my life. I am a better person from having SD. I am more compassionate, understanding, resilient, determined and my faith has grown stronger. I am more relaxed. I believe God did not inflict me with a disease but he entrusted me with a special voice for such a time as this because He had a good plan for me to make me a better person.”

Followups from May 2009 Clinic

Brenda: AD/SD 15 years:  regular botox injections 10 years, voice therapy

My voice improved 30% at the clinic, with improved voice quality and the ability to self-correct. The breathing training helped my chest to be more open. Connie provided an opportunity to investigate and learn about my whole being. Mike’s work on breathing contributed a vital part in helping me understand the elements which were detrimental to voice production. These techniques work!  Talking with Robbie about my psychological profile was extremely beneficial. The massage with Christine after gaining all of the other insights helped me to understand my areas of muscular tension. All of these services combined explain why Connie’s approach to SD is structured for success. She is extremely knowledgeable, empathetic, sincere and open. She shares her ideas freely and ensures questions are answered. It is a journey and this clinic is the perfect beginning.

May 2010 - Brenda did not return the feedback but emailed that she had not improved significantly and was planning on returning to botox injections, which had served her well for 10 years. She persisted with the program, however, and at one year, she had not found it necessary to resume botox injections and her VHI-30 had decreased 37 points.

PM– AD/SD 10 years: Cooper’s DVR two weeks in 2006 and 2008

My voice improved 50-80% at the clinic. I experienced amazing improvement in my voice for a great deal of the time, with some periodic relapses, never as bad as before I came. I improved significant breathing from my stomach instead of my chest and more relaxed breathing while talking. I have used other resources to try to improve my voice quality, but at best, they resulted in temporary improvement. I believe this is because they did not take a comprehensive approach to the issue. Connie’s clinic is very different in that it deals with the voice issues directly in addition to breathing issues and psychological and emotional issues. The clinic provides help in a very nurturing, compassionate environment. Connie and Mike are incredibly helpful, and the bonding experience with the other participants is a very important and helpful part of the process as well. I highly recommend Connie’s clinic to those who are serious about improving their voices.

PM reported more control over his voice, but not yet completely satisfied. “My voice was best right after the clinic and I have good moments and days, as well as bad voice days. At least I feel like there are things I can do to help bring the voice back. I am glad I went and feel it was worth the effort and cost. I wish there was a more formal, in person feedback session with Connie and Mike. Breathing instruction has had the most lasting impact and feel that breathing is the most important aspect to long-lasting improvement in my voice. My compliance was 80% just after the clinic and declined to around 40% by 7 months later. The follow-up video was helpful. My voice is moderately improved.” VHI not returned.

Arlene – AB/SD 6 years: 1 attempted botox injection, brief consultation with Morton Cooper, yoga

I learned how important breathing and posture are in order to improve my voice. I learned among many things not to breathe out most of my air before speaking. The clinic was wonderful and my voice improved 50% overall. Connie and Mike provided the tools necessary to overcome SD. It was done in a caring and positive manner, integrating many aspects. They have given me my voice back and for that I am grateful.

Arlene was unable to maintain the gains she made at the clinic, reporting back that she felt only slightly improved 8 months later. She reported somewhat better control of her voice and felt that the clinic was a good investment for her voice and her life. She estimated about 20% compliance to her program and had viewed her video, finding it helpful. VHI had not improved.

Susana – AD/SD 3 years:  voice therapy, two botox injections, sacrocranial stimulation, parasympathetic injections, bioenergetics

My voice improved 95% at the clinic, the spasms disappeared and I spoke fluently. I experienced more air, relaxation and more ease in speaking. The clinic gave me the specific and powerful tools to improve my voice and get into the right groove. Already, this has changed my life deeply. I’m back in my life. The knowledge, care and love of Connie, Mike, Robbie and Christine made a huge difference and has allowed me to keep going. Thank you so much, very deeply.

Susana reported improved control over her voice and her life and rated the clinic as a good investment. She reported 70% compliance in the beginning, but later stopped practicing as she felt her voice improved when she stopped worrying about the exercises. She viewed her video and found it helpful.

“My voice is moderately improved. There have been times during which I have spoken normally for up to 12 days. I couldn’t believe it, and thought I had recovered my voice completely but for some reason went back to where I had been. I can keep generating a normal voice when I am speaking to big groups or someone I know is a leader. I don’t know why I can’t keep generating that.” VHI decreased27 points, moving from the Severe to the Moderate range of handicap.

Sharon –AD/SD slow onset since 1994: short term voice therapy, botox injections every 2-6 months from 1997 until May 2008, yoga, chiropractic, voice lessons two years, and nutritional support and supplementation

My voice improved 40% at the clinic. My breathing improved in that I experienced less tension in my solar plexus area, building a foundation and less throat tension, and experienced periods of easy speaking. I highly recommend this clinic. Each case of SD is different and Connie and Mike evaluate each person individually and design strategies to overcome the obstacles. Robbie’s evaluation showed me weak areas in my temperament that I can change to help my recovery and my life in general. The group experience is invaluable. Being with others who understand and are experiencing SD is very healing. I have a lot of tools now and can contact Connie and Mike to help me through any “stuck” areas. I now know with certainty that SD can be overcome to the point that it no longer interferes with my life. God Bless!

May 2010 - The clinic was a good investment and gave me more control over my voice and my life. I have been 85% compliant and followed up with Mike in North Carolina in September four months after the clinic. My voice is slightly better, but I have begun to work with an Alexander teacher and am working on unraveling tensions and see this as a vital piece for me. The clinic was a vital piece of my recovery, but I needed further help. VHI-30 score decreased 17 points.


 

JULY 2009 Followups

JM: AD/SD 8 months:  no prior treatment
My voice improved 80%. I changed my breathing  to belly breathing and found my pitch and focus in the mask. I had fuller breathing and better pitch. The expertise was exceptional. Connie and Mike provided the tools to help me “find” my voice and maintain it. The other attendees were absolutely necessary for encouragement and support. One has to have the will to improve, to get better, to have control of one’s voice. The tools are here – use them!

My voice is slightly better, and fluctuates, depending on the situation. I am more aware of what I should be doing and more confident in speaking. I know I can do better! Compliance has been around 50% with a set back after knee surgery. VHI-30 decreased 11 points.

Johnna – AB/SD 4 years: Botox injections Fall 2007 until 2008; some worked but most did not, voice therapy, acupuncture, herbal treatments

When I came to the clinic, I was only whispering. Now I’m not whispering and my voice has more resonance. My breathing and voice were not working together. I had no breath for speech. I would almost hyperventilate. I would recommend Connie’s clinic to anyone with a voice problem. I was at the point of no hope with SD and Connie, Mike and the other clients gave me the encouragement and belief in myself that I could regain my voice. Connie and Mike gave me the tools I will need to complete my journey back to a wonderful voice.

The clinic has allowed me to meet the challenges of my voice head on. Before the clinic, I wouldn’t mingle with co-workers or go out of my way to have a conversation, but now I do. I still don’t have the control over my voice that I want, but it has improved, and over time I believe it will get better. I would do the clinic all over again, it was a good investment. My quality of life is much better. I know that I can’t give up. I will keep working to improve my voice. It is moderately improved. VHI-30 decreased18 points.

Betty – AD/SD & MTD almost 2 years: previously recovered her voice at the end of the September 2008 clinic but slowly lost it to a whisper.

On Saturday of the clinic, I saw the light and felt the shift. My voice fluctuated from 20% to 80% improved over the week. I left the clinic with a fully functioning voice in September 2008. I was overjoyed and thought I was “cured”. When SD crept back into my life later in the year I PANICKED. I had forgotten the tools I learned at the clinic and lost touch with my core. I even forgot that my voice was still inside me…. I was struggling. I don’t think that Connie and Mike have many people return, but that is what I decided to do. Connie helped me realize and accept the probability that SD will perhaps always be in the background for me, but I don’t have to let it take over. Mike helped me get in touch with my core again…stay grounded. I have given myself permission to speak freely once again. Thank you, Connie and Mike and the wonderful supportive group this five days of the clinic!

My voice has significantly improved. I am mindful of the process daily. I developed a positive, fearless attitude and it was a good investment, giving me more control. Voiceprint was my favorite and I use it daily. VHI-30 decreased a total of 40 points.


 

November 2009 Followups

Jaya - Hyper-functional voice, laryngeal dysfunction, possible AD/SD 3.5 years:  Speech therapy, homeopathy, osteopathy, acupuncture, massage, private consultation with Connie in June 2008, February and September 2009Recently began work with an Alexander technique teacher and decided to attend the intensive clinic.

In April 2006, my voice started to deteriorate. I saw numerous doctors and specialists who attributed it to stress. I tried many treatments over the years and still no voice. I saw Connie in London in June 2008 and she gave me a lot of hope and encouragement and the necessary resources to start my journey of voice recovery. The past 18 months my voice has become so much stronger but my breathing was still amiss. Coming to the clinic has been very beneficial. I am so very grateful to Connie and Mike for sharing their knowledge and all the great tools they have given me to recover my voice. It has been supportive to share and help fellow participants in a loving environment. I know that I still have work to do, with discipline yet being easy on myself. I can speak freely and easily with confidence and joy. It has been a valuable five days of reclaiming myself. I would highly recommend the clinic to anyone who suffers a serious voice condition.

September 2010 – “I am much better with my confidence since the clinic. I value how I have changed my mind set about going back into the world again and it has been a real blessing to teach yoga again. I look forward to the time when I can go into a noisy place and feel heard without straining. Overall, I feel great improvement. Thank you so much, Connie. Keep up the fantastic work you are doing.” Jaya rated her voice as moderately to significantly improved although her VHI did not significantly decrease since the clinic. She had experienced a 30 point decrease after working with Connie privately over a 15 month period (several appointments in London). When asked, she was puzzled, and stated, “hummmm... I don't think I feel as *handicapped*. But I do still have moments when it’s awful! Not as often I’m pleased to say ... I definitely feel more confident since the clinic, a lot more!! Hence my starting to teach again ;))) Noisy places are still a bad place, I feel like I go 10 steps backwards “ Jaya had not yet viewed her DVD from the clinic and I encouraged her to do so to accelerate her progress.


Gopali–AB/SD 33 years, diagnosed at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Syndey, Australia at age 23 but with problems beginning at age 12 attributed to “nerves”: Speech therapy, Botox injections for 13 years, with average improvement for 5 weeks of the 12 in between injections, acupuncture, Reike, herbs, fasting, meditation, yoga, voice rest ( Had discontinued botox 18 months prior to attending the clinic).

I found the clinic to be an absolutely amazing and healing experience. Everyone who participated had their own unique insights to share and gave so much support to each other. Connie is a deeply caring and personal lady who gave us all so much of herself, constantly going the extra mile and inspiring us at every step. Mike has a wealth of knowledge and tricks to share, always searching for the techniques to help each individual voice. I did not attend expecting my voice to be miraculously cured, but to receive ideas and strategies to use for my on-going rehabilitation. I have complete hope this can happen and am really looking forward to exploring all the different tools I’ve been given and where they take me. Being with others who understand and share the condition was a great way to get over a lot of my fears around using my voice. I leave with GRATITUDE.

October 2010 – Rated her voice as only slightly better, but “I have been fully recognized as having a disability and can now receive a disability pension which makes me feel acknowledged and gives me more time. There is an occasional improvement in control over my voice when all elements are in place; correct breathing, focus and mood. The clinic was an unforgettable experience full of support, acknowledgement and helpful strategies. I loved the whole experience. VHI had decreased 21 points.

Nicole – Hyperfunctional voice, MTD; possible psychosomatic issues 2 years: Voice therapy, medication

This clinic was life-changing! No matter the severity, mild or severe, the instructors give you the tools needed to not only find your voice but confidence. For me, confidence is the key! The group setting and one to one instruction with the “holistic” approach was the key and was different from anything I have heard of or researched. I truly thank Connie for creating and giving such a beautiful gift to others.

September 2010 – “There was definite improvement in my voice after the clinic. My fear is no longer prevalent. The clinic does a great job – I would incorporate even more ‘out of the box’ techniques and focus on root cause as well as functional aspects. I wonder why I can speak 100% in one setting but not another. This implies the mechanics are ready to work but something mental is not allowing a full voice.” Nicole rated her voice as moderately to significantly improved and VHI had decreased 42 points.

Dale – AD/SD with first symptoms in singing voice 1980’s, affecting his speaking voice in the early 1990’s, formally diagnosed with SD 14 years ago: botox injections for several years post diagnosis, 4 weeks DVR with Dr. Cooper in 1997, resumed botox injections for the next 10 years due to the demands of his teaching job. Upon retirement from teaching, he read Connie’s book and experienced improvement using the suggested exercises and decided to enroll in the clinic.

My voice improved 80% at the clinic. I was able to find my middle voice, my real voice, and begin to use it beyond “practice” and into conversation. Mike helped open up my breathing so it was deeper, more natural and less forced. Having struggled with SD for over 18 years, I had tried a variety of approaches to finding a resolution to my voice problems. These included botox injections and DVR with Cooper. However, it was Connie’s “Free to Speak” Clinic that put all of the pieces of this complex puzzle together. The clinic helped coordinate the mechanical, breathing and psychosocial components to find my real voice. Connie and Mike do not provide a cookie-cutter approach, but deal with each person as an individual. The support and encouragement of others who are struggling with SD is a valuable part of recovery.

If you are dealing with SD and are looking for a way to recover or improve without botox, I highly recommend this clinic!

October 2010 - “The clinic was a good investment. Learning to relax during phonation and use airflow properly were the most lasting helps. I took advantage of the feedback, was 75% compliant, and viewed my DVD. It allowed me to go back and hear my good voice. My voice is moderately improved since the clinic. “ VHI had decreased 36 points.


 

January 2010 Followups

Betty – AD/SD, MTD 18 years:  No formal treatment, no medications. History of counseling and alternative treatments including Reike, relaxation techniques, vitamins and supplements, and some hypnosis.

I had a brief bout with childhood stuttering as well as a history of periodic classroom stammering.  My onset of SD is associated with uncovering repressed emotions in 1991-92 over an emotionally abusive upbringing. Counseling was helpful to alleviate symptoms and SD was intermittent until the past 2-3 years, when it had worsened considerably.

At the clinic, I experienced 50% improvement in my voice and breathing. I am highly grateful for the various tools now available to me. SD rehabilitation is not something one can simply read about or intellectualize and try on their own.  It needs to be taught by highly knowledgeable and experienced practitioners such as Connie and Mike, and practiced in a safe and supportive environment with fellow SD sufferers experiencing similar issues. 

Enough cannot be said about the impact camaraderie has on SD.  During the clinic, I was inspired by the breakthroughs and improvement each one of us had experienced.  In addition, after spending 4 days with Connie and hearing her rehabilitated voice, she bravely shared a video of herself from around the time she had first come down with SD.  I saw a lot of myself in her and became especially encouraged and inspired by the post onset Connie that we had been learning from.  If she can do it, so can we. 

January 2011 - In June, five months after the clinic, Betty was granted a leave of absence from her teaching job for the 2010/2011 school year. She worked with Connie to obtain disability due to her SD. She continued to experience difficulty with her voice, and in September, decided to try Botox.

“After an initial improvement in the quality of my voice during the clinic as well as about a week afterwards, my voice progressively deteriorated. I highly value my experience there, being introduced to a wide variety of techniques, the camaraderie of my fellow participants, and the inspiring example of Connie’s rehabilitated voice. With my further declining voice, I made the difficult decision to go ahead and try Botox for the first time. The side effects were horrendous and lasted an entire month. Once through that, over the past three months I have experienced the joyous return of my voice, which has inspired me to continue this fight. I have pursued emotional release therapy and it has been extremely beneficial. Connie was very helpful in filling out my disability paperwork and both she and Mike were supportive.” With Botox working effectively, Betty rated her voice as significantly improved.

Connie S – Ad/SD with symptoms for 11 years, diagnosed in 2000 at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Botox injections from 2001 – August 2009.

My voice improved significantly at the clinic as I found better flow and ease of voicing. I had an incredible breakthrough in a release of tension throughout the core of my being with the breathing.

The clinic was amazing. My voice improved tremendously as I learned the tools and techniques given. As a result, life force came through me and my voice became free flowing and strong. Being with others who struggle with SD made it easy to relate, understand and encourage one another. Wonderful friendships were made.

Connie and Mike are filled with compassion, wisdom, knowledge, experience, kindness, understanding and love. I left the clinic with so much hope and expectation of great things to continue for my voice and overall well being. I am so grateful for such a gift!

January 2011 - Connie rated her voice as moderately improved at the follow-up and her Voice Handicap Index score had decreased 36 points, moving her from the severe to the low-moderate category of handicap. She also sent a DVD of her speaking at church about the healing that was occurring in her life and it was very moving and her voice was strong, even in a public presentation!

Analee – AD/SD with symptoms beginning in the mid 90’s. History of speech therapy, followed by Botox injections for 6 years. Took a sabbatical in 2007 to stop the botox injections and explore alternatives. Tried Reiki, acupuncture and voice exercises from Morton Cooper’s book. Looking to change career to teaching.

My voice improved 75% at the clinic. I experienced a clearer voice, free expression with less tension and recovered my singing voice. I was able to take deeper, longer breaths, and develop a way of meditating that was deep and satisfying where following my breath was easy and natural. I gained lots of tools and a compliance contract to organize and form a plan – excellent!

The clinic was a godsend to me – literally. I have suffered from SD for 15 years, used Botox with mixed results, and had been working on my own with voice rehabilitation exercises I had read about. I found Connie one Sunday afternoon when I “googled” spasmodic dysphonia to see what was new on the disorder on the internet.

I came into the clinic with high hopes, and I not only met those high expectations, I exceeded them. The holistic approach in a group setting was perfect. Connie combines expertise as a speech pathologist with her own personal journey of recovering her voice from the devastation of SD. Mike is a true breathing guru and an effective trainer. Learning to breathe was particularly helpful to me – a new, crucial component to my voice recovery. I am well on my way to full recovery of my speaking and most dear to me, my singing voice.

January 2011 - Eight months after the clinic, Analee reported that she was very pleased with her voice quality overall. She was able to see that anticipation of difficulty and public speaking caused her voice to be weak and shaky. She was teaching 5th grade and experiencing good voicing in the classroom. She stated, “I feel so fortunate to have found you and Mike so I could finally, finally really get my voice back.”

Analee reported improved control over her voice and her life and felt the clinic to be a good investment. She felt that she had been 50-75% compliant to her program and that her voice was moderately improved. Her VHI had decreased 48 points, moving her from the severe to low moderate range of handicap. She stated in an email that certain situations still triggered shakiness in her voice but that “I’m in the process of recovering my voice, I know it.”

Lynn –AB/AD, MTD with onset in 1998. Symptoms worsened the past 3 years: speech therapy, chiropractic, allergy testing, acupressure, EFT, yoga.

My voice improved 50% at the clinic. My voice felt better during muscle relaxation, massage, neck tension releases and increased breathing. I would say that my time at the clinic was the best personal investment I could have made in finding the correct ways to improve SD. I now know that I could not have done this on my own as the techniques are far better understood and practiced in person.

Learning my “doing” helped me tremendously. I also feel that the atmosphere in a home-office setting made the experience real and relaxed, and made me feel safe as those around me shared and helped each other.

Connie is a true inspiration and role model that I admire – a true gem. Her determination and ability to teach me what I needed to know has been priceless. I will go on with this journey knowing that I, too, will sound better!

January 2011 - Lynn was not experiencing improvement in her voice at the time of feedback. She felt that she had been 100% compliant, but that her attitude had recently shifted from “correction of a speech problem” to “dealing with letting go of emotional fear related to post-traumatic stress and gaining self-confidence”. She reported a 21 point decrease in her VHI, which is statistically significant, but her score remained in the severe range. I encouraged her to work diligently on the emotional component and then resume her voice rehabilitation, using her clinic DVD to remind her of what she could accomplish.

Later she wrote:

Connie - Thank you so much for the support! WOW, your comments are right on the money!!  Especially when you stated that "when underlying mindbody issues are strong, they work against my attempts to regroove the voice."  Yes, yes, that describes my situation to a tee.  UGH, SO frustrating!!

I stumbled across a psychotherapist while I was pursuing physical therapy and biofeedback. I've been talking to her once a week for almost 4months....she, too, had told me that it's possible that I have latched on to the voice problem in order to divert attention from painful emotions within my subsconscious (fear, guilt, confidence).  I'm not so sure I believe in that kind of "reasoning", but I suppose it makes sense, especially since I now recognize how long I've been holding on to alot of emotions for many years.  (we also did hypnosis, but i didn't find it to be beneficial or longlasting).
So now it begs the question, now that I have awareness, HOW do I release myself from these emotions???  That's what I haven't been able to do, even with therapy I'm struggling with what I need to do to get better.

Also, as you say "a shift in consciousness, awareness, acceptance, action process so that the voice is released"...again, you're right on the money!!  I am now in the "awareness" phase, and now seeking an action process.  Meditation has never been one of my strong points. I've tried many many techniques, types, classes, tapes at home, etc....my mind wanders often and i'm just not the type of person that can meditate.

I have found, however, that massage therapy is SO therapeutic for me, it's been the only thing that relaxes me. My job consists of about 9hrs a day, then i workout, so I only have about 2hrs a night for "me" time.  The cost of weekly massage therapy is high, so if you have any  addt'l "action process" suggestions, i'm all ears!  :-)

Your comments have been very enlighting, thank you so much for taking the time to offer your thoughts and motivation.  It's SO helpful indeed!

Richard – Essential tremor, vocal tremor 5 years: speech therapy, botox injections 1/2007 – 8/2009, medications for anxiety and acid reflux, Alexander technique, acupuncture, massage, meditation.

In a single word, the Voice Clinic was transformative. The relaxed setting of Connie Pike’s home office provided a comfortable supportive environment where we could let go and be ourselves – 5 people with voice disorders learning techniques to make our voices better. For me, the effects were frequently apparent immediately and offered a window through which I could see how my voice might be on a regular basis if I continued to put into use these new practices.

While I was aware that stress made my voice worse, a huge unexpected bonus was to learn that incorrect breathing affected not only my voice, but my entire physical and emotional being. After trying Mike White’s breathing suggestions I could feel immediate relaxation and calm throughout my whole body. That alone was worth the price.

What made this clinic so special? The whole person was addressed – not only voice and breathing; posture, emotions, etc. and we had a good time while doing it. Additionally, while being able to watch and listen to the voices and stories of the other participants, I was able to see myself and my struggle to speak from a perspective that I otherwise would never have been able to experience.

It’s a great feeling to know that I am finally done with Botox!

January 2011 - Richard obtained his goal of becoming free to speak without Botox! His feedback included “The clinic was pivotal, and my friends who could hear me before and after would certainly agree. Thank you, Connie, for doing what you do and doing it so well.” He rated his voice significantly better, and VHI decreased 39 points, moving from the moderately handicapped range into the no handicap range (score of 14).


 

February 2010 Followups

Jim: SD, 20 years with history of gastric reflux

Lost voice while preaching in 1990, and had to resign after a year. Speech therapy 8 months in 1990-1991 did not result in improvement, and 2 Botox treatments in 1991-92 (with continued speech therapy) yielded no improvement. Reported managing the problem using intense muscle control but felt he had forgotten how to speak properly after prolonged “tinkering” with his voice. He also lost his ability to sing. No medications except for hypothyroidism. Had explored chiropractic adjustments for back pain but it did not help his voice.

On his evaluation, under diagnosis, Jim put “HEALED”. He stated that he was leaving with the confidence that his SD is conquered. He regained the ease of speaking and singing lost 20 years ago. He experienced increased ease in breathing as well. Jim stated that he needed some time to think over his complete testimonial and would supply it at a later date. He offered to speak with anyone wanting more information about the program. jallen@elmore.rr.com

February 2011 - Jim reported more control over his voice and life. Best helps included Roger Love’s book, placing the voice forward, the kazoo and straw exercises and Voiceprint. Jim did not take advantage of the follow-up time as he did not feel that he needed it. He did not specifically follow the protocol of his compliance contract but rather developed his own routine of voice exercises out of what he had learned. He rated his voice as significantly improved. Jim noted, “The trauma of SD was as much or more psychological as physical. The clinic helped with that aspect of the problem in addition to improving mechanical voice production. The clinic was well structured and executed. I will always be grateful and would strongly encourage any SD sufferer to avail themselves to the Free to Speak Clinic.” VHI decreased 29 points.

RK: AB/SD approximately 2 years, occurring suddenly after a bout of laryngitis and several years of stress. She saw Dr. Blitzer in New York City, who did not recommend Botox for AB/SD. She was offered medication by her neurologist, but chose Chinese herbs and nutritional support instead.

“My voice improved 80% at the clinic. I am able to speak with much more ease and sometimes with a normal voice. I have more space and relaxation, energy and ease in my breathing.

I highly recommend attending this clinic. I received a wide variety of tools, as well as information that created a holistic approach. I felt that throughout the clinic I was given everything I needed to reclaim my voice. I also felt that there was no pressure and no boredom. Everything was engaging, clearly presented and clearly directed. I enjoyed participating; felt supported and received excellent professional coaching.

February 2011 - Attending the clinic last April was a significant step in the healing of my voice. It was comforting to meet others who were afflicted by the same experience and how they were seeking positive change from it. In particular, it was very inspiring to see how Connie had gained back her freedom to speak. It also was a time to set intentions to heal the various aspects in my life that needed addressing that were contributing to the worsening of my SD.

Towards the end of the seminar and a short period afterwards, I was able to speak with much more freedom than I had in a long time, which was great. I continued with the exercises I learned and adhered to my program 100% for a month. However, I lost some of that freedom and was plagued by strong spasms, which I found frustrating.

I then started a therapy directed at removing toxic agents from the body. It (Field Control Therapy) was very powerful, and eliminated the presence of spasms in my throat almost completely. I made so much progress; I no longer pursued the exercises with the same vigor as before. I still hum a lot, but that is basically it.

Attending the clinic was a very good investment; as it put me in touch with others who had the same difficulty, helped me set clear intentions, and identify the need to remove major stressors in my life. Today, compared to before the seminar, my voice is 90% normal, 100% of the time. VHI decreased from 71 (Severe) to 7 (normal); a total of 64 points.


 

October / November 2010 Followups

BJ – AD/SD, MTD 2 years:  Prilosec for LPR, s/p thyroidectomy, 6 day treatment with Morton Cooper 2010

I have always been one to search for the natural approach or alternative to healing and the diagnosis of Spasmodic Dysphonia with no known cure is proving to be no exception. I have just completed Connie Pike’s 5 day “Voice Rehabilitation Workshop”.

I found the group process to be extremely beneficial in ways that only an SD sufferer can appreciate. All six of the participants were in the same boat wanting to get our voices back. The group offered positive support for each other’s efforts and sincerely encouraged voice transition which made the experience invaluable to me.

Connie’s “holistic” approach offers a tool box full of exercises for freeing the voice, computer software to hear your improvement, instructions to change ineffective breathing patterns, keys to recognize and change negative thought patterns, and then replace them with affirmations that promote calmness and healing. Books, balls, kazoos, massage and on and on. I feel that I arrived home equipped with all I need to be “Free to Speak” including follow up sessions and further communication to ensure continued support.

Anyone suffering from SD or any other form of voice problems will, without a doubt, find the “Free to Speak” workshop beneficial, supportive, fun, enlightening and a wealth of discovery and information that can only be gained through this unique experience.

September 2011: I feel my voice has improved slightly and that the clinic was a good investment. The breathing techniques, practice of voice pitch, and the lasting friends and support were the biggest helps. I was approximately 20% compliant to my contract and did not follow-up with Connie. VHI decreased 20 points.

Barbara– AD/SD with symptoms since 1992 at age 65, diagnosed after several years visiting various ENT doctors and had regular botox treatments every 3-4 months for 18 years. Botox was successful in managing the condition until an unusual complication in July 2009 resulted in severe breathing problems requiring hospitalization in the ICU and treatment with steroids and oxygen. Previous voice therapy had been unsuccessful.

My voice improved significantly at the clinic as I learned to use a higher pitch and to “hardly work” instead of working too hard (to produce voice). I gained sufficient knowledge to continue to improve on my own. Spending 5 days with people who have SD like myself was invaluable. It was a challenge and an experience to have instructors who understood SD and were eager to help me “re-train” my bad habits and encourage me in everything. I did not come to the clinic for a “cure”. I came for help to deal with this disease. Hopefully, with all I have been taught, exposed to and practiced, that I can now help myself with diligent attention, especially to “hardly work”, breathing and using quiet conversation. I have hope now that I don’t need to drive myself. I can become a better listener, and speak again and be understood.

July 2011: My voice is moderately improved and I feel the clinic was a good investment. I learned to be patient and how to breath properly and exercise my voice. My doctor noticed that my voice was very much improved, that I was no longer missing words like a cell phone cutting out. The speech therapy with Connie and the week at the clinic was invaluable. VHI decreased 26 points, moving from the Severe range to the Moderate range of handicap.

Karen– Vocal tremor one year preceded by hoarseness and difficulty speaking since 2006 and head tremor 2005. Pharmaceutical management, 3 Botox treatments

My voice improved 70% at the clinic, with better quality and less tremor. The clinic exceeded my expectations. Meeting and talking with others with similar voice conditions is an empowering experience. The six in our group became a team that provided support, communication partners, humor and friendship.

A day of assessment provided the information needed for the holistic approach to begin working on each voice condition. I felt the commitment of Connie and Dennis to help me overcome the barriers to my voice production. This relaxing, but organized experience gave me the tools to improve my voice and provided recognizable improvement during the clinic.

The clinic has been extremely helpful to me and has given me the faith that I can use the tools provided and the follow-up sessions to greatly improve my voice.

July 2011: I loved the clinic and it met my expectations. I am not using botox now, but continue pharmaceutical management for the tremors. Compliance was around 20% and voice is slightly better. I am more out-going and social and I haven’t given up.

Lisa – AD/SD October 2009 following a severe sinus infection, diagnosed at Vanderbilt September 2010. Botox was recommended but declined.

This clinic is an option for SD patients. It is important for all newly diagnosed SD patients to try this option before jumping on the Botox bandwagon. The medical community looks at no other options or strategies for treatment and we have seen and heard the differences in our voices during the clinic. All the “Pike” techniques seem to give you your voice back. Of course, I will continue to practice all the strategies and techniques as I feel improvement will continue. I know my old voice will not come back but my new voice works and will get stronger!

We covered many areas and they all seem to work together to improve the voice quality. When I see how far some of Connie’s previous patients have progressed after a few years of practicing, I am even more encouraged.

Thank goodness a friend (with SD who lives in Birmingham) gave me Connie’s book and the hope it offers. Thanks to Connie, Dennis and Christine for completing the circle of information.

July 2011: The clinic was totally a great investment – I know my experience with Connie directly related to my 99% improvement of my voice. I was 90% compliant to my contract. When I viewed my DVD, it was a bit scary to hear the old SD voice but was very insightful. My voice is normal now, and some days I never think about it. I think that the clinic, along with gabapentin have contributed to my success. VHI decreased 45 points, moving from the moderate range of handicap to No handicap. I don’t yet have my singing voice back to the level it was before SD but I am considering returning to theater roles.

Bob – AD/SD 5 years: Speech therapy, 4 botox injections (unsuccessful)

I found the session to be most helpful. Not only did my voice significantly improve over this five days, I left with the tools and techniques that I know will help me to continue to improve. I am most thankful that Connie has found a way for SD patients to rehabilitate their voices. She has put together a team that understands SD and the physical, psychological, spiritual and emotional aspects that impact SD. Connie, Dennis, Robbie and Christine are outstanding teachers, counselors, and coaches who put their heart and soul into helping their clients. I was particularly happy and blessed that their emphasis on the spiritual aspects based on a Christian foundation. Another aspect that is so helpful is the interaction and support that comes from being around other SD clients and watch them ALL improve while they are at the seminar. I would HIGHLY recommend Connie’s clinic for all SD patients.

July 2011: My level of progress (slightly better voice) is solely my own fault and circumstances. I learned that if I do the things I learned at the clinic, my voice will improve. I was 25% compliant, but have had major stressors in my life. I hope to devote more time to my recovery in the future. VHI decreased 23 points.

Kristy – AD/SD, 2 years, reflux medication, two speech therapy sessions, 4 botox injections which were successful but with side effects

Besides the mechanical/physical skills I learned to correct my voice and restore it to a natural, free flowing voice, one of the biggest benefits of the clinic was the group dynamics and support. I had really gotten to a place or a point where I was completely focused on all the things I couldn’t do. I couldn’t make phone calls, couldn’t work, and couldn’t talk in many situations. I even got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t have a personality because of the limitations of this condition. It was refreshing and inspiring to meet others who shared the same condition, but were still continuing on with all of the normal things people do. Working, interacting with friends and family, expressing their personalities being playful and spontaneous. It made me realize how much I was limiting myself and how much SD was limiting me. I really feel that the holistic approach is very crucial to recovery, as it addresses many mental, emotional and psychological barriers we may have to recovering the true voice. I am walking away knowing exactly what I have to do to be free to speak.

July 2011: I definitely do think I gained more control of my voice and my life, with less struggle. There is no way I would have made it through without botox shots the way my voice was before the clinic. Even if I do go back to botox, I think I will have a healthier perspective of the ups and downs of my voice. I enjoyed my follow-up visit and I felt it was so easy to talk to Connie and my voice felt almost normal. I watched the DVD frequently and rate my voice as moderately improved. The breakthrough at the clinic was dramatic but the progress curve has been slower than I had imagined. VHI decreased 31 points.

*In December 2011, Kristy decided to return for a botox treatment.

Clara –AD/SD 2 years; speech therapy

Five days of an intensive variety of coaching, breathing, assessments, techniques, self awareness and tools is what encompassed my experience in Connie Pike’s November 2010 clinic. I now have a better understanding of SD that along with a body, mind and soul holistic approach will improve my quality of life and voice. I am taking home invaluable and necessary tools to aid me in re-grooving my brain with new patterns.

My voice has improved dramatically. I have gained confidence, and have learned that along with all the speech tools I have received, there is a psychological aspect that goes hand in hand. My attitude, the power that words have, the positive affirmations that reinforce grounding myself, recognizing that “I” is the first letter of the alphabet and that I need time to learn to take time to practice, breathe and exercise.

Our daily work schedule was intensive but allowed for time with individual sessions with our coaches, time for practice and group session. The final night was an amazing relaxing dinner with the team and the night ended with karaoke – singing and using our voice to the fullest. Of course, the union, and support of the group was awesome. I have made lifetime friends.

I thank Dennis for his knowledge, love and amusing anecdotes, Christine for her God gifted hands, TLC and massage and most of all, I thank Connie for being a friend, for her courage in researching, combating SD and finding a way of rehabilitation and hope for many. I am looking forward to the next book so I may continue on my path to recovery. We Can Do It!

June 2011: Clara reported that she was unable to maintain the gains she made at the clinic and that she had decided to use botox treatment. She was pleased with the results of the injection and planned to continue. VHI had decreased 27 points.


 

2011 Followups

February 2011 Followups

Dan – AB/SD with first symptoms November 09/diagnosed July 2010:  Speech therapy at Emory Voice Center, 4 botox injections

Don’t come to the clinic with the intention that someone with SD will be “cured” because that is not what Connie teaches. She teaches that you have a choice not to use traditional methods (the gold standard of botox), surgery or invasive methods. Connie teaches that you don’t have to have a perfect voice, as everyone has flaws. For me, that was extremely important mentally! My goal now is to get a functional voice that I can live with.

The benefits of the group setting were very important. Having SD is hard but going through it alone can be very troublesome. Everyone had similar feelings and stories of facing the world when speaking with SD. You have anxiety and tensions that people who can speak freely don’t understand. Ordering a cup of coffee can be difficult. Being able to share stories is important.

I know I have a lot of work ahead to get back a functioning voice, and have learned that it’s ok to have bad days; the world won’t end because of it. The tools and methods I have learned at Connie’s clinic are invaluable and I am glad that I chose the option to attend. I believe that with practice I will attain a functional speaking voice.

March 2012: Dan found that after about a month, he experienced regression, and despite compliance to the program felt that he needed to resume botox injections. He stated that he continued to use a lot of what he learned at the clinic and that the benefit from the injections are greater now that he has techniques to utilize.

My therapy continues to be a combination of botox and vocal awareness, the techniques I learned at your clinic. For me, one without the other isn't as good as both. I still have challenging days but it doesn't bother me as it did when I was first diagnosed. It's taken a while to get here, and it is not perfect, but I'll take it.

JH– Mixed SD 5 years: one month DVR with Morton Cooper a year ago

My voice improved 90% at the clinic. A major shift was that I learned not to try so hard to get the words out. I learned not to be afraid of letting my voice go low in pitch. The clinic helped me balance the previous teaching I had received.

The group sessions helped my confidence in being around other people. I loved the mental focusing with Dennis. I loved hearing Connie describe her ups and downs. It inspired me, as well as her great love in helping people.

Ten days later this from JH – “I just wanted to thank you for the help with my voice. Sunday I sang and preached two services in the morning and did better than I have since I started having voice problems. Then when I did TV recording on Tuesday I did great, and last night during a Wednesday night service it was wonderful. Songs were flowing out of my heart and preaching off the chart! I got a little tired at the end but overall, it was terrific improvement.

It seems the longer I practice the stuff you guys gave me, the less problems I have speaking and singing. In fact, it is going so well that there are times I am experiencing virtually no effort at all. What I love is that this is happening more and more each day I continue to practice. Thanks again.

April 2012: JH rated his voice as 99% better, and normal. He followed up with some singing lessons, which he felt was the last step to regaining full use of his voice and what he stated was “complete healing”.

Anne –Laryngeal dystonia 10 years, Speech therapy, Alexander technique, psychotherapy, 7.5 years of regular botox injections.

I experienced patches of clarity and ease in speaking. My breathing became more open and relaxed. The clinic explored the voice from many angles ranging from the emotional to the practical. It offered individual and group support at tackling the tough challenges of overcoming SD.

I would highly recommend it to any SD sufferer. There are so many helpful and supportive experiences to draw on when I return home.

Connie and Dennis are a great team: they reinforce the message I need, which is to keep tackling SD and never give in to temporary setbacks.

Thank you for warm support and hospitality!

March 2012: Anne reported inconsistency in her voice, but “I am now struggling without botox instead of with it. This means that during the periods of time in between teaching terms, I have the opportunity to practice rather than the shut-down times associated with pre- and post-botox problems and unpredictable outcomes of the injections.” She was maintaining moderate improvement overall, and felt she was continued to progress. VHI had decreased 28 points.


 

June 2011 Followups


Diana: Slow deterioration of voice beginning in 2009/diagnosed in 2010 with Abductor SD, also sulcus vocalis and vocal fold atrophy (unilateral). Voice and psychological therapy, medication for reflux, bioenergetics, Reike treatment

I did not improve much in volume or pitch, but I am pushing less and am more relaxed when I am talking. I gained a lot of knowledge and skills to continue to practice on my own.
The clinic is something every SD patient should do, for sure. We have to explore different options and this clinic is one of the best ways to do that because it is holistic and safe, and gives you hope while you enjoy your recovery. It must not be hard or painful.

As a human being, your diseases and health problems could be not physical; but mental, emotional, or a combination of all of them. To treat a condition in a holistic manner could really help you. In my case, I now have a lot of tools to be used in my recovery and a new thought that is not going to be hard, but something I can enjoy. It can be an adventure to discover the miracle of my voice that is now healing inside of me.

I learned that I am not alone in my journey. I have Connie and Dennis and all of my clinic mates’ support. I can also include people who love me to be part of my recovery.

Thanks, Connie, for sharing with us your experience and for helping us with such a sweetness and kindness. I thank God for the opportunity to be at the clinic!

May 2012:  Since the clinic, and as long as my voice was improving, I was not afraid of talking. As a consequence, I gained more confidence to talk, which gave me more voice. The cycle of improving my voice was similar to the cycle of losing it, but in a positive way. My recovery did not happen immediately after the clinic, but I knew then it was a good investment. My recovery now is very notable for me and everyone else. The tools I learned, and the hope and courage you gave me were invaluable for my healing.

I learned not to push my abdomen while speaking, replacing tension with relaxation, and all the voice and singing exercises. The Alexander technique and exercises with the ball were helpful, as was learning relaxation in breathing. I became more aware of my body, mind, breath, and voice. The change of the meaning of SD from fear and hopelessness to the confidence in healing gave me courage to keep the commitment to myself and my voice 100%.

When viewing the video of the clinic, I felt sad because I had no voice at the clinic. It reminded me of the worst moments of my voice. I have not had that condition over the past year. My voice is significantly improved; at times normal.

VHI decreased 61 points, from Severe handicap to No handicap.

Deb: Voice difficulties beginning in 1981 at age 19; diagnosed with Adductor SD in 1995; treated with psychological therapy, then Botox injections for the past 15 years. Last injection was January 5, 2011, so she felt she came to the clinic with her “baseline” SD voice.

My voice improved somewhat at the clinic, but I feel positive that it WILL continue to improve significantly in the future. I learned how I should be breathing and a lot of knowledge of what I should be doing with the voice.

Connie’s voice clinic is the best thing I have ever done to move towards improving my voice since being diagnosed. With SD 15 years ago until now, I had no tools or insight into how to help myself. The holistic approach to rehabilitation is so key to helping ourselves. I learned many ways to help myself using the different components that make up our health and bodies. Illness and problems do not happen as isolated entities. The clinic gave me insight into so many different aspects of well being, including posture, breathing, relaxation, vocalization, exercise, nutrition, and taking care of my mind and body. I know I can go out and be successful in freeing my voice with all I learned and experienced. Meeting other SD sufferers and supporting one another was very meaningful. And of course, Connie herself, who has been successful in overcoming SD, and working with her is very inspirational and shows us that we can do it too.

June 2012: I feel more control over my voice, but not yet completely. The breath work, relaxation techniques, acceptance of my condition and meeting/working with others with SD were all helpful. I’ve been 75% compliant to my contract and feel my voice is moderately improved.
VHI decreased 37 points, from Severely handicapping to Moderate.

Jenny: Voice difficulties beginning in 2008 (glottal fry) that progressed to Adductor SD by 2009. Worked with a speech therapist, and tried botox twice with no improvement and increased difficulty singing. As a professional singer, she did not feel that this treatment was acceptable.

I experienced more control over SD and found a belief that I can go light anytime and it works, with less blocking. I experienced more good voice in general.

The clinic was a lifesaver. The main benefit is having a shining example of success in Connie. She is very open about all aspects of the rehabilitation process, positive and negative. The practical exercises are very, very effective and the one on one sessions ensure you get your specific needs addressed. The camaraderie of the group makes for a feeling of security and safety and empathy – all of which are very valuable to me.

There is a very scientific basis to the voice rehabilitation process, which is mixed in with the more personal/physical and spiritual aspects in good proportion. It is a holistic therapy program. I couldn’t imagine getting over SD without having experienced this clinic.

June 2012:  I definitely feel more control over my voice because of the techniques I learned. I have a few problems with the phone and in noisy cafes and restaurants. I feel it was worthwhile to attend the clinic, and I feel sure that it is possible to regain a functioning voice. It is especially helpful to watch Youtube videos of other people successes, that is a great motivator.

I learned to relax and not force the voice; to hum, lift and lighten the voice, to breathe properly, and to avoid panic when speaking is difficult. My voice is at least moderately improved, sometimes significantly. The times it sounds really good are increasing. Voice Handicap Index decreased 73 points, from Severely handicapping to No handicap.

MY: Diagnosed with Adductor SD in May 2009, and immediately started regular botox injections, with mixed results; but positive effect lasting between one and five months. Last injection was in March, so he was still experiencing benefit at the time of the clinic. Goal was to become less reliant on botox and to extend the effectiveness of the injections if he chose to continue.

In addition to acquiring various techniques and exercises to utilize after the clinic, I gained a high level of hope in dealing with the condition. That feeling of hope combined with my level of determination makes the future something to look forward to rather than fear.

AUGUST 2012 Resumed regular botox injections but stated "I believe I am able to prolong and improve the effects of the shots while doing the voice and breath exercises I learned from your clinic concurrently. I am still eager to hear any new research or news pertaining to SD and want to thank you again for the help I gained from your work."

October/November 2011 Follow-ups:


Rachel: Severe muscle tension dysphonia; AB/SD 3 years post-onset , but with brief periods of remission. Had participated in voice therapy, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and Feldenkrais

The clinic was a wonderful opportunity to meet other people with voice issues and to learn from and share with them. The fact that Connie blends personal experience with speech/language knowledge ensures the clinic input is grounded, real, informed and from the heart. There were times at the clinic I felt significant improvement, but it was not consistent. There were times when the voice was almost normal, 85% for bursts, and not improved at all other times. For me, the most valuable thing was knowing that my voice will improve if I stay committed to practicing easy sounds, relaxing, and trusting the process I’m in. It also gave me focus for what I need to do. Prior to the clinic, I was exercising randomly, then getting discouraged and frustrated because it didn’t seem to make a difference. Thank you!


September 2012:  My voice is 65% improved, and unlike a year ago, I am certain now I’ll get a full voice back, that it will be fuller than ever because I’ll be using it correctly and I’ll be coming more from a place of authenticity and power. I know this in my bones.

My voice didn’t respond in an enduring way to the exercises I learned at the clinic. It certainly improved while I was there. I know that was due to the intensity of going to Florida, the energy you brought to each person, the sustained interest and input I received while there. But I did not sustain that improvement. It was through working with a classical singing teacher from Serbia – a wise woman who is a master of her art. In the coaxing back of my singing voice, my speaking voice is coming back as well, effortlessly. I am also working with a wise acupuncturist and herbalist, who is helping me build lung qu eroded by the intense grief I encountered over the past 5 years. I know too that the work with the spiritual master I sit with is helping me. I am writing poetry in a more focused way. You could say I have found my creative voice. I don’t want to do any questionnaires or voice handicap index because it takes me back to the paradigm of a problem. I know there is no problem, regarding the state of my voice.

Greg: AB/SD since June 2008, slow onset, botox injection unsuccessful

There is nothing this clinic will do except help anyone with SD. This clinic can give you a huge step toward recovery. Connie gives you a road map, and you just have to follow it to get to where you want to go. While the change in my voice during the clinic was not significant overall, there were moments when I could see that my voice is there and can change significantly over time. My breathing improved. It’s like learning a new language, so different from what I was doing before and feels so much better.

September 2012: While Greg did not provide the requested follow-up, he did a series of Youtube videos on his channel, GregFellowsSD, which are interesting and include his experience and personal “endorsement” of the clinic. Please visit and subscribe to his channel!

Shelby: AD/SD since 1988, participated in studies at Baylor and at NIH, the second utilizing botox injections. Speech therapy was not helpful. Discontinued botox in late 1990 and lived with the condition since that time. It fluctuated from pretty good to very bad.

What drew me to the clinic were the videos and testimonials of previous clients as well as Connie’s own story of SD recovery with the program. Once I arrived, I was immediately taken by the atmosphere and staff. The structure of the clinic was conducive to getting to know the other clients through group voice and breathing practice. Sharing the struggles of our common problem and socializing during “down times”. The bonding experience was very strong. Personally, I received great benefit from Dennis’s knowledge of muscle manipulation and overall knowledge of all things internal. His style of presentation is relaxed, humorous, and informative. He validated my belief that this condition is more than a vocal cord problem – it is a mind/body problem and he provided numerous ways to bring the two into alignment. I was very impressed with the variety of tools Connie provided for continued practice and going forward. My family and friends have been amazed at the change in my voice during the clinic. Although I continue to have “moments”, I was instructed to expect them. Overall, the clinic was one of the most beneficial experiences I have ever had. Not only was I given hope that my voice could get better, I got results and my voice HAS gotten better. After 24 years of struggle with SD, Connie Pike’s “Free to Speak” clinic has truly enabled me to speak freely. Thank you Connie, Dennis and Chris!

September  2012: During and immediately after the clinic, my voice was remarkably improved. I received many positive affirmations but they eventually stopped and my voice has regressed. I have not forgotten the knowledge that I CAN speak better and that it IS possible. I know that the reason for my slip back is due to my lack of attention to what I learned at the clinic. I did watch the DVD and it was emotional for me. It motivated me for awhile. At best, I’ve been 30% compliant, and my voice is somewhat improved. VHI decreased 20 points, moving from the Severe to the Moderate range.

Valerie: AD/SD since June 2008; 7 days with Morton Cooper in the fall 2008. She recovered her voice until February 2011, when it began to slowly deteriorate.

The clinic was truly great. It was a safe environment with love and support. While I already intellectually understood and previously experienced proper vocal mechanics, this clinic helped develop my awareness of the mind/body connection. It is important for both self-health and vocal health to just relax and release. I became more aware of my breathing and learned not to push, but to relax and allow. I think that perhaps a few more days would have been good for me personally. However, a 5-day clinic is truly adequate. I love you guys, and you too, Bob! *(Connie’s husband)

September 2012: My voice has improved tremendously. It is not 100% but more and more people tell me I’m sounding like my old self again and it’s great to hear my voice. If I do have a difficult time, people assume I’m “under the weather” which is an excuse I roll with. I am my own worst critic, so it’s encouraging when people don’t notice my voice or when there is little to no tension, and it just sounds raspy. You can never stop or settle for mediocrity with this condition. You have to persevere and know you can sound great again.

The clinic was a great; meeting and bonding with everyone. It was a fun and wonderful experience overall. I appreciated the clinic approach to tackling SD. I liked the holistic aspect incorporated into the clinic. I’m not sure it helped me personally as much as I would have liked. I think that is because my previous education/training with Dr. Cooper conflicted with some of what the clinic taught. I went back to working with him and focused more on issues that were bothering me the most. I kept in touch every few days and now once a month. I shifted my focus from what I learned at the clinic to other aspects that were inhibiting my progress. I did not view the DVD because I wanted to move forward and not look at how bad my voice was then. The focus on relaxation, body posture and alignment I learned at the clinic were helpful.

My voice is moderately to significantly improved; sometimes normal. I think the clinic would be even better if there was more focus on voice image, how we sound to ourselves in our own heads and how we think others perceive how we sound (with the good functioning voice). The voice image really feeds into the condition and inhibits an SD patient’s progress.  VHI decreased 38 points.

AA: AB/SD with tremor 10 years following a bout of laryngitis; one Botox injection without improvement, 4 weeks with Morton Cooper in December 2001 with dramatic results, but remained “handicapped” and concerned about his voice in conversations and on the phone.

The clinic was very well organized and thought-out. It had a heavy focus on central nervous system management and breathing, which are critical components to improve upon when you have SD. There was also a focus on proper voice pitch and resonance. I feel like I got tremendous benefit from the clinic and expect to get even more benefits as I internalize and practice the many techniques that I learned. The incredible sense of community formed with the instructors and other participants added to the efficacy, making the experience and incredibly fun and memorable one.

September 2012:  The clinic was a good investment and I have more control over my voice. The most lasting helps were education around the importance or relaxation, body language matters as much or more than voice quality, learning about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, breathing techniques to prevent quick collapse of the stomach when speaking, and Roger Love book and CD (singing practice). My voice is moderately improved. VHI decreased 27 points, moving from the severe to moderate level of handicap.

Michael: Diagnosed with functional dystonia September 2010, MTD with possible SD in October 2010 (both in the UK) and with SD/MTD at Massachusetts General and Massachusetts Eye and Ear in April 2010. Botox was recommended but refused. (Symptoms began in December 2009, possibly earlier).

I found the clinic to be a holistic approach and beyond for voice recovery. The multi-dimensional approach of vocal mechanics, breathing, body awareness, nutrition, relaxation techniques, psychosocial, and spiritual aspects attend to the complexity of SD. Mix these modalities with the dynamics of working with others experiencing SD, and you have an accelerant to progress. Working in a group of people with SD is invaluable. It is rare to have the opportunity to meet others with SD and the opportunity to interact with people and the shared experiences. Participants feel safe to socialize. The network created by the group allows participants to coach one another and provide feedback as they practice the exercises and techniques learned. This is not a cookie-cutter approach to treatment, but individualized programs designed for the needs of each participant. The therapists are knowledgeable and skillful at design and instruction. They are compassionate and thoughtful in providing encouragement, guidance and support. The clinic takes place in Connie’s home. This environment and the generosity and graciousness of Connie and Bob create a place to relax and immerse in recovery. It is a home where everyone feels a part of the family. All of these factors contribute to the bottom line; recovery of our voices so that we can be “free to speak”.

September 2012:  I have definitely improved control over my voice since the clinic. They took voice exercises I had been doing prior to the clinic and turned my hums and sounds into words and sentences. Within 3 days, I was speaking with a voice no one would identify as challenged in the clinic environment. I have spent time since working to transfer my clinic voice to all the venues in which I utilize my voice in daily life, making progress in all forums. I speak confidently and well in quiet conversations and I’m getting much better speaking in groups without background noise. I feel completely at ease entering into any situation in which I need to speak. I’m not always happy with the voice I produce and sometimes need to do a bit of monitoring. I no longer avoid speaking and at times I find myself listening to my voice as a source of pleasure.

This clinic was the best investment I ever made! I am continuing voice therapy in the form of laryngeal massage/manipulation in Boston. Glenn Bunting of MEEI is genuinely blown away by my voice. He cannot believe I have a voice that by all accounts is normal to the lay listener with just voice therapy and no botox!  A year+ of dedicated work may seem daunting at the start, but the alternative of doing nothing only makes inevitable more bad voice production and bad habits that can become hard-wired.

Meeting other people with SD at the clinic and the environment there were the two greatest factors in my voice improvement. The two really worked in tandem. This allowed the voice therapy measures to take hold. It also created an upward cycle of success and confidence that just fed into itself. It was a turbo-charge for my recovery. I believe that 100% of the tools and strategies I learned at the clinic would not have had 1% of the value had the instruction been implemented in a sanitized and isolated environment. Exercises alone are not the solution for most people with SD. The clinic touches all of the components of voice – mind, body, and spirit, in a way not available in most traditional voice therapy venues. My voice has significantly improved. VHI decreased 40 points.

Jim: Slow deterioration of voice beginning over 10 years ago/diagnosed in 2009 with dystonia, chronic constriction of the vocal folds, Spasmodic Dysphonia and/or Muscle Tension Dysphonia. Speech therapy, chiropractic, massage and other alternative therapies as well as botox , none of which helped the voice.

I found the right groove for my voice at the clinic and I learned to breathe more effectively and efficiently, with deeper breathing and better posture.

I highly recommend this clinic to anyone with SD. Connie, Dennis, Christine and Robbie are highly skilled practitioners who have the knowledge necessary for success in gaining voice recovery. I felt very confident during the clinic that my success with the program was their priority. I noticed improvement right away and know that if I follow the plan that was outlined for me, I will be on my way to complete recovery.

My voice got off track years ago, and gradually got worse. This clinic gave me the tools to re-train my system to produce normal voice. Another aspect of the clinic that is great is meeting other people with voice dysfunction who are committed to getting better. The peer support is an important part of recovery and a plan is in place to continue contact with each other.

I went into the clinic not expecting a miracle or quick fix, and this is important, because I gave it a chance and now have the tools that will help me achieve my goal of complete recovery. I can honestly say that it is possible to recover from this dysfunction as I have seen others and myself. If you want to learn how to gain control of your voice, this clinic is the place to go.

September 2012:  My voice is much better than before the clinic. I was given hope and real answers to my problem, and that I need to figure that out. Nobody has answers for me; the answer lies within. The clinic develops the building blocks for that process to begin. I am still on a journey of discovering how to use my voice more effectively. I feel as though I have a much better understanding of what is happening with my voice and how to continue to improve. The clinic most definitely was a good investment. I have been 90% compliant to the program and can produce a normal voice at times. I can tell that anxiety causes my voice to tighten and conversation is more difficult than reading. I have found working with a vocal coach has been very helpful as well. VHI decreased 31 points.

Dorothy: Quivering voice in the late 1990’s, diagnosed with Adductor Spasmodic Dysphonia and vocal tremor in 2008, botox injections regularly for several years with inconsistent results.

My voice significantly improved at the clinic; about 75%. I became much more aware of my breathing. Words seem inadequate to express my gratitude for what Connie has done for people with SD. She has discovered an effective mix of actions anyone can take to improve their voice and life. If anyone has SD or vocal tremor, they should sign up for this clinic. You don’t have to suffer and this is a better option than botox.

September 2012:  Since the clinic, I have learned to vocalize better. My voice is moderately to significantly improved. I felt the clinic was excellent. VHI decreased 39 points, moving from the Severe range to the minimal range of handicap.

Jean: Diagnosed with Adductor SD last year; having had it for 8 months 30 years ago. Initially she was not told she had SD, and was treated with voice therapy for 8 months and completely recovered until 2010. She was then told that botox was the recommended treatment after 3 months of unsuccessful voice therapy. The three injections she received “masked the problem” but she did not like the breathy period and returned strain as it wore off.

The clinic helped me become more aware of where I should focus my voice and that exercises and breathing correctly are a large part of the healing. I felt the instructors were caring, knowledgeable and prepared.

I am thankful for the clinic, when the medical world really doesn’t understand SD. Here one can find hope, friendship, techniques, programs and exercises to help them regain their voices. The days are worth the time, effort and expense. The knowledge you gain to manage SD is immeasurable and the encouragement tremendous.

I feel that not only did I gain information, but that after I leave the clinic, I will not be forgotten. I know that if I have questions or need help, it is just a phone call or email away.
Thank you Connie and Dennis!

August 2012:  My voice has continued to regress, and it is worse than ever. There are times when I cannot talk at all. There seems to be too much tension in my vocal cords to vibrate correctly. I am still doing the exercises but it is one step forward and three back. I have resumed local speech therapy but can only voice on inhalation. I have seen 4 ENT doctors, who say there is nothing wrong with my vocal folds.

The clinic did give me the insight that progress can be made, and I hold onto that. It helped to see that Connie and others had made it through this awful evil. I have the DVD to prove how well I was speaking and I wish I could speak like that now.

Connie, Dennis and the team are pulling for Jean as we know she is in a tough spot; but improvement is still possible and can take many years and various paths to healing.

Robert: Adductor SD diagnosed in 2004 after a bad throat infection, two botulinum toxin injections, then consulted with Connie in London on 3 occasions, Alexander technique, Bowen, and other alternative therapies.

My voice and breathing improved significantly at the clinic. Although I had already met with Connie in London and knew some of the techniques, having the whole “package” refreshed my memory and gave me a clear line of approach to my problem.

For anyone suffering from SD, I would completely recommend that they attend this clinic, as they will receive all the tools necessary to beat this problem. Additionally, meeting others with the same illness is very helpful.

This is a great team of experts who care!

September 2012: Robert reported more control over his voice, especially in his understanding of pitch. He reported significant improvement in his voice, with conversation more difficult than other voice tasks. VHI decreased 31 points, moving from the severe range of handicap to the moderate range.

Carrie: Sudden onset of SD in 2001, at age 24. She initially improved with voice therapy, but symptoms returned. She then had Botox injections at the Cleveland Clinic every 10-13 weeks for 5 years, but it became less effective over time. Seeking alternative treatment, she saw Mike White for breathing instruction and signed up for the clinic with the hope that she could stop Botox treatment.

My voice significantly improved at the clinic. There aren’t just one or two specific exercises that worked for me, but a combination of many things along with support from others who know and understand what I am going through. Learning how to breathe properly was very important to me because I was taking a big breath and holding on to it as I was speaking. I also learned how to relax, which makes it much easier to speak. My voice is not perfect, but it is doing well enough that I don’t feel the need for botox anymore. I think that most people don’t even know I have a voice problem now. If anyone would like to contact me for more information, my email is Belle5677@aol.com. Just put Spasmodic Dysphonia or Connie Pike in the subject line.

August 2012:  The first six months after the clinic my voice improved significantly (with some ups and downs), but then I felt that I didn’t need the exercises anymore because I was doing so well, and I stopped. The DVD reminds me that I do have a voice even though now it is worse than it was at the clinic. A commitment to the exercises is what got me there and with a lot of renewed commitment; I should be able to do it again. When I watch the DVD, it reminds me of things I learned in sessions with Connie I had forgotten about.

I think the clinic was great, and I have no regrets about going. I’m not sure how it could be improved. I got overly confident and was happy with my voice so I stopped doing the exercises. I now realize the commitment needs to continue even AFTER it gets better. I recently started doing the exercises again and am confident I can get my good voice back. I only have myself to blame, and when I do get it back, I know I need to continue doing the exercises so that hopefully, in 6 -10 months, I can report better results.

April 2013: As an update on my voice, I started doing voice exercises daily on January 15 of this year. This past Sunday (April 21), the exercises became very easy for me and I could read out loud again. My voice is almost as good now as it was at the clinic. I will definitely be keeping up the exercises this time (I learned my lesson) and am confident I could have full voice recovery over the next few months.


 

Long Term Success 2012 Clinics

February 2012 Followups

Michael: AD/SD with MTD with symptoms first noted in late 2009 and diagnosis in January 2010; one week with Morton Cooper, voice therapy, botox injections with varying levels of success, last injection ineffective. This is (as promoted) a very holistic clinic. It definitely covers a lot of areas pertaining to SD; breathing, mind/body, voice exercises, posture and more. I quickly learned I have to get my pitch lower and more relaxed. Listening to the before and after of my voice was quite inspiring. It really helps to listen to my voice and compare. Just learning to massage and lower my larynx is a great tool. I learned how to anchor my voice (and self) when it might go askew. This is such a positive workshop/clinic. Connie and Dennis have done great jobs. This is most definitely, for me, a more viable and workable solution than botox. I will not go back to botox. I will keep low and open. This is the ticket!

January 2013: 10 months following the clinic, Michael stated that the clinic was absolutely a good investment and he would highly recommend it. “The most lasting helps for me involved coming home and putting (what I learned) into a routine. It changed somewhat with my own tweaks, and along the way I came to an emotional and even spiritual acceptance of my condition. I had been through the stages of grief and was resisting SD and the loss of my singing and speaking voice. I am no longer afraid of this condition. I have accepted that I have/had SD and came to a place where I quit resisting it; the quality of my voice in terms of my ego and how others might think of me in relation to my voice. I stopped fearing it. From that point on, (my voice) really started to improve and all the vocal and breathing work sunk in I could really “let” it work. I developed a successful humming technique that was a huge key to getting better quickly. Participating in Connie’s clinic facilitated all of this and gave me the tools. She encourages you to come up with your own “stuff” – whatever works!

My voice has significantly improved, and I would add to that “sometimes completely normal”. People do not notice I have a voice condition. People who knew me at my worst struggle (and it was BAD) have said how amazed they are at how much better I sound and that I sound like I’m back to normal. Plus, I will never be on Botox again.

Whenever my voice gets a bit ragged, I simply go back to my tools and use them and it always gets better. It doesn’t take much. I am very grateful for Connie, Dennis, and all who helped at the workshop. I am very grateful for my path in this recovery and for whatever moments of insight I have had that helped me along. I am grateful for the spiritual gifts I have been given as a result of this experience.

I do not proclaim myself as a model of excellence but I would like to offer my story of “coming to acceptance and giving up the fight, relaxing into the freedom of acceptance and letting go of ego and self-consciousness.” I came home with the tools and used them and really have come to an improved voice. I feel I need to give back. Mick405@aol.com

Lastly, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you so much!”

VHI-30 decreased from 75 (Severe) to 22 (minimum to no handicap).

Diane: AB/SD following upper respiratory infections 3 ½ years ago, 2 botox injections with severe complications, voice therapy, previous private instruction with Connie and Dennis, followed by thyroidectomy. The surgeon noted the larnyngel nerve tetherd around a large nodule, but there was no vocal fold paralysis. I made great strides at the clinic, with use of lower pitch and stronger tonal resonance. I learned to speak without whisper. I would encourage anyone thinking of attending Connie’s clinic to absolutely do so. The group dynamic is very powerful to help promoting healing and recovery. Connie and Dennis are both skilled and empathetic, which helps you to feel encouraged and hopeful that what you have learned during the clinic, you can easily apply to your home environment. While improving after private instruction, I felt the clinic was necessary for a full recovery, so I decided to attend. I am very happy that I did because the group support is so beneficial. You can share stories, tips for success, and bond in a way that is healing to your mind/body. Thank you Connie and Dennis, Christine and Robbie. I am sure that I am now on a complete and lasting road to recovery from SD.

January 2013: I continue to have difficulty despite making every effort to achieve control over my voice condition. I’ve been 80% compliant and have take advantage of the follow-up and viewed my DVD several times. My voice is slightly to moderately improved and continues to improve. I am now seeing a singing coach and this seems to be helping as well.

VHI-30 decreased 23 points, from the Severe range to the moderate range of handicap.

Kay: AD/SD since early 2008, following a head tremor in 1998 and hemi-facial spasms in 2000. Botox injections twice yearly for 3 years with variable results, voice therapy. I learned to produce voice with less effort and breaks and to have less fear about what I can produce and better acceptance of how I sound. The most important reason for me to consider the clinic was the realization that Connie had personally overcome her SD and offered tools that could help others with SD. Her honesty regarding the fact that it could be an extended period of work (different for some) and there would be plateaus and highs and lows to the quality of the voice was reassuring and helped me from realistic goals and expectations. I regained hope that I, too, could do the work and re-learn to be free to speak again.

Listening to the recordings of my voice on the 1st day compared to the last day was an inspirational way to leave the safe space of the clinic and go back to my world. Being with others with SD was a valuable experience. They had the same fears and hurts and loss of confidence. It didn’t matter what our voices sounded like, there was no judgment, no need to explain anything.

Everyone involved in the clinic added in positive ways, everyday, to the recovery process. I came to the clinic as a skeptic, and I leave with a change of heart, mind, spirit and a new sense of wholeness. I leave with much gratitude and love.

January 2013: Kay reported some very serious health problems this year that were life threatening and took her focus completed off of voice rehabilitation. She had not resumed botox but was considering it to help her communicate more freely with family and friends. We wish her the best in her recovery on all levels.

Kimberly: AD/SD since 1997, regular botox injections until 2003 when she had SLAD/R surgery with Dr. Berke, resulting in a paralyzed vocal fold (medial position) and continued SD in the opposite fold. Tried many alternative treatments such as Reike and acupuncture, and psychotherapy. I recovered the ability to hum, and learned to speak louder with less strain. The clinic was a life changing experience on every level. It gives hope to SD sufferers. The level of attention from experts like Connie and Dennis de-mystified by breath, posture and voice difficulties. The discussion about faith, questioning and letting go on the final day opened my heart to unlimited potential that we all have inside. The Duane Miller tape was truly awe-inspiring, hearing a miracle occur. It could happen for me! Robbie’s consultation was helpful. I loved the yoga class tailored for SD and wanted more of it. Christine is a gifted member of the team.

SD has had a deep impact on my life and the clinic gives me tools to work with. The clinic goes far beyond voice therapy as it seeks to rehabilitate physical, spiritual and mental aspects of SD.

All participants left with stronger voices, upright posture, and brighter faces. It was a joy to witness the transformation.

January 2013: After the clinic, I speak more and feel less inhibited. I do the voice exercises every day and am able to produce a stronger voice at times. I enjoyed SKYPING with Connie as a follow-up. My voice is moderately improved.

VHI-30 decreased 39 points, remaining in the Severe range at this time.


June July 2012 Followups

Diann: AD/SD diagnosed February 2010, cervical dystonia diagnosed January 2012: Botox injections every 6-8 weeks, massage, chiropractic, voice therapy. 

After researching this “voice thing” labeled as Spasmodic Dysphonia for two years, serendipitously I contacted a former participant who attended Connie’s clinic. He highly recommended that I pursue the journey from Texas to Florida to work with Connie in a group milieu setting that included others working to find their voice and free their voice.

If anyone has seen the movie, Eat, Love, and Pray – I would like to spin off of that title and express the big picture of what I learned from my journey of investigating and capturing moments during the five day clinic of finding my real voice, or the voice I loved before it was relegated into hiding. I would say that Connie’s clinic reminded/supported me of this: Pray continuously, Breathe deeply and with passion, Clean and cleanse the body, and Practice with love/”letting go” to find the beautiful voice.

From this initial sojourn, I believe in due time~ and fun work, my voice will emerge from hiding (or protective mode) to find its perfect purpose to help others and glorify God. True healing must address the whole person (heart/mind/soul/body).  This is a truism and precept that Connie, Dennis, Christine and Robbie live (model) and support in the healing of every person who attends the clinic. They all have huge servant’s hearts.

It was uplifting to see how my cohorts progressed so quickly and seemed to be renewed and transformed by the five precious days we spent together. I have been truly blessed in many ways to be a part of the June 2012 clinic.

May 3, 2013: Diann reported that while she felt the clinic was a good investment, she had experienced minimal long-term gains. She was unable to carve out time to work on her voice with her demanding job. Eventually, she lost her job and recognized that success could have been more realistic if she had initially taken a leave from work to take care of herself. VHI decreased 13 points.

EP: AD/SD, symptoms began in 2004, initial diagnosis of reflux, then stress-related dysphonia, and SD diagnosis in 2005. Speech therapy, and 7 years of regular botox injections, requiring increased dosages and frequency. Acupuncture helped temporarily in 2008.

I would definitely recommend the clinic for many reasons. The breadth of techniques and tools used help me consciously and unconsciously open up my voice. I learned specific tools that work with my specific voice issues and get to the point where, within a few seconds of speaking, I could alter my airflow and muscle tension in order to change the quality of my voice production.

I learned how specific anatomical areas (neck, throat, shoulders, rib cage) and my particular breathing style while speaking were contributing to my voice difficulty. I was taught to address these with relaxation, stretching, visualizations, and feedback (hearing, feeling). When I used these strategies, I got positive feedback as my normal voice would appear, at first brief moments and then with increasing frequency and duration.

A huge advantage was the support we all gave each other when we chatted together. Encouraging each other with specifically focused directive statements was a very helpful component of the clinic.

We developed individual specific strategy plans to implement when we get back home, and know that we have our “group” to keep in touch with for continued support.

By my final session with Connie, I was able to record many consecutive sentences of conversation in a nearly normal voice! I know as I continue to use and change my daily tools as I need, I will develop my fully resonant, confident voice.

April 6, 2013: Elaine reported increased control over her voice and life 10 months after the clinic. She took advantage of the follow-up with Connie and viewed her DVD. Unfortunately, she became very ill for 6 weeks and it took a long time to recover. She, like Diann, did not take a leave from work, returning to work the day she returned from the clinic. She found it challenging to maintain her workload and focus on voice exercises. She rated her voice significantly improved, but had decided to get a botox shot, which helped to unlock her voice. Elaine plans to continue voice rehabilitation, with supplemental botox as needed.

Beth: AD/SD diagnosed in June 2011, but with voice loss several times a year in her job as a teacher dating back to 1983. Botox recommended but she declined and tried traditional voice therapy, yoga, massage, chiropractic, Reike, and herbs.

This clinic provided me with the tools and structure to find my healthy voice. It acknowledged me as a whole person in an atmosphere without judgment. I felt surrounded by love and support and I believe I encouraged my peers as well. Connie has created a clinic that is both practical and nurturing. Along with Dennis and Christine, we learned from Connie how our voice is a part of our being, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is necessary to address all areas to manage our SD and our state of being.

I leave the clinic not only feeling confident that I will be successful in managing my SD, but as a person who has grown in wisdom. Thank you Connie, you have made a positive difference in the lives of many. With heartfelt gratitude to all the facilitators and participants for sharing their knowledge and the clinic experience with me.

April 7, 2013: Beth reported that the clinic had been a good investment but that she continued to struggle with her SD. She took advantage of the follow-up with Connie and felt she had been 80% compliant. She had not viewed her DVD. Beth felt her voice was slightly improved, and her VHI decreased 12 points. Beth felt that a longer clinic or more instruction would help her to more success. Her job as a teacher has high voice demands, which most likely plays a part in her continued difficulties.

JT: AB/SD, symptoms began in January 2011 following a cold and laryngitis, initial diagnosis of unilateral paresis and gel injection to medialize the vocal fold, 2 botox injections, Artane. Reported 60% improvement in voice and a good understanding of what was needed to continue improvement.

Anyone who has been diagnosed with SD needs to be informed that there is a holistic program that provides an individual with tools to recover from it as well as how to deal with SD during the recovery process. Now that I have attended the clinic, I feel hopeful and have a treatment plan to follow that puts me on the road to recovery.

I understand about the complexity of SD’s affect on the body, mind, and spirit. The kind and caring approach to treatment is evident every day of the clinic. I now am empowered to move forward. Each one of the teachers help you to develop the skills to manage, understand, and begin recovery from SD.

Connie, Dennis, Christine and Robbie are such a wonderful team. I am so thankful to them for all they do, which sets me off on a stable road to recovery. There is so much information that is provided, and tools that will guide you to know how to deal with SD as you recover. I would attend a clinic again, and recommend that anyone who wants to understand SD and how to recover your voice consider this wonderful option. From my perspective, it was worth the financial commitment to attend. The benefit the clinic offers is priceless!

April 27, 2013: JT reported that her voice was moderately improved since the clinic, with less effort and breathiness. She had maintained 75% compliance to her program, taken advantage of follow-up sessions through SKYPE, and viewed her DVD. VHI had decreased 32 points, moving from the severe range to moderate.

Rey: AD/SD diagnosed in 1998, Botox injections every 3 months, Tagamet. Reported 80% improvement in voice production, learning to project a lower pitch and resonate into the face. Improved breathing mechanics.

Before I arrived, I had faith that I would learn the necessary skills, but did not expect to reach any immediate improvements. By the second day, I began to show remarkable improvement as Connie began to identify the weak areas of my voice and prescribe my specific pitch, relaxation, and breathing patterns that needed change. Dennis helped with the breathing component and corrected wrong mechanics. Connie, with the use of computer software applications and her expertise, helped me to maintain focus on the correct resonance and pitch that supported the best voice quality.

The financial investment and time for the clinic has proven to be valuable, and a launching pad for my voice improvement journey. Prayers be to God who has used Connie and her team to provide an alternative to Botox. May God continue to bless her as she blesses others with her gift.

July 25, 2013: Rey reported that his voice was significantly improved; but could have a moderately improved day if he didn’t speak in the morning or exercise his breathing and voice. He felt the tools he learned at the clinic helped him to maintain the improvements he made and that they were sufficient. VHI was not returned.

Christie: AD/SD diagnosed in February 2012: speech therapy, acupuncture. Reported 60-70% improvement in her voice at the clinic, learning not to strain and push the voice out.

This clinic was an amazing experience all around. Before attending the clinic, I was told that Botox was the only route and that I would not get better with therapy. I began to lose hope that it could improve. But Connie’s clinic provided me with a renewed sense of hope and most importantly, a significantly improved voice. With the techniques and training that Connie provided and the breathing techniques and tension release techniques from Dennis, I can say with confidence that I am on a path to recovering my voice completely.

The group dynamic of this clinic was so valuable. The encouragement, support, and inspiration from the co-participants in the clinic was priceless, not to mention the bonds made with others going through the same emotional struggles of the disorder.

I fell that I now have the tools and jump start to get my voice fully back. This clinic was the first time that I had heard my normal voice in awhile, and the first time I felt freer to speak. I couldn’t recommend this clinic more highly to someone struggling to get their voice baack. Botox is not the only option and this clinic, and Connie herself, proves it.

June 30, 2013: Christie reported that she learned skills at the clinic to aid in relaxation and improve her voice. She reported that the significantly improved control she had over her voice just after the clinic was hard to maintain as the stresses of real life increased. She did feel the tools she acquired helped her to regain control over her voice when it declined.

“I think what helped the most was remembering to use breath support with my voice. When I have bad periods with my voice even if it is tough to bring it up out of my throat, it helps to remember that I need to use breath to support my voice instead of pushing or holding tension in my abdomen.”

Christie rated her voice as slightly to moderately better, best just after the clinic and declining due to lack of steady commitment to daily exercises. VHI decreased from 106 (profound) to 56 (moderate), a decrease of 50 points.

Christie has enrolled in a graduate program in Speech Pathology!

Tanya: AD/SD diagnosed in 1997 at the age of 19, but later she was told that she probably did not have SD, but rather reflux and muscle tension dysphonia. Symptoms had been episodic over the past 14 ½ years, with periods of severely impaired voice and periods of nearly normal voice. Speech therapy with various therapists, bio-feedback, acupuncture, chiropractic, reflux meds:

It has been an incredible journey, from the initial diagnosis of SD in 1997 until now. I literally tried everything to try to resolve this voice problem and make it go away, wanting to feel normal again. If it has taught me anything, it’s perseverance! This may not have been the easiest road, but it has made me the unique, individual that I am today. I learned to accept, build inner strength, feel at peace, and not allow this to hold my voice hostage. This is what the clinic taught me.

It has been a tremendous blessing to come here and have my wish come true in meeting others with this disorder, resulting in a bodn that will last a life-time. This was more helpful than any other professional advice and instruction I’ve received in the past. I’m so thankful to Dennis, Christine, Robbie and the group. Connie, you’re the best!

June 31, 2013:

Tanya reported improved control over her voice. She especially appreciated the support of the group, and strategies she learned. She viewed her DVD but did not take advantage of the free follow-up. She rated herself as 15% compliant to the program, with slight improvement in overall voice quality.

VHI decreased a total of 28 points, moving from the upper level of moderate (60) to the lower level of moderate (33).

Mike: Mixed SD with tremor and atrophy diagnosed in 2007: Prilosec, speech therapy for 1.5 years. Reported 60-70% improvement in his voice, with more resonance, consistency, fewer breaks, and less tremor. Breathing became more automatic, less in the chest, and inhibition of gasping.

If you have unanswered questions about SD, or have been told that it only gets worse, is incurable, that botox is the only treatment, or that speech therapy won’t help you – you owe it to yourself to explore the alternatives. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to have 5 days of exploring your condition in a relaxing, positive, non-judgmental place with other people with similar issues.

With Connie, you’ll explore methods of better vocal production, how to increase resonance, reduce breathiness and breaks and use your appropriate pitch. You will also explore the mental, psychological and emotional aspects of dealing with SD day to day. Because Connie has struggled with and overcome SD herself, her insights, empathy, and experience can’t be found elsewhere. Because she is a world-class SLP, she provides individualized, specific, tools and exercises tailored to each person.

With Dennis, you’ll explore better, easier ways to breathe, which is the foundation of vocal production. He also addresses any biomechanical problems and patterns of negative or unhelpful thoughts and feelings. He also provides concrete, specific exercises that will continue to help after the clinic.

Christine provides nutritious meals and snacks, yoga instruction, as well as Swedish deep-tissue massage. What makes Christine special is her understanding of the unique needs of SD patients and the need to release tension, especially in the head, neck and shoulders.

All three work closely together to address the specific needs of each client. Possibly, the most valuable aspect of the clinic is to meet other SD sufferers, share experiences and history, and to share successes and serve as inspiration and encouragement for one another.

July 2013: Mike reported that the clinic had given him more control over his voice and that is was a very good investment. He did not take advantage of the follow-up as he “forgot” but was also continuing to see his local SLP for follow-up. He rated himself 60% compliant to the program he outlined and his voice significantly improved. VHI decreased 36 points, moving from the Severe Range of handicap to Moderate.

Kristi: Had good success at the first clinic she attended, but then regressed. Her pregnancies prevented her from utilizing botox, so she tried the clinic a second time. Unfortunately, she was not able to break the cycle of her SD, and resumed botox as soon as she was able. Thankfully, she is having good results with ongoing periodic injections.


October 2012 Followups

S.D.: Gradual onset of symptoms for 3 years, Diagnosed with SD November 2011, prior diagnosis included acid reflux. Reflux meds did not help, short term improvement with hypnosis.

What I appreciated most about the clinic was that is was a safe, supportive, loving space to come and address an area of my life that has been a source of tremendous vulnerability. Connie, Dennis and Christine bring so much warmth, love, genuine compassion and enthusiasm to their work with clinic participants. For me, sharing this healing journey with them and the other truly special individuals who attended the clinic is an experience I will never forget.

The fact that Connie has struggled with SD and has grown through the process – vocally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally – makes her an excellent and compassionate teacher. She has been there, so she knows in a very real way what we are going through.

The amount of information over five days can seem overwhelming. It is a lot to take in over a short period of time. But the benefit to being given so many options and approaches for tackling this work is that there are bound to be at least several approaches/tools that really speak to and resonate with each attendee. I appreciated the practice time between sessions because it allowed me to figure out where I had questions and where I needed support, so that I would be more equipped to do the work on my own once I returned home. Being home now for 2 days as I write this, I am pleasantly surprised by the amount of information I actually did retain. I know that if there is something I did not recall, I have Connie’s amazing binder as a resource as well as follow-up sessions with Dennis and Connie waiting in the wings. This provides a wonderful feeling of having a safety net to catch me if I fall.

While I expected to come to the clinic to learn lots of voice exercises (which I did), what I did not expect was to reflect as much as I did one the other aspects of my life which have likely contributed to the SD. Understanding how breathing is connected to speaking and how posture is connected to breathing and nutrition, fitness, relaxation and spiritual practice all connect back to our voices was truly transformative for me.

I will now be making changes in my life that will not only help me improve my voice but will also help me lead a happier, healthier life overall. It is clear to me that my recovery will take time and commitment, but I feel I have all the tools and support that I need to move forward with hope and success. I highly recommend this clinic.

September 26, 2013: I feel my voice is better overall. I still have bad voice days without anything to predict that. There is still a part of this voice condition that is beyond my control and seems to defy any techniques I have learned. I feel the clinic was worthwhile. I met amazing people and I realize that dealing with this voice condition is a journey for me on many levels – physical, spiritual, social and emotional. I feel I am healed because I did what I needed to do for me, even if my voice is not completely healed. My voice is moderately improved since the clinic. (Did not return VHI)

Joanne: AD/SD diagnosed in 1991: botox injections in 1995, then resumed in 2010 but with limited improvement, voice therapy, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, hypnosis

I found the clinic to be a positive reinforcement that SD is NOT hopeless. The clinic helped me change my breathing patterns, posture, and most importantly the pitch and volume of my voice that allows me to speak freely without the tension to force my voice to be heard.

I loved every aspect of the clinic and look forward to continued success. All of the instructors were loving and caring, setting programs for us individually. Connie is truly an angel sent to help those of us with SD and set us on a new path to a wonderful groove. I will forever be indebted to her and the compassion she has shared with me. The interaction with the others in the clinic helped me to empower myself for success. My journey with all of them was a wonderful experience and a great feeling to meet and work with wonderful people from around the world.

My prayer for those with voice disorders is to seek out Connie and her team. It is an experience you will never forget.

September 15, 2013: I feel more control over my voice and my life a year later (without botox). I was about 60% compliant and I feel that my voice is still improving. The clinic was great and I think by keeping up with the progression of individuals and open minds on the healing process can only move us in the right direction. You gave me the power of HOPE, and that is wonderful. Thank you.

VHI decreased 39 points, moving from the Severe range of handicap to Moderate.

Kim: AD/SD, symptoms began in 2001-2002, diagnosed with allergies, and then SD by the NIH in 2003, speech therapy, botox injections every 3-6 months for 8 years, holistic chiropractor and supplements, psychotherapy.

The clinic was a great experience! I met a lot of nice people and I felt comfortable. There was no judgment or criticism about my voice. I love the fact that Connie had gone through SD. Dennis had a great way of showing me the correct way to breathe. I was lacking proper breath support. Christine gave me my first massage ever and it was wonderful. I loved her Yoga class. Everyone was positive and encouraging.

I learned that I am really closer to recovering my voice than I realized. Although I had some apprehension coming to the clinic, I am so glad I made the decision to do it. I laughed and cried. I learned a lot about myself and how to manage my recovery. I am happy with the tools that were provided to me at the clinic.

I would love to share my experience with others. My email is leekrsnetnet@yahoo.com. I encourage others with SD to come to the Free to Speak Clinic. Thank you Connie, Dennis, and Christine!

October 2013: I definitely have more control over my voice, which has improved tremendously. I have a new job and people don’t even notice that I have a voice problem. I have some problems if I have to increase volume in a noisy environment.

The clinic changed my life, my self-confidence, and self-esteem. I viewed my DVD and it was helpful to remind me of what Connie and I did during my sessions. Connie helped me create a Youtube of my progress using SKYPE. VHI decreased from a score of 100 (profoundly handicapping) to a 12 (no handicap); a total of 88 points decrease.

Sarah: AD/SD symptoms began in May 2011, first diagnosed with Muscle tension dysphonia and acid reflux, speech therapy, voice rest, laryngeal physio, medications, Alexander technique, acupuncture, botox recommended but declined.

Meeting other SD sufferers in the nurturing and supportive environment of Connie’s exceptional home was a great experience. It is a unique clinic and the combination of the talents and dedication of Connie, Dennis, Robbie and Christine provides participants with access to a huge knowledge base of tools, techniques and strategies to overcome SD. There were moments during the five days when I felt empowered and fully in control of my voice for the first time in a long while. That, along with Christine’s fantastic lunches and amazing massage made the trip here from the UK very worthwhile.

September 2, 2013: The clinic was absolutely a good investment that I would recommend with anyone living (with SD). The clinic unexpectedly helped me cope in many more ways that I could have anticipated, and helped me get to grips with wider ranging problems than just the SD. While I still live with SD, I am able to embrace it and carry on without it being such a burden. The holistic approach at the clinic was a lasting help, looking at the entire person, and not just vocal cords has helped me quite a lot. I discovered things about myself that I didn’t know, and also learned to accept and understand things about myself that I didn’t quite like. I’ve made massive changes in my life since last October. I think the major thing is acceptance. I know it sounds strange, and almost as giving up the fight, but actually by accepting my vocal changes and relaxing towards them by giving up the struggle and fight as Connie pointed out, it has become much easier to speak fluently. And, in general, I am much, much happier with my life now.

My voice is moderately improved all the time, and sometimes significantly so. This doesn’t always last, and I’m happy to live with a condition that is cyclical. I have become aware that my voice is a barometer of my emotions, and the soonest sign of any stress will trigger a bout of worsened SD.

VHI decreased 43 points, moving from the Severe range to Moderate range of voice handicap.

Jan: Gradual onset of symptoms in 1995. Diagnosed with SD in August 2011. Botox recommended and declined.

Connie Pike and her loving husband, Bob, have created a sanctuary in Apollo Beach – a sanctuary for healing and exploring full and free vocal expression. From the moment I set foot in their beautiful home, I could sense that something special evolved here. It is tangible and unique and shared from a place of compassion, enthusiasm and love.

Connie has used her own journey of reclaiming her full voice to inform the evolution of a truly holistic approach to vocal recovery. You may come to the clinic thinking you will gain some techniques (and you will), but you will also find a true healing atmosphere in which all aspects of your expression are heard, considered and supported. Although Connie’s specialty has been “speech therapy”, she has a much wider vision of what it takes to open one’s full and resonant voice. She has brought together a team of angels (herself included) who will honor your body, mind, emotions and spirit as they offer tools and techniques for you to play with, and/or work with in your healing journey. At all times I felt encouraged to find my truth, to find which tools best worked for me. I felt supported to experiment and play with the exercises and ideas as I was learning.

Connie, in her gentle, playful, loving and accepting way, provides the core fabric for this experience. She is balanced and sincere and definitely knows her stuff around vocal technique and strategies for opening to more free and fluid expression. Through group and individual sessions, Connie shares her gifts. You come away from the experience loaded with a wealth of exercises, strategies, tools and techniques (and you’ll love this….a big ball, kazoo, computerized voice training program, fabulous books, a binder jammed with ideas, and a heart filled with “can do” optimism!) She also shares freely of her personal journey and the coming and goings of her sky blue voice. Here is a person of deep heart and clear vision, ready and eager to share what she has found, what she understands, and what she is learning to benefit those who are seeking to reclaim their own precious voices. Of special note is her courage... to brave new ground, to dream new dreams, and to advocate for something of true worth in a field that has been stymied by definitions of SD as incurable. (Don’t believe it. She doesn’t, and you won’t either, when you see and hear the resonant potentials in each member of the group!)

The clinic also offers the blessings of three other fabulous beings: Robbie provides a brief, valuable individual review of current psychological aspects and offers suggestions for setting sail in the direction of new freedoms. Christine provides a lovely source of light and nurturing. Not only does she prepare and serve the LUNCHES (yum), she provides her skilled and loving touch for a deeply intuitive and releasing massage. Dennis is a constant presence. Through individual and group sessions, he brings his knowledge and skills in the fields of body-mind interaction, neurolinguistic programming, neuromuscular therapy, and holistic health. Explorations of breath and posture were clear and freeing, opening our “instrument” for full vocal expression. Of great value to me was his ability to gently and precisely reach into the musculature of the throat and neck and provide some skilled contact for releasing habitually over-worked muscles.

A grand thank you to Connie (and husband Bob who kind-heartedly shared his home) and to her team for creating and believing in the healing power of skilled attention and love! Now it is up to us to take the marvelous gifts and use them for attaining the freedoms we seek.

August 30, 2013: I feel confident that I have the tools to continue freeing my voice. I am speaking more often with my clearer, more fluid voice, though it might catch in times of tension. I feel more empowered and I am no longer a victim of my vocal habits. I feel that giving myself the time and attention, with a group of like-affected companions, was a great gift. Being with others who have known the embarrassment and frustration of a voice that won’t do what you want it to do was also very heart-filling and comforting.

The specific vocal strategies I learned from Connie are what I have carried long-term. Things you would tell me like “bring that sound up and forward” continue to be very helpful.

My voice is moderately improved. VHI decreased 22 points.

Paul: Voice changes started in the fall of 2010, with roughness and hoarseness, progressing to severe symptoms in February 2011. Diagnosed with AD/SD by four specialists. Reflux medication, speech therapy, three week consultation with Morton Cooper, psychological consultation.

The clinic was an extremely positive experience for numerous reasons. In the second half of the clinic, I was experiencing clear voicing (no breaks) on a regular basis. However, achieving some progress towards clear voicing is just the beginning because the clinic teaches how the journey to move beyond SD is very integrated. It involves vocal mechanics, proper breathing, neuromuscular work, relaxation and emotions, all playing a massive role in the road to recovery.

A lot of information is provided, but Connie and Dennis tailor the information into a road map that I will use after the clinic. The teamwork between Connie, Dennis and Christine is very impressive, helping to insure that I receive maximum benefit of the clinic. Participating in the clinic with others afflicted with SD was the most beneficial aspect of the experience. The group shared stories, SD backgrounds, frustrations, and ultimately, we celebrated everyone’s breakthroughs as a team. Thank you for reaffirming, in a most impactful way, that SD can be managed and overcome in a holistic manner.

September 2013: Paul worked diligently on his program but did not find enough relief with voice rehabilitation exercises alone to allow him to function in his job. Through the use of botox injections, which he started three months after the clinic, he found relief from the strain, and a satisfactory voice.


November 2012 Followups

Bonnie: AD/SD diagnosed in August 2012 after symptoms for 5 months: Botox injections initiated in September, which helped temporarily. Reported 50% improvement in her voice at the clinic, learning to speak in a more relaxed manner. She was feeling the effects of her botox injection wearing off. She realized she was holding back her breath and needed to practice deep breathing.

It was a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere and I felt very at home and free from stress. Everything was well organized and professional. It felt like a spa but I learned a lot about neuromuscular massage and healthy posture, breathing properly and voice strengthening exercises. The massages were helpful, sessions with Dennis good for stretching muscles and the sessions with Connie were good for speaking, voice, breathing, and mental aspects of SD.

OCTOBER 2013: Bonnie stated that she felt she had learned that she could control her voice if she learned the triggers to help in certain situations. She stated she was 50% compliant to her contract. She came to the clinic during a time in which she was having botox injections, and had discontinued that treatment. Hence, she felt her voice was worse at the time of long-term follow-up. Her Voice Handicap Index had no significant change and was still in the Severe range.

Mary: AB/SD, symptoms began in 1998. Speech therapy and counseling as initial diagnosis was MTD. After a period of recovery, her voice deteriorated in 1999, continuing a decline through 2008. Another ENT diagnosed MTD and prescribed further speech therapy and massage. In 2009 she was diagnosed with SD and botox was recommended. She had one injection and then resumed speech therapy along with acupuncture. Restored normal voice function until October 2010. Had tried Alexander technique, meditation, Pilates, and Roger Love singing exercises. Felt the voice get better and revert during the clinic. Developed a more open chest, better posture and the neck loosened.

A benefit of the group setting is meeting others with the same condition. This was the first time I had met anyone with SD.

The clinic provided a good overview of SD and a wide variety of tools to try in dealing with it. Having someone like Connie, a speech therapist who has actually had SD is very helpful. She had been there herself and is a great role model. At the end of the clinic, I realized that with SD, there will be ups and downs and to accept that “it is what it is”. Acceptance of myself as someone with SD is a good place to start.

DECEMBER 2012: Mary stated that she did not experience a significant change in her voice long-term. She felt that a longer period of individual therapy would have been of more benefit than a clinic shared with multiple people. She was unable to take advantage of the computer program or SKYPE for follow-up, hence limiting her support after the clinic. She felt that the clinic provided too much information, and would be better to have a more narrow and direct focus. Her VHI increased by 5 points.

Walt: AD/SD with symptoms starting in the early 1990’s and diagnosed in 1996, Botox injections yearly or semi-annually at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Learned not to force the voice and became more conscious of breathing and all things that affect it.

Fantastic… The clinic brought together the main aspects of SD; namely, posture, breathing, emotions. Each element was explored and practical tools were given to help us improve and manage SD. Connie Pike is in the unique position to offer this clinic. She has personal experience with SD and is a speech therapist. She has compassion. The team she brought together is able and caring.

Sharing common experiences with each other as clinic participants was invaluable. Knowing one is not alone gives hope. People of many different callings in life have been stricken with SD.

JANUARY 2014: Walt reported definitively more control in his voice. “I felt the clinic was a good investment because it brought together others with the same problem and so many different ideas and techniques were offered.”

Walt did not use his follow-up time or view the video, however, he rated his voice significantly improved, and sometimes normal a year after the clinic.

Voice Handicap Index decreased 24 points, moving from the Severe to the Moderate level.

Barbara: Previous tracheal stenosis; 6 dilatations and then re-section and reconstruction of trachea December 2010. Was told there was nothing she could do to improve her voice, which was very upsetting to her. Surgery to stretch out/ lengthen the vocal folds was offered but with uncertain outcome. She tried massage, herbal teas, and some voice exercises intermittently.

Gained confidence in speaking in a higher pitch, using confidential voice, and breathing in an easier manner without pushing.

If you truly want to recover, you must attend Connie’s clinic. You would be foolish not to. You will be given knowledge and skills by practitioners that are not only genius mentality clinicians, but caring and blessed in their thoughts and practice.

There were 6 of us at the clinic – strangers from different parts of the world – that became united and helpful towards each other – understanding and feeling welcome by people with the same and similar conditions.

Connie, Dennis, and Christine are gifts from God!

I learned to think outside the box!

JANUARY 2014: Barbara reported limited control of her voice a year later. She felt the clinic was a good investment because of the confidence the staff had in her and the take-home materials. She did not take advantage of the follow-up due to family and business issues and reported 30% compliance to the program. She rated her voice as slightly improved, but Voice Handicap Index decreased by 25 points, which is a significant decrease. She stated that due to storm destruction of her family business buildings, she had little time to spend on voice rehabilitation.

HM: AB/SD with onset in July 2011, diagnosis in June 2012. Botox was recommended but he declined. Klonopin prescribed and intermittently used. Reported 40% improvement in his voice, with confidence that he had the necessary tools to continue improvement. Became aware of breathing problems and how to change them.

The Free to Speak Clinic has given me hope and has provided me with the tools to go back home and continue my voice rehabilitation. I discovered the specific problems with my voice and other self-reflections that contribute to my problems. I found out my level of anxiety was one cause of my problem and that I need to focus on self-care and relaxation techniques along with good voice practice to continue to improve. It is a journey to recovery and I am happy I came to the clinic.

FEBRUARY 2013: Hunter reported improved control over his voice and breathing and that the voice intensive was a good investment. He rated his voice improvement as significant and that stress management and breathing/relaxation were the most lasting helps.

Voice Handicap Index decreased 35 points and moved from the Severe to the Moderate range.


Long-Term Followups for 2013

Note format change: original testimonials can be found under Testimonials 2013. Name and diagnosis will be included here with the date of the long-term follow-up noted and new information listed.

FEBRUARY 2013 CLINIC

Sharyn: AB/SD diagnosed in 1990 by Dr. Herbert Dedo, and again in 2012 by Dr. Albert Merati, but as AB/SD with MTD: Self managed well by humming and singing into speech until this year. One botox injection with bad side effects and no help to the voice.

JANUARY 2014: Sharyn reported that her voice was “hugely improved” and that the clinic was “one of the best investments I could possibly have made, costing me roughly the same as my one Botox shot which was a disaster”. Reported 80% compliance and significantly improved voice production. Voice handicap index decreased from 78 (Severe) to 35 (Moderate), a decrease of 43 points.

Gary: AD/SD diagnosed by the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, 2011. Three botox injections with various results, the 3rd having more side effects such as choking.

JANUARY 2014: Gary reported that he had been disappointed with his progress to date and that he had resumed botox shots, which helped him slightly. Voice Handicap Index had decreased only 6 points and remained in the Moderate range despite botox treatment. He reported that he was continuing his vocal conditioning and remained hopeful that he would improve more in time.

Candace: AD/SD, essential tremor, reflux. The SD was diagnosed in 1993 by Dr. Dougherty in Miami and Botox was recommended.

JANUARY 2014: Candace reported that “chronic bronchitis over the last three months has contributed to lack of control over my voice. However, the therapy and counseling received at the clinic definitely gave me a sense of increased voice control. It gave me tools to help the strain and to ease voice production. For the first time, all issues such as reflux were addressed and I am eating a more alkaline diet and taking acid blockers for GERD.

She rated her compliance to the program at 50% initially and about 20% now. She had not viewed her DVD from the clinic. Candace rated her voice as slightly to moderately improved. VHI had moved from the Severe range to Moderate.

Gordon: AD/SD with gradual onset starting in 1993, diagnosed in 1998 in London.

JANUARY 2014: Gordon reported that he felt the voice clinic was definitely a good investment and that coaching in breathing, posture and voice production were lasting helps. He reported 70% compliance to the program but did not view the DVD. He did choose to have another botox injection through the NHS in London, but reported his voice status 17 weeks later. His Voice Handicap Index had decreased 22 points and fell in the Mild-to-No Handicap range at 14.

Chuck: AD/SD onset in 2008, diagnosed in 2009; also diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2009, requiring CPAP, confirmed acid reflux.

JANUARY 2014: Chuck reported that initially he had improved control over his voice but then slipped back to pre-clinic levels with a very stressful work environment. He still rated his clinic experience as valuable, with the tools in place to regain what he learned and experienced.

He rated compliance at 50% and had reviewed the DVD once just after the clinic. Chuck rated his voice as slightly better, but his Voice Handicap Index was significantly decreased at 27 points less than it was before the clinic. Regardless, it remained in the severe range.

JUNE 2013 CLINIC FOLLOWUPS

SW: AB/SD, onset in 1997 and diagnosed by ENTs and SLPs; Tried voice therapy with several therapists, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, consult with Morton Cooper, one botox injection with some inconsistent improvement in voicing resulting for 2-3 months.

APRIL 2014: SW reported that the clinic was a turning point for her and that her voice was released. She rated her voice as significantly improved. VHI decreased from 61 (Severe) to 42 (Moderate), a decrease of 19 points.

Sandi: ABSD with tremor; diagnosed in the spring 2010, treated with antacids, botox injection helped the voice but dyspnea was debilitating.

MARCH 2014: Sandi did not feel that her voice was better months after the clinic. She attributed this to having too many life changes and not being able to do the voice exercises. She had not viewed her DVD from the clinic and rated compliance at 60%. She still rated the clinic as a good investment for her life and voice despite the lack of improvement to date. Her VHI had decreased 18 points, from 86 to 68, both in the Severe range.

MM: AD/SD diagnosed in December 2009 by Dr. Barbara Schultz, two months of voice therapy, one botox injection (“after one month of whisper voice, I could speak but not sing and I could not speak loud or with resonance”) Self managed after reading Connie’s book and saving for a clinic for two years.

APRIL 2014: MM reported improved understanding of how her voice works and some improvement. She stated she had learned not to force her voice. Reported 80% compliance and had viewed her DVD, which reminded her of how she had improved at the clinic. MM rated her voice as moderately improved and VHI had decreased 34 points, from 103 to 69, still remaining in the severe range.

Jen: AD/SD with tremor diagnosed in 2002 with symptoms starting in 1999, voice therapy and homeopathy, massage and chiropractic.

MARCH 2014: Jen reported 100% more control of her voice even on “bad days” because of the tools she learned at the clinic. She stated that the clinic was a life saver and a good investment for her voice and her life. She rated her voice as moderately improved. VHI had decreased from 81 (severe) to 50 (moderate), a total of 31 points.