The 2017 Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) Alumni Retreat is a prime time for past therapy participations to sharpen fluency skills, spend time with the HCRI team, hear informative presentations, and reconnect with other alumni.
The retreat will take place April 29-30, 2017 in Roanoke, Virginia on the campus of nearby Hollins University. Alumni will come from across the U.S. to attend this two-day event. The retreat weekend features a packed schedule that includes the following.
Saturday: Activities begin at 9 a.m. and include an information session, target review, alumni workshops, transfer activities, and a presentation by Gerald R. McDermott, Ph.D. An HCRI alumnus, Dr. McDermott is Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School and author of the book, Famous Stutterers. In the evening, HCRI will host a buffet dinner for attendees and their guests.
Sunday: Activities feature more alumni workshops and presentations, along with “round robin” practice opportunities. The weekend will wrap up at 1 p.m.
Registration and Conference Fees:
The registration fee for alumni to attend the weekend event is $285. The fee for participants who accompany alumni is $160 per guest. There is no charge for children ages 10 and under who are accompanying alumni over the weekend.
This article is written by HCRI Alumnus Gerald R. McDermott, Anglican Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School. Dr. McDermott attended HCRI stuttering therapy early in his academic career. The fluency skills he acquired at HCRIwere what he calls “life changing,” as he went on to write 18 books and speak nationally and internationally. To read about Dr. McDermott’s journey from stuttering to fluency, click here.
Dr. McDermott will be speaking at HCRI’s alumni retreat in Roanoke, Virginia on April 29-30, 2017. He recently published Famous Stutterers, a book designed to provide encouragement to others who stutter. The book highlights 12 famous people who achieved greatness while struggling with their speech impediment. The following article provides insight into his perspectives on stuttering and some of the learning he shares in his book.
Most of us have a demon that wakes us up in the middle of the night. Or an affliction we worry about while driving to work. Much of life is keeping the demon at bay. Or managing the affliction so that we can get things done despite it. If we’re honest, we often wonder if there are better ways to deal with our problem.
My demon was stuttering. The 2010 movie “The King’s Speech” about King George VI was painful for me to watch. I realized it was a great film cinematically, but every time King George VI puffed his cheeks helplessly as he tried to get out a word, I felt his frustration and fear.
People who hear stutterers block on words occasionally think it might be trivial, or a minor annoyance at most. But they don’t know the times when occasional blocks mysteriously morph into paralysis, when even sounds that are normally effortless become mountains to climb. They have no idea of the apprehension when answering the phone, or the nervousness when, caught in conversation that goes quickly, we are afraid we won’t be able to reply at the right pace, and all eyes will turn to us as the conversation suddenly stops. They don’t know of the worry for weeks about upcoming speeches or presentations – not over what to say but whether we can get our tongue to cooperate.
In my first 35 years, I participated in several versions of speech therapy, but none made much of a difference. I continued to live in fear. Not much changed until, at the age of 37, I found HCRI and attended the Institute’s behavioral stuttering therapy program. At the Institute, I learned new, sustainable speech skills that changed my life. For the first time I could speak publicly without fear. Slowly a whole new career opened up to me.
The ability to speak fluently at will is a gift few people truly appreciate – unless they stutter. Yet, history is full of famous stutterers who wrestled with this demon for most of their lives. Remarkably, they managed to accomplish great things for the world: Moses, Aristotle, Civil War hero Joshua Chamberlain, Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, John Updike, and others. We can learn a lot from these noble souls.
Here are five lessons they can teach us.
1. It’s not the end of the world. Moses was forced out of his self-pity by God’s command to lead his people despite Moses’ being “slow of speech and of tongue” (Ex. 4:10). As a result, he discovered that stuttering did not cripple him. He still stuttered, but he managed to lead a nation through perilous times.
In the long years before she achieved fluency with HCRI stuttering therapy, Annie Glenn (astronaut-Senator John Glenn’s wife) told herself that there was more to life than her speech. If she could not get her words out on a given day, so what? She found ways to be happy regardless. She still reached out to friends and found joy by using her gift of music. But then HCRI therapy changed her life. With the new-found ability to speak fluently, she served as a national advocate and role model for people with speech disabilities. For more about Annie’s challenges with stuttering and experience with HCRI therapy, click here: Annie Glenn Overcoming Stuttering.
Your affliction is a pain. Got that. But it’s not the end of the world. You can carry on and maybe even overcome it with the right stuttering treatment. There is no need to despair.
2. You can succeed despite your affliction. Winston Churchill had his own speech impediments, combining a lisp with a stutter, but worked doggedly to overcome them, becoming one of history’s greatest orators. Moses became one of the world’s greatest leaders despite a near-crippling speech impediment. Aristotle wrote with precision about the agonies of stuttering – the kind of accuracy that suggests personal experience. Yet Aristotle nevertheless became one of the greatest thinkers of the ancient world.
You and I will probably never achieve that kind of greatness. But we can learn from Aristotle and other famous stutterers that our own affliction need not keep us from doing great things. Along the way, we can also take positive action and seek out effective therapy for stuttering.
3. Perseverance and self-discipline are powerful tools. The ancient Athenian orator-statesman Demosthenes had a weak voice, and could not pronounce correctly words that started with “r.” Yet Demosthenes became a great speaker by persistent determination. He practiced his speeches in a cave, repeated words with the “r” sound thousands of times, and ran up hills to strengthen his weak frame. Greater body strength helped him project his voice, which was essential in a world without microphones.
The Yankee hero of the Battle of Gettysburg Joshua Chamberlain resolved when he was young that his stuttering was “intolerable.” Rather than despair, he determined he would do whatever it took to find improvement. By strength of will and using a song-like rhythm, he eventually reached a state where he could get through nine of ten difficult words with no trouble.
The lesson? Don’t give up. Even if your plight seems hopeless, it probably is not. Many others have been in your situation, and many have found ways to cope, carry on, make improvements, and get help with HCRI stuttering treatment.
4. Think about how wrestling with your demon has made you a better person. Because TV journalist John Stossel knew he could not do what major news reporters do – shout out questions with split-second timing – he threw himself into deep research on stories about slow-moving things. Better suited to his speech struggle, they were also more interesting to more people. It is important to note that, after he attended HCRI stuttering therapy, his career opportunities soared. Today, he is an accomplished broadcast journalist and television show anchor, in addition to being a well-respected investigative reporter and author.
Princeton professor Peter Brown’s years of struggling as a student trying to speak caused him to keep an eye out for shy students who seem to wrestle with an inner demon. His affliction has given him a listening ear and caring heart.
Before you curse your handicap, give thanks for its hidden gifts.
5. Choose to focus on the positive. John Updike was another famous stutterer. At times, speaking was torture for him. But he decided to enjoy life anyway. He told himself that his stuttering was only a small part of who he was. Of course, you could say that was easier for him because he was such a great writer—and you don’t have an extraordinary skill. But there have been plenty of other successful writers who have been miserable, and even taken or tried to take their own lives: Jack London, Kurt Vonnegut, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf, Hunter Thompson. Professional success is no guarantee of happiness.
Updike chose to take a positive attitude to life, with its mix of bad and good. He believed life is a gift, and that beauty is in the ordinary things of life. He was one of those people who call the glass half-full rather than half-empty. Because of choosing that approach to life, Updike did not let stuttering define him.
You might struggle with your handicap the rest of your life. But learning from these famous stutterers can help you live a happy and successful life regardless. They can remind you that there is more to life than your handicap, you can still succeed, hard work and perseverance are necessary, your problem has its own secret benefits, and you should focus on the good things.
At Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI), we lost a dear friend this week with the passing of John Glenn, an American hero recognized for his history-making journeys into space, stellar military service, and leadership as an Ohio senator for 25 years.
Our relationship with the Glenns began more than forty years ago when we received a call from them requesting information about HCRI’s stuttering therapy program. John’s wife, Annie, lived with a severe stutter.
Annie faced remarkable communication challenges throughout her life. She avoided talking on the phone, found face-to-face communications extremely difficult, and tried to escape the spotlight at a time when her husband was receiving national acclaim for being the first American to orbit the Earth.
Yet, John saw his wife as the true hero and champion in the family, based on her unyielding determination, strength, and talent. His love and adoration for Annie was always apparent for all to witness.
The couple learned about HCRI while watching an interview on national television with HCRI Founder and President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. They contacted the Institute to learn if the advanced treatment offered at HCRI could help Annie. Stuttering was holding her back in life and, most importantly, she wanted the ability to talk with her grandchildren and read a story to them without stuttering.
After consulting with Dr. Webster about HCRI’s behavioral therapy approach, Annie decided to attend our therapy program in Roanoke, Virginia. She was 53 years old.
At the conclusion of her intensive three-week treatment program, she asked to use the phone to call John before she returned home. He was surprised to hear her voice on the phone. She spoke clearly and fluently for the first time in her life. The call brought John to tears.
With her stuttering under control, Annie’s world opened up. She became an advocate for people with communications disorders and dedicated her time to helping a multitude of organizations by serving on boards and committees, as well as taking on high-profile speaking opportunities. She readily joined John at public events and felt comfortable talking with attendees and answering questions. Her world was transformed through her ability to speak fluently.
Following therapy, Annie and John stayed in close touch with HCRI and Dr. Webster. They communicated through phone calls and emails. And, the couple returned to Roanoke many times to attend HCRI reunions where John always made sure that Annie was the spotlight rather than him. In addition, Annie served as the keynote speaker at HCRI’s building dedication.
We will deeply miss John and consider our long-standing friendship with the Glenns truly special. Annie is an inspiration to people who stutter and exemplifies how life can significantly change through fluency.
After John Glenn passed away, WSLS-TV interviewed Dr. Webster about his relationship with John and Annie. Following is the video from the station’s news segment.
The Board of Directors of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) unanimously voted to appoint Ann T. Fain as a lifetime honorary member of the HCRI Board. The appointment is in recognition of Ms. Fain’s decades of service, support and guidance to the nonprofit organization, which is internationally recognized for its work in stuttering research and treatment innovation.
“Ann is a remarkable woman who has helped our Institute through the years in a multitude of ways,” said HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. “Her wise counsel, generous support and dedicated service over the past 30 years have been pivotal in our advancing our mission to help people around the world achieve fluency.”
Ms. Fain has an in-depth understanding of the negative consequences of living with a stuttering condition. Her late husband, Charles L. Fain, was a stutterer. She witnessed his daily communication challenges and the hindrances that come with stuttering. Yet, once Charles participated in HCRI stuttering therapy, he acquired the skills to speak fluently and confidently.
Like his wife, Mr. Fain was deeply involved in helping HCRI. He was a long-standing member of the HCRI Board of Directors and assisted with important research and development projects that advanced the treatment of stuttering.
“It has been a privilege to have the Fains play such an important role in our organization’s progress and stuttering treatment delivery. Ann’s appointment exemplifies our deep appreciation for her ongoing engagement and counsel to further the important work we do,” Webster added.
HCRI was founded by Ronald L Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Virginia-based HCRI is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization. The Institute has treated more than 6,500 individuals who stutter from across the U.S. and 50 countries. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032.
This year has been exhilarating for our nonprofit institute. In addition to treating a growing number of stuttering therapy clients, our team at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) has been hard at work testing a new service offering and developing more treatment innovations that advance fluency outcomes. Following is an overview of HCRI news and activities.
New Therapy Release
In August, we launched a new “high definition” version of our stuttering therapy program. This new release elevates HCRI treatment to an unprecedented level of precision and ease with which fluency can be learned. For details, click here: Hollins Fluency System III.
Pilot Training Program for Parents of Children who Stutter
To address growing demand, we are testing a new service designed to teach parents of young children who stutter how to effectively work with their sons and daughters to promote fluent speech.
This training initiative involves a series of individualized sessions with parents and kids at HCRI. Over two and a half days, we impart specialized speech techniques and exercises that parents can put into practice with their children when they return home. Then, we follow-up with the parents to monitor progress. More testing and refining will continue over the coming months and into 2017.
Remote-Access Therapy Testing
Trials continue to determine the viability of offering remote-access, quality-controlled alumni refresher programs via the web using an iPad, computer or late-model iPhone. The use of Bluetooth headsets with these devices facilitates instruction, speech measurement and fluency progress.
Current findings show great promise. Our goal is to be able to offer refreshers – and ultimately the HCRI stuttering therapy program – to anyone, anywhere who has a device and internet connection.
Multi-Dimensional, Automated Speech Measurement
Our team is developing new technology that automates the measurement of speech at a level of detail that enables us to better examine how stuttering is physically differentiated from fluent speech.
As we develop this new system, we will evaluate how well we can use objectively extracted acoustic features to assist in improving the diagnosis and treatment of stuttering. Our early work is encouraging. We are continuing our efforts to reach the stage where practical clinical benefits can be achieved.
At HCRI, we continue to push forward advancing stuttering treatment and helping people from across the U.S. and worldwide achieve their full potential in life through fluency. It is a privilege and a pleasure to serve our clients and alumni on an ongoing basis.
We are always here for you and encourage you to reach out if you need assistance, have questions or want to connect for any reason. Contact us at email@example.com or 855-236-7032.
At HCRI, we are committed to staying in contact with our stuttering therapy participants once they return home. This includes phone and email contact with clinicians, as well as providing a host of post-therapy practice tools to support long-term fluency.
Recently we surveyed our alumni to determine their perspectives about the impact of HCRI stuttering therapy participation on their lives. The feedback we received from the survey is highlighted in the infographic below.
A Career Dedicated to Helping People Who Stutter Achieve Fluency
Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., Founder and President of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) observed stuttering for the first time when he was a graduate student at Louisiana State University. One of his professors stuttered. Webster was moved by this impressive man’s courage to face students and lecture each day, despite having a speech disorder.
After graduate school, Webster began a multi-dimensional career as a research scientist, psychology professor and clinical psychologist. At the same time, he pursued his keen interest in the study of speech. Webster conducted research on speech development and collaborated with speech experts from across the country.
This work led him to a passionate concern about stuttering and the realization that no effective treatment existed to help people with the disorder. Webster set out to change that. The year was 1966. He began a life-long mission to investigate stuttering using empirical science and learn everything he could about the difficult-to-treat and misunderstood condition.
His intensive research revealed remarkable findings, which countered broadly accepted assumptions that stuttering was grounded in emotional or mental issues. Instead, Webster’s work demonstrated that stuttering is physically derived, with specific, distorted speech-muscle activities and patterns that give rise to stuttering.
Once he quantitatively defined speech-muscle “events” that cause stuttering, Webster’s research efforts turned to identifying ways to alter these events to enable fluent speech.
Webster’s work was groundbreaking. The outcomes led to his developing the first systematic, behavioral stuttering therapy program. He founded nonprofit Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) in 1972 to continue his research and administer effective, science-based stuttering therapy.
HCRI’s 12-day stuttering treatment program teaches individuals how to replace faulty speech muscle movements that cause stuttering with new muscle events that generate fluent speech. Research shows 93% of program participants achieve fluency by the end of treatment. Follow-up studies reveal 70% to 75% retain fluent speech when evaluated one and two years post therapy. These outcomes stand in contrast to traditional speech therapies and devices that may only produce fluency results in approximately 25% of cases.
Webster and his HCRI team continually enhance the Institute’s quality-controlled therapy program, based on the latest research findings and technology. To make fluency acquisition easier and long lasting for clients, they have:
Increased the specificity of treatment protocols
Invented electronic speech measurement systems for use in therapy
Integrated the use of computers into the therapy process
Developed a 500-hour HCRI clinician certification program
Incorporated quality controls into treatment
Created a sophisticated “therapist in your pocket” app
These ongoing advancements raise the bar on stuttering treatment excellence. U.S. patents have been awarded to Webster for some of these stuttering therapy innovations.
Since HCRI opened its doors, more than 6,500 people from across the U.S. and 50 countries have come to the Virginia-based treatment center. Clients include broadcaster John Stossel of Fox News; Annie Glenn, wife of Senator and Astronaut John Glenn; as well as athletes, teachers, engineers, students, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, a Supreme Court nominee and even royalty.
Dr. Webster and the HCRI team continue to push forward with their commitment to transforming lives through fluency. This includes testing the feasibility of online therapy delivery to increase accessibility, as well as partnering with the National Institutes of Health on a pioneering study that confirmed a genetic link to stuttering.
Alumni of the Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) stuttering therapy program, along with Roanoke-area runners, participated in the nonprofit center’s first 5K Race and 1-Mile Fun Walk – Stride to Cure Stuttering – on Saturday, April 30, 2016.
The event was held on the beautiful Roanoke River Greenway in Downtown Roanoke, Virginia. Stride to Cure Stuttering helped raise much-needed funds to support HCRI’s ongoing work in stuttering research and treatment innovation.
The Institute was founded in 1972 by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. to investigate stuttering and develop new therapy approaches for the difficult-to-treat speech disorder. Today, HCRI is a leader in science-based stuttering treatment and has helped thousands of people who stutter from across the U.S. and 50 countries.
Donations raised from Stride to Cure Stuttering will further HCRI’s important work of making life-changing stuttering therapy more accessible and continuing research to find a cure for stuttering.
The race director and organizer was Courtney Stackhouse who also serves as a stuttering therapy clinician at HCRI. Forty-two competitors ran in the inaugural race, along with numerous others who participated in the event’s 1-Mile Fun Walk to help HCRI.
Following are the racers who clocked the fastest times for the 5K run.
December 8, 2015, Roanoke, Virginia – Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI ), a nonprofit center dedicated to stuttering research and innovative therapy delivery, is seeking a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) to join the Institute’s clinical team.
Interested persons who meet the required qualifications listed below may apply by clicking here to send an email. Type “Clinician Applicant” in the email subject line and include a resume, cover letter, three job references and salary requirements.
Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) – Clinician
Job Type: Permanent, Full-time Position
Location: Roanoke, Virginia
[Relocation not provided]
Career Level: Experienced SLP, Non-manager
[Stuttering specialty not required. Extensive training will be provided.]
Salary: Commensurate with experience.
Excellent benefits package and work environment
Founded in 1972 by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) has grown into a world-leading center for the investigation and treatment of stuttering, which affects 66 million people globally. The nonprofit Institute is unique from other stuttering centers in that work focuses on developing scientifically based treatment methods and learning technologies, in addition to administering therapy programs.
HCRI pioneered the concept of physically based treatment for stuttering more than 40 years ago and has continued to enhance the therapy program over the years. New research findings, advanced electronics and computers have been incorporated into the behavioral treatment process to enhance the ease of learning and retaining fluent speech.
More than 6,400 persons from across the U.S. and 50 countries have participated in HCRI’s stuttering therapy program. Ninety-three percent of clients achieve fluency by the end of treatment. Follow-up studies show 70 to 75% retain fluency for the long term. These stuttering therapy success rates are among the highest in the industry. To learn more, visit www.stuttering.org.
As a member of the HCRI team in Roanoke, Virginia, the full-time SLP clinician will have a direct impact on the lives of people who stutter. Through the delivery of HCRI’s proprietary stuttering therapy program, he/she will help clients acquire skills to speak fluently so they may experience the joy and opportunity that come with fluency.
The clinician will participate in a comprehensive, 500-hour clinician training program once hired to ensure confident, precise and measured delivery of HCRI stuttering therapy.
Clinician responsibilities encompass the following:
The clinician provides therapy administration to a diverse group of adult men and women, as well as some youth ages 11 and older, who have a life-long stuttering condition. HCRI’s behavioral stuttering treatment is performed in a group setting with ten clients at a time for 12 consecutive days. There are up to 13 therapy programs annually, along with five or more refresher training courses.
Through the administration of HCRI’s standardized stuttering treatment, the clinician will help clients learn how to replace faulty speech muscle movements that cause stuttering with new behaviors that enable fluency.
He/she will work collaboratively with other HCRI clinicians and staff to serve clients, as well as use a variety of technological tools to ensure precision, quality controlled therapy delivery.
The clinician will provide post-therapy phone follow-up with clients to help ensure long-term fluency outcomes. For former clients who need fluency help, the clinician will conduct five-day refresher training classes during the year. Responsibilities also include helping to organize and lead sessions for HCRI’s annual client reunion, as well as conduct other fluency workshops as needed.
The clinician will provide input to the HCRI team to help advance client services and grow the Institute’s therapy program. He/she will also be required to attend staff meetings, document client services, and marshal other projects as needed.
Master’s degree – Speech Language Pathologist
Behavioral therapy experience
Highly motivated to consistently achieve standards of excellence
Positive, high-energy attitude and work style
Passionate about helping make a difference in people’s lives
Willing to work some weekends and occasional evenings
Proven ability to work collaboratively in team environment to achieve successful client outcomes
Inquiries are encouraged from qualified individuals who want to be part of HCRI’s team of compassionate, hardworking employees. To apply, please send an email with the following to firstname.lastname@example.org and type “Clinician Applicant” in the subject line. (No phone calls please.)
Cover letter explaining behavioral therapy experience and reason(s) for interest in HCRI’s clinician position
Names and contact information for three references
As an EOE employer, HCRI welcomes all qualified applicants regardless of race, age, gender, religion, education, nationality, ethnicity, family circumstance, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and physical or mental ability.
The finale of the ABC series Astronaut Wives Club gave viewers a dramatic summary of the evolving personal and professional journeys experienced by the seven wives of the Mercury astronauts. The setting took place during a crucial era in U.S. history where the Cold War, gender attitudes and the country’s “space race” were intersecting. The show was based on the book by the same name, written by Lily Kopp
One of the wives showcased in the series was that of Annie Glenn, the impressive wife of astronaut and Senator John Glenn. Annie had a severe stutter and then came to Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) for advanced stuttering therapy. She calls her experience at HCRI a life changer. As a result, Annie has been a long-time advocate of HCRI stuttering therapy and serves as a role model for people who stutter across the country.
Actress Azure Parsons played Annie. As each episode unfolded, Azure effectively depicted the multitude of communication challenges Annie faced because of her stuttering. In the season finale, Annie was interviewed and asked about the transformation of her speech. With eloquent, fluent speech, she attributed her ability to speak without stuttering to participating in the intensive stuttering therapy program at HCRI. As she has said many times in real life, on the show Annie’s character described her treatment as “life changing.”
At the end of the episode, Annie is shown speaking at a speech and hearing conference. She shared her personal experience going from stuttering to fluent speech – and advocated on behalf of people who stutter. To watch the final episode, click here.
At HCRI, we are privileged to have helped Annie on her path to fluency. She and John are cherished friends and supporters of the Institute. We deeply appreciate all they have done to advance stuttering treatment and our mission to help people around the world achieve fluent speech.
For more information, contact HCRI by calling toll-free 855-236-7032 or sending an email.