Scott Adams regains ability to speak (UPDATE)

Scott Adams, who has been diagnosed with a rare condition that affected his speech, has announced on his blog that his speech has returned.  The condition, Spasmodic Dysphonia, affects how the brain controls speech allowing the person to speak in some situations and not in others. For example, Scott could speak normally to crowds, but not at all as soon as he left the stage.  He’s tried Botox injections that helped relieve the spasms and allowed some of his normal speech, but that solution was affecting his professional speaking, so he discontinued the injections.

Not giving up, he’s tried hard to find patterns in contexts of when he could speak clearly and when he could not.  While helping his step-son with homework, he discovered poems

The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadnâ??t considered. A poem isnâ??t singing and it isnâ??t regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.

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

I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe itâ??s just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.

My brain remapped.

My speech returned.

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

UPDATE: Scott’s story is spreading far and wide and getting (deservedly) a great deal of attention.  here is the AP story that many newspapers picked up on.  And here is a story from the USA Today that reports that Scott isn’t doing any more interviews because it’s affecting his speaking/lecturing engagements:

Adams canceled interviews Sunday after the Associated Press detailed his ordeal. By e-mail, Adams said, “They just eliminated a third of my income. My speaking clients are spooked.”

I’d hazard a guess that whatever he loses in business related speeches he’ll make up on the motivational speaking circuit.  His story of not giving up and regaining his voice has got to make good speech material.

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