John and Annie Glenn – Reflecting on a Remarkable Couple Who Conquered Amazing Challenges

John and Annie Glenn at an HCRI alumni reunion
John and Annie Glenn attending an HCRI alumni reunion

John and Annie Glenn are beloved national heroes, each in their own right. With John’s recent passing, public interest in the couple’s remarkable lives has continued to grow.

John is recognized as a space pioneer and made history as the first man to orbit Earth. He made history again as the oldest astronaut to complete a space mission when he was 77 years old. In addition to his NASA contributions, John’s impressive military service and leadership as a four-term U.S. senator from Ohio will be long remembered.

For Annie, life was often overshadowed by the daily challenges brought on by her stuttered speech. As a severe stutterer, she was afraid to speak in social settings and meetings, use the phone, hail a taxi, order food in a restaurant, or summon help when needed. While she was able to adapt to get things done, her stutter held her back. John served as a tremendous support system for Annie, helping her navigate through life with her speech disability.

Her severe stutter was not known to many, even considering John’s very public profile. The couple often appeared together and John helped to shelter his wife from speaking opportunities whenever possible.

Then, when she was 53 years old, Annie and John saw television news coverage on NBC Today about the behavioral stuttering therapy developed by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI).

After she and John extensively researched the therapy approach, Annie enrolled in the science-based treatment program at HCRI in Roanoke, Virginia. By the end of her intensive therapy, Annie was able to  speak fluently for the first time in her life. She called John and it stunned him to hear her fluent voice over the phone.

 

HCRI therapy was the beginning of a new chapter in Annie’s life. With her new-found ability to talk at will, Annie seized opportunities to speak out on issues and help others. She became a national advocate for people with speech disabilities and provided hope and inspiration to many.

While John and Annie are known for their many accomplishments, the Glenns are admired for their loving, supportive marriage that is viewed as a role model for couples everywhere.

At HCRI, we continue to mourn John’s passing. He was a dear friend of the Institute and always accompanied Annie when she visited HCRI. John and Annie have helped raise stuttering awareness and the importance of receiving effective treatment. We are deeply grateful for all the couple has accomplished.

Following are links to some articles that have appeared over the years about Annie’s struggles with stuttering and the couple’s remarkable lives.

 

Achieving Fluency and Confidence with HCRI… that Led to a Proposal

Written by Courtney Stackhouse

The science-based stuttering therapy program at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) focuses explicitly on correcting muscle distortions and teaching new speaking skills that participants utilize to maintain fluency for a lifetime. As a behavioral therapy designed to help people achieve fluency, HCRI’s 12-day program does not include a psychological component.

Yet, those who participate gain self-confidence that comes from using their new skills and speaking fluently at will. For many clients, this newfound confidence is something they never experienced before attending HCRI stuttering therapy.

One such person is 26-year-old Byron Jones. Before Byron attended HCRI’s program, he had difficulty talking in front of strangers and friends alike. He tried a variety of therapies that proved to be unsuccessful. He practiced with numerous fluency teachers over the years and even tried an auditory-feedback device. Any positive results only lasted for a short amount of time. Byron had difficulty keeping the motivation to continue the work he was taught by his therapy providers because he saw no improvement.

The Decision to Try HCRI 

When Byron came across HCRI’s website at www.stuttering.org, he was hesitant to believe the Institute’s therapy would work for him. Before he completely gave up hope to ever speak fluently, he decided to consider HCRI. With the help of his mom, he carefully researched the Institute’s work and treatment approach.

He reviewed the information on HCRI’s website and watched pre- and post-therapy videos of past participants. These videos illustrate a typical client’s speech on Day 1 versus Day 12 of the program. The tremendous difference before and after therapy is what drove Byron to submit his application to HCRI’s stuttering therapy program.

Systematic Therapy Approach

He attended HCRI’s therapy program at the end of 2015 with seven other individuals. He spent twelve uninterrupted and challenging days learning techniques to help him control his distorted muscle movements. He received one-on-one instruction and guidance from HCRI’s specially trained clinicians and used the Institute’s proprietary technology during the therapy process.

First, Byron was taught how to control the muscle tension in his articulators, which include the tongue, lips, and jaw. He was then instructed how to focus on his breathing so that he would have a good supply of air for his speech. Having distorted breathing patterns makes it even harder for people with a history of stuttering to get their speech out.

Lastly, he was taught how to monitor and feel his vocal folds and keep them from slamming shut. People who are considered fluent speakers are able to control their muscles naturally, but those who deal with stuttering have to deliberately make their muscle groups cooperate. Byron was taught all of the necessary tasks to problem solve when he was having difficulty, along with how to continue working on his fluency skills for the rest of his life.

Achieving Fluency in 12 Days

Byron began his HCRI program by speaking with a disfluency level of over eight percent. After receiving treatment, his speech had improved to be less than one percent disfluency. Those who are considered to be fluent speakers have up to three percent disfluency.

Byron is pleased with his results and is quick to point out that therapy is not a cure. “The fluency skills I learned are something that I have to continue practicing daily,” he said. “Also, calling my HCRI clinician every one-to-two weeks helps keep me on track. Even a ten minute phone conversation can make a big difference.”

Byron and Betsy

After finishing his HCRI stuttering therapy program, Byron gained significant confidence from having the ability to speak fluently.

With his new speaking abilities, he was ready to take a huge life step with his girlfriend, Betsy.

Putting his Fluency to the Test

“We had been dating for fifteen months and have been friends for five years. We both know what we want in life and the timing was right. When you find someone you love and care for, it’s time to take the next step,” he said.

Christmas of 2016 was quickly approaching and Byron decided the time had come to ask Betsy to marry him. He called and spoke with his HCRI clinician before he was planning to propose to get some practice and tips on how to ask the anticipated question.

After tirelessly practicing what he wanted to say, on December 20, 2016 Byron asked Betsy to marry him. He hired a photographer to capture the special moment when he got down on his knee and confidently asked Betsy to be his wife. Betsy said yes.

“I know that this question is nerve-racking for everyone, especially for people with a history of stuttering. It was comforting to know that I had my fluent speech to make it less stressful,” Byron said. “I just practiced what I wanted to say, and my fiancé told me that I got through what I was saying without stuttering.”

Byron says that Betsy is very supportive of him and his journey to fluent speech. “She loves me the way I am and doesn’t care if I stutter. Yet, she helps me stay on track with my fluency skills because she knows it’s what I want.”

 

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About HCRI

HCRI was founded by Ronald L Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Virginia-based HCRI, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of scientifically derived therapy approaches.

Clients come from all walks of life and include broadcaster John StosselAnnie Glenn, wife of Senator and Astronaut John Glenn; as well as athletes, teachers, engineers, musicians, students, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, a supreme court nominee, and even royalty.

HCRI is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Va. 24019. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032.

How Gerald R. McDermott Conquered Stuttering with Determination, Innate Gifts and HCRI Therapy

The distinguished career of Gerald R. McDermott, Ph.D. spans many roles, including school principal, college professor, author, and pastor. These pivotal positions involve speaking in front of large groups, as well as talking one-on-one with individuals from all walks of life.

Gerald R. McDermott
Gerald R. McDermott

With his eloquent speech, no one would know Dr. McDermott struggled for years with a stuttering condition that began before he entered kindergarten. Throughout his school years, his unpredictable stutter made classroom participation difficult and embarrassing. He faced ridicule from others because of his speech.

Dr. McDermott, who is now Anglican Chair of Divinity, History and Doctrine at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, believes that facing the challenges of stuttering when he was young impelled him to push harder and excel more in life.

Like many people who stutter, Dr. McDermott tried different speech therapies during his youth. None of the treatments produced lasting fluency. So, he moved forward with his goals in spite of his speech. He was determined that his stuttering would not hold him back.

When he was a new professor at Roanoke College, a colleague suggested he look into the stuttering therapy program at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org). “I didn’t realize my stuttering was at a point that someone would mention I needed therapy. I was humiliated and in denial,” Dr. McDermott said.

Nevertheless, he contacted the nonprofit institute, met with HCRI President and Founder Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., and then enrolled in the stuttering therapy program. For three intensive weeks, Dr. McDermott systematically relearned how to use his speech muscles and adjust his breathing. The skills he acquired enabled him to control his stutter and speak fluently for the first time in his life. It was hard work and unlike any other therapy he experienced.

“HCRI stuttering therapy was transforming. The change in my speech from beginning to end was dramatic,” Dr. McDermott noted. “Dr. Webster and his team are among the few experts in the world who know how to appropriately treat stuttering. The therapy strategy is brilliant and it works.”

Dr. Webster, who also is a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at Hollins University, invented the concept of comprehensive behavioral therapy for stuttering. He and his research team spent years investigating and developing his scientifically based treatment program that makes lasting fluency possible.

“We tested our stuttering treatment approach with thousands who stutter, representing a wide range of stuttering types and severity levels,” Dr. Webster said. “Our data consistently shows 93 percent of participants achieve fluency by the end of treatment and 70 to 75% maintain fluent speech when evaluated one and two years post therapy.”

Through the years, the HCRI team has continually refined the Institute’s stuttering therapy program, now 12 days in length. In addition, they created treatment technologies that make fluency skills easier to learn and maintain. More than 6,500 people who stutter from 50 countries have come to Virginia-based HCRI for stuttering therapy.

Famous Stutterers

According to Dr. McDermott, his struggles with stuttering yielded many life lessons and gifts. “It is easy to feel sorry for yourself when you are living with any type of disability – including stuttering. It can rob you of your joy if you aren’t careful,” he said.

“It is important to focus on the positive, get treatment that works, and consider how coping with stuttering makes you a better person,” he added. “Living with the disorder may drive a person to work harder, listen more, and have greater empathy for people with challenges.”

To provide inspiration to others who stutter, Dr. McDermott recently wrote a book, Famous Stutterers, that showcases 12 famous people who achieved greatness while struggling with their speech impediment.

The individuals profiled experienced anger and frustration like others who stutter. Yet, none let their stuttering prevent them from using their innate talents to make the world a better place. For a video trailer about the book, click here.

 

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About HCRI

HCRI was founded by Ronald L Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Virginia-based HCRI, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of scientifically derived therapy approaches.

Clients include broadcaster John Stossel; Annie Glenn, wife of Senator and Astronaut John Glenn; as well as athletes, teachers, engineers, musicians, students, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, a supreme court nominee, and even royalty.

HCRI is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Va. 24019. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032.

Overcoming Stuttering Enabled a Dream Career

Bethany Marcusson-Mercedes works at a thriving start-up company that specializes in educational technology. As an experienced educator and school administrator, she is uniquely qualified in her role as a trainer and teacher liaison to help the company transform classrooms around the globe using new mobile technology.

HCRI alumna Bethany Marcusson-Mercedes with her husband Chris.
HCRI alumna Bethany Marcusson-Mercedes is shown here with her husband Chris.

Bethany’s responsibilities involve regular travel and speaking in front of large groups of educators on an ongoing basis. With the confidence and expertise she exudes in her presentations, no one is aware that Bethany has lived with a stuttering condition that impacted her ability to speak fluently since the age of three.

Beginning in elementary school, Bethany’s parents were proactive and enrolled her in speech therapy to address her stuttering. While she worked hard in therapy year after year, she continued to struggle with her speech on a daily basis.

She confronted ongoing communication challenges and was mocked by classmates because of her stuttering. Yet, with ever-growing fortitude and the encouragement of her parents, she pushed forward with her young life and participated in school and extracurricular activities.

Then, when she was 16 years old, Bethany and her parents were introduced to an engaging woman at their church who also had a stuttering condition – yet spoke fluently. Bethany learned that her new friend participated in the stuttering therapy program at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) in Roanoke, Virginia where she acquired skills to speak fluently and spontaneously.

Developed by stuttering expert and HCRI Founder Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI stuttering therapy is a science-based, 12-day behavioral treatment that has been tested with thousands of stuttering cases. HCRI’s specially trained clinicians utilize detailed behavioral therapy protocols and advanced technology to systematically teach people how to replace abnormal muscle contractions that cause stuttering with specific, new muscle movements that generate fluent speech.

“Our center’s early research demonstrated that stuttering is a physical condition and not emotionally based. HCRI therapy teaches individuals how to control the physically derived repetitions, prolongations and voice blockages that characterize stuttered speech.” Webster explained. “During our treatment program, clients are methodically taught new ways of speaking that enable them to stop stuttering and generate fluent conversations in everyday situations.”

That meeting at church was a turning point in Bethany’s life. Her parents enrolled her in HCRI stuttering therapy. Bethany was excited about her treatment program and seized the opportunity to acquire skills that would enable her to take charge of her stuttering once and for all.

“I found HCRI stuttering therapy hard work. Each day was intensive and led to the next step in the treatment process. The other therapy participants and clinicians were an excellent support system throughout the program and afterwards,” Bethany said.

By the end of her treatment, the teen could speak fluently for the first time in her life. The therapy was transforming. Yet, Bethany knew that she had to commit to practicing her new speech skills every day once she returned home.

“Daily practice helped me habituate my fluency capabilities. While some days were harder than others, I continued to persevere to control my stuttering,” Bethany explained.

Even now, many years later, when she is preparing to speak in front of groups, Bethany mentally reviews the fundamental fluency principles she learned at HCRI.

“Without a doubt, I would not have the career that I have today without HCRI. The therapy and ongoing support from HCRI have made such a difference in my life,” she concluded.

Bethany’s Advice to Individuals who Stutter

  • Never let stuttering define you.
  • Don’t give up if you have a hard time.
  • Don’t let fears stand in the way of what you can achieve.
  • Get the help you need to make a difference in your life.
  • Stay connected to people, utilize available tools and have a support system you can always count on.

About HCRI

Hollins Communications Research Institute was founded by Ronald L Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Virginia-based HCRI, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of innovative, scientifically derived therapy approaches.

HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,500 individuals from across the U.S. and 50 countries. Research shows that 93% of therapy participants achieve fluency by the end of their 12-day program. Follow-up studies one and two years post therapy reveal 70-75% of clients maintain their fluent speech.

HCRI is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Va. 24019. For more information, contact HCRI at info@stuttering.org or 855-236-7032.

How Fluency Changed Scott Nickell’s Trajectory in Life

Scott Nickell spends his work days calling prospects, conducting face-to-face meetings, strategizing solutions with co-workers, and giving presentations to packed rooms of industry professionals.

Scott Nickell - HCRI Therapy Participant
Scott Nickell

As Business Development Manager for a leading distribution company, success depends on Nickell’s ability to effectively communicate with decision makers and convey how his company can transform their operational systems into a competitive advantage.

His daily communication requirements are demanding even for the most eloquent and powerful speakers. Though, the gift of speech isn’t something Nickell takes for granted – and it isn’t something that comes naturally or easily. He lives with a stuttering condition that surfaced in his youth.

In school, his stuttering hindered his ability to socialize and diminished his self-confidence. He couldn’t say certain words and struggled to communicate each day.

After trying traditional speech therapies with no success, Nickell’s parents heard about the unique behavioral therapy offered at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) in Roanoke, Virginia. They enrolled him in the intensive treatment program when he was 12 years old.

“My parents and I saw HCRI as the last shot. The ability to speak fluently meant everything to me and I was committed to giving 110 percent to the therapy program,” Nickell recalled.

He found HCRI stuttering treatment unlike any other therapy experience. It was hard work and he was the youngest of 10 participants in his therapy group. Yet, HCRI clinicians provided tremendous support and guided Nickell through each step in the treatment process.

According to HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI clinicians work one-on-one with therapy participants and help them learn new, specifically defined ways to use speech muscles that enable the ability to speak fluently. Webster and his research team invented HCRI’s comprehensive behavioral therapy approach, which has been tested with thousands of people who stutter and continually refined through the years.

“Today, the use of advanced computer technology and real-time speech measurement during therapy at HCRI makes fluency acquisition even easier and more precise for participants,” Webster said. “In addition, our post-therapy clinical support and a comprehensive package of practice tools keep participants on track with fluency throughout their lives.”

HCRI research demonstrates that 93 percent of therapy participants achieve fluent speech at the conclusion of their treatment. Between 70 and 75 percent of people maintain long-term fluency.

By the end of his HCRI program, Nickell spoke fluently for the first time in his life. When he returned home, people could not believe how well he spoke. It was exhilarating for the 12-year-old to talk like everyone else.

However, Nickell is quick to point out that it is easy to fall back to old speaking habits without ongoing practice of the speech skills he learned during treatment. In fact, he practiced his HCRI fluency techniques every day for many years.

“When you are a stutterer, how you talk is always in the back of your mind,” he said. “Even to this day, I recall my HCRI fluency training and take advantage of HCRI’s online fluency-practice tools that are available to alumni.”

Nickell believes his experience with HCRI at an early age changed his trajectory in life – from his educational achievement to his career success. “I talk every single day, every single hour, as part of my job. I love what I do. I would be in a completely different line of work if it hadn’t been for HCRI. I don’t know where I would be without fluent speech,” he added.

HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,400 people who stutter, aged 11 to 73, from 50 countries. Clients include students, broadcasters, athletes, teachers, engineers, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, paramedics, and others from all walks of life. For more information about HCRI stuttering therapy, visit www.stuttering.org.

Producer and Filmmaker Elan Dassani Overcomes Stuttering, Makes his Mark in an Industry Where Talk is Everything

 

Elan Dassani in MoscowAs a sought-after television series producer and filmmaker, Elan Dassani’s ability to effectually communicate with directors, actors, visual-effects artists, and staffers is paramount to his success.

On any given day, he may speak with up to a hundred people at a time. When he is not working on shows like Knight Rider or Scandal, he scouts locations or pitches decision makers on using the many production and special-effects services of his company, Master Key.

Along with industry expertise, Dassani’s ability to speak persuasively is his most important asset. Yet, it is also among his greatest challenges because Dassani is a stutterer. Since he was a young child, his ability to speak fluidly and spontaneously was hindered by stuttering, which made it difficult even to say his name.

His condition produced involuntary interruptions in his flow of speech. Dassani experienced intermittent blocks, repetitions and prolongations of sounds and syllables, which made it difficult to carry on conversations. To fix his stutter, he tried different treatments that ranged from wearing an auditory feedback device to meeting with speech therapists. None produced lasting fluency.

While in college, he learned about the unique behavioral therapy offered at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI), the same center that helped television broadcaster John Stossel overcome stuttering and catapult his career. Dassani decided to enroll and try HCRI’s stuttering therapy program.

Elan Dassani in Paris“The program was challenging and markedly different than any other stuttering treatment I experienced,” Dassani said. “The techniques and skills I learned at HCRI helped me proactively manage my stuttering and speak fluently in everyday situations.”

According to HCRI Founder and President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI stuttering therapy takes hard work, commitment and ongoing practice for optimal, life-long results. Developed by Webster and his research team – and tested with thousands who stutter, the therapy program is systematic and quality-controlled. HCRI participants work intensively with specially trained clinicians to learn new speech behaviors that replace distorted contractions and muscle movements that cause stuttered speech. The new behaviors enable people to generate fluent speech at will.

For Dassani, the ability to speak fluently makes life and what he wants to accomplish “easier and better.” He experienced firsthand the transforming impact fluency can have on someone’s life – professionally and personally.

He also acknowledges the importance of practicing HCRI fluency techniques on a regular basis. Practicing the behaviors taught during therapy helps sustain fluent speech for the long-term. When Dassani attended HCRI’s program, he was young and had a lot of ambitions that took time away from practice. Fifteen years after therapy, he noticed his speech was starting to degrade. So to get his fluency on track, he attended HCRI therapy a second time.

Now, his fluency has returned to the high levels he desires. He is committed to ongoing practice and follow-up with HCRI clinicians. He is using apps to serve as practice reminders and queues to focus on his fluency.

“There is no cure for stuttering. Yet, research demonstrates that HCRI therapy can help the majority of people who stutter acquire the ability to speak fluently.” Webster explained. “Elan Dassani is an excellent example of how fluency can open up doors of opportunity and enable people to reach their full potential in life.”

Dassani added, “I want people to know that stuttering is not insurmountable. There were times when I was frustrated and down in the dumps about my stuttering. Yet, you can get past it with the right treatment and focus,” he concluded.

HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,400 people, between the ages of 11 and 73, from across the U.S. and 50 countries. For more information about Virginia-based HCRI, visit www.stuttering.org.  To learn more about Elan Dassani and his company, MasterKey, visit www.mkvfx.com

Nathan Greiner Driven by Passion for Horses and Achieving Fluency

Equine trainer and clinic facilitator Nathan Greiner views his experience with stuttering therapy the same way he views how to effectively handle, care, and train challenging horses.

Achieve Fluency with HCRI Stuttering Therapy
Top/inset: HCRI Alumnus Nathan Greiner. Bottom: Greiner (left), Buck Brannaman (far right).

To achieve successful outcomes, he believes the root cause of the problem must be addressed rather than treating the symptoms with a temporary solution.

Three years ago, Greiner left an enviable position after 15 years with Fareway Stores, where his father serves as president, for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow his passion for horses.

He went to work for world-renowned horsemanship master Buck Brannaman. Brannaman inspired the character of Tom Booker in the Nicholas Evans novel The Horse Whisperer and the movie by the same name that starred Robert Redford. Greiner now travels the country organizing and staging Brannaman’s sought-after equine training clinics.

When he started working with Brannaman, Greiner noticed his life-long stuttering condition was becoming more pronounced. In the past, he masked his stuttered speech by controlling his environment and using word-substitution techniques.

Yet, the travel and physical demands of his new position, coupled with the need to continually communicate with up to 50 clinic participants at any given time, took their toll on his speech.

Over the years, Greiner participated in traditional stuttering therapy and met with a speech therapist one or two days a week for a period of time. Yet, the time and money he invested in treatment did not yield the fluency results he wanted.

“I was living with my stuttering and not addressing it. I got to the point that I didn’t want to grow old and regret the way I talked,” Greiner said.

Then, Greiner learned about Hollins Communication Research Institute (HCRI) and the nonprofit center’s unique approach to stuttering therapy. He saw an online video of TV broadcaster John Stossel discussing his former stuttering condition and participation in an intensive stuttering treatment program at HCRI. Stossel’s confident, commanding speech style and HCRI therapy experience resonated with Greiner. He contacted HCRI and enrolled in the therapy program.

According to HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI stuttering therapy is markedly different than traditional speech therapies for stuttering. “Our early research demonstrated that stuttering is physically based and needs to be treated at the muscular level. As a result, we used scientific principles to create, research and refine a comprehensive behavioral therapy program that addresses the problem of stuttering exactly where and when it occurs.”

HCRI stuttering therapy is an intensive program that teaches people who stutter how to replace faulty speech muscle movements, which cause the prolongations, repetitions and blocks of stuttering, with new muscle behaviors that produce fluent speech.

Specially trained clinicians conduct HCRI’s 12-day program in a small group setting at the institute’s headquarters in Virginia. Proprietary fluency training tools and therapy technology are used during the treatment process, which make acquiring new speech skills easier and more precise for therapy participants.

“I knew the therapy would be hard work. Yet, it is harder to live with stuttering,” Greiner said. “I was passionate about making it work. And, my experience with HCRI was great from the clinicians to the technology to the support staff.”

Greiner is quick to point out that HCRI stuttering therapy is not a magic formula or quick fix. Learning to systematically rebuild speech patterns takes commitment to the therapy process. Maintaining fluency after therapy takes regular practice because old speech habits can return. That’s why he regularly stays in touch with HCRI clinicians and other therapy participants to practice his speaking skills.

“When working with horses, Buck taught me the importance of dealing with their issues from the inside, so they will be right on the outside. Stuttering therapy is the same way. You’ve got to address the core of the problem that causes the stuttering and not just treat the symptoms. HCRI does exactly that,” Greiner concluded.

For more information on HCRI therapy, please click here: HCRI Stuttering Therapy Approach

12,000 Miles to Fluency

Eighteen-year-old “Riley” had difficulty talking and stuttered since his early childhood. He reached a time in his life when he wanted to tackle his stuttering once and for all. After evaluating all of his therapy options around the globe, Riley chose the 12-day stuttering therapy program at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org). HCRI’s physically based therapy approach and research-driven methodology resonated with him.

He contacted HCRI and enrolled in the program. Office manager Linda Booth and the HCRI team provided caring guidance, recommendations and information to Riley to help him fully prepare for his therapy and his trip. They took the time to answer all of his questions, shared what to expect during therapy, provided lodging options and travel advice, and made recommendations to help Riley feel comfortable and ready for his stuttering therapy session.

Traveling from faraway places to attend stuttering therapy at HCRI’s nonprofit center is not an unusual occurrence. In fact, over the past 40 years, teens and adults who stutter have come from 50 countries to participate in HCRI’s internationally recognized stuttering therapy program.

It came time for Riley to make the long journey from Australia to Roanoke, Virginia, where he would join nine others participating in the Institute’s stuttering therapy. His grandfather joined him on his lengthy trip and served as a support system when his therapy concluded each day.

At HCRI, he spent eight hours a day for 12 consecutive days working one-on-one with specially trained clinicians, practicing newly acquired speaking skills with other participants, and utilizing HCRI’s proprietary treatment technologies. Therapy took place in HCRI’s clinical setting, as well as in real-world environments. As each day passed, Riley’s speech continued to transform as his stuttering continued to diminish.

Riley worked intensively in therapy and successfully achieved fluent speech by the end of his treatment program. Following is a letter HCRI received from his grandfather, which was written two days before Riley’s therapy concluded.

Dear Linda,

We arrived from Australia two weeks ago. My grandson Riley has had a speech deficiency since he was a baby. Now he has almost completed his HCRI therapy program and is beginning to speak fluently.

We are “over the moon” with his progress. We believe his attendance at HCRI has been truly worth every mile of the twelve thousand miles we have travelled for his stuttering treatment. Riley is aware that, when he leaves your institute, he will need to continue to practice his targets and aim for habituation.

“Thanks a million” Linda for your care and assistance with this positive progress.

Yours sincerely,

Keith C.

HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,300 people who stutter, aged 11 to 73. Clients include broadcasters, athletes, teachers, engineers, students, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, paramedics, and other individuals from all walks of life. Before coming to HCRI, most program participants tried other therapies for stuttering without long-term success.

Research shows that 93 percent of HCRI participants achieve fluency in 12 days and 70 to 75 percent maintain fluent speech for the long term. For more therapy information, click here: HCRI’s Stuttering Therapy Approach or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032 or info@stuttering.org.

Composer and Violinist Richard Sortomme Overcomes Stuttering for the First Time in His Life with HCRI Stuttering Therapy

Composer and violinist Richard Sortomme of Mount Vernon, New York has spent his career perfecting melodies and minute details of musical tone, balance and flow. His work has led to breathtaking performances of his compositions by symphony orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and The Cleveland Orchestra, where he is working on his second commission that he says makes him the most grateful and fulfilled composer living today.

While his musical pieces move audiences and please critics with their inspiring sound, Sortomme struggles with a personal challenge related to sound – the ability to speak fluently. He is one of three million people in the U.S. and 66 million people worldwide who stutter.

According to the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, stuttering occurs when syllables or words are repeated or prolonged, disrupting the normal flow of speech. Stuttering ranges in severity and varies in different circumstances. It often hampers educational and career aspirations, inhibits social growth, and serves as a constant barrier to effective communication in life.

Sortomme stuttered since his youth. Though, he did not let his speech hinder his musical aspirations into adulthood. In recent years, he noticed his stutter worsening. He was particularly concerned when asked to deliver remarks and field questions in front of large audiences before orchestra performances.

“Few things could be more rewarding than having the opportunity to speak about a piece of music I composed,” Sortomme said. “Yet, I experienced trepidation verging on fear swirling around these speaking events.”

Determined to achieve excellence in his speech as he does with his music, in May of 2014 Sortomme attended the stuttering therapy program at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – http://www.stuttering.org) in Roanoke, Virginia.

Created by stuttering expert and HCRI Founder Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI stuttering therapy is an intensive, 12-day treatment that is grounded in science and continually refined, based on research with thousands of stuttering cases. The center’s clinicians utilize detailed behavioral therapy protocols and advanced technology to teach people how to replace abnormal muscle contractions that cause stuttering with specific, new muscle movements that generate fluent speech.

“Our early research revealed that stuttering is physical. The repetitions, prolongations and voice blockages that we label as stuttering are caused before a sound is ever spoken,” Webster explained. “While there is no cure, HCRI provides effective treatment by focusing where the problem occurs, which is at the muscular level.”

“I knew by the second day of stuttering treatment that the program would work, if I committed myself to what HCRI teaches,” Sortomme noted. He graduated from the therapy program with the ability to speak fluently. To sustain long-term results, he was advised by HCRI clinicians that he needed to practice his newly acquired fluency skills once he returned home.

Sortomme points out that HCRI stuttering therapy is not a quick fix or vaccination against stuttering. He emphasizes that a commitment to ongoing practice is essential for lasting fluency. HCRI provides all program participants with an extensive package of post-therapy tools and support, including unlimited phone and email contact with clinicians. Sortomme stays in regular contact with his clinician and rigorously practices his fluency skills every day.

His HCRI stuttering therapy and hard work yielded results. Only months after treatment, Sortomme served as host at the memorial service for his mentor and great American violinist, David Nadien, which was held at Lincoln Center in New York City. On stage, he spoke fluently and confidently.

“I manifested complete fluency at the memorial service, with none of the blockings or repetitions that plagued my speech for more than 50 years,” Sortomme said.

HCRI research demonstrates that 93% of therapy participants achieve fluency in 12 days and 70-75% maintain fluent speech when evaluated one and two years post treatment. More than 6,300 people from 50 countries have participated in HCRI stuttering therapy. Most program participants tried other stuttering treatments before coming to HCRI.

For Sortomme, the impact of his HCRI stuttering therapy extends beyond the ability to speak fluently for the first time in his life. He says the therapy helped reduce times of stress and he now feels more relaxed in his day-to-day interactions.

New Steps in the “Ballet of Speech” Create Life-Changing Possibilities for People Who Stutter

The innovative, 12-day stuttering therapy program at nonprofit Hollins Communications Research Institute is transforming the lives of people who stutter and opening doors of opportunity through fluency that were never before possible.

Alan Tonelson of Riverdale Park, Md. began stuttering as a young child. While most kids outgrow the inhibiting speech condition by the age of eight, Tonelson did not. He is among the three million people in the U.S. who live with stuttering, which can range from mild to severe. Throughout his youth, he participated in a variety of speech therapies, including attending in-school speech sessions and visits with private speech-and-language pathologists. None helped him achieve fluency.

Shannon Armes of Wilsons, VA had a similar experience. She started stuttering in grade school. After trying a range of treatment approaches, fluent speech continued to elude her. As she entered college and into adulthood, Armes’s stuttering eroded her self confidence. Her speech condition served as a constant barrier to educational, career and social opportunities.

Yet, the lives of Tonelson and Armes would soon change when they learned about an advanced, behavioral treatment for stuttering, developed at nonprofit Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI http://www.stuttering.org) in Roanoke, VA.

Created by stuttering expert and HCRI Founder Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI stuttering therapy is an intensive, 12-day treatment program that is grounded in science and continually refined, based on research with thousands of stuttering cases. The centers clinicians utilize detailed behavioral therapy protocols and advanced technology to teach people how to replace abnormal muscle contractions that cause stuttering with specific, new muscle movements that generate fluent speech.

Our early research revealed that stuttering is physical. The repetitions, prolongations and voice blockages that we label as stuttering are caused before a sound is ever spoken, Webster said. To provide effective treatment, at HCRI we focus where the problem occurs, which is at the muscular level.

Research shows that 93% of HCRI therapy participants achieve fluency in 12 days and 70-75% maintain fluent speech when evaluated one and two years post treatment.

According to Webster who is also a clinical psychologist, HCRIs approach to stuttering treatment is a systematic, step-by-step process that is analogous to the precision of a finely choreographed ballet. Each step in the process is critical and must be exact to enable success.

Tonelson noted, I attended HCRI stuttering therapy and saw a dramatic increase in my fluency. The therapy did its job. Yet for treatment to work over time, I continue to practice my speech skills on a regular basis.

While Tonelson began his career as a journalist, his ability to speak fluently opened significant doors of opportunity. Today, he is a well-known and respected expert on economic and globalization policy. He regularly appears on national television and radio programs to offer commentary and debate with other policy analysts.

In addition, he gives presentations to universities, government agencies, and business organizations around the globe. His book, The Race to Bottom, and blog, RealityChek (http://alantonelson.wordpress.com), feature his perspectives on economics, foreign policy, and politics that he has passionately voiced throughout his professional life. Tonelson says HCRI was a game changer for his career.

For Armes, the fluency skills learned at HCRI enabled her to take on key leadership roles within her community, secure a coveted promotion in customer service with her company, and win highly competitive Toastmasters International speaking awards.

With her impressive communication and strong management abilities, Armes is now president of her area’s Motivational Toastmasters Club and serves as an area governor overseeing five other Toastmasters International clubs in the Richmond, Va. area.

Yet, reciting her wedding vows without stuttering was among the greatest gifts she experienced from fluency.

Learning to speak fluently whenever and wherever I choose has changed my life. HCRI’s rigorous fluency training was hard work and it takes daily practice. Though, the therapy made a remarkable difference in what I can do every day, she said.

Tonelson and Armes are among the 6,300 people from 48 countries who have participated in HCRI stuttering therapy. Most program participants tried other stuttering treatments before coming to HCRI for stuttering help.

About HCRI
Hollins Communications Research Institute was founded by Ronald L Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Virginia-based HCRI, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of innovative, scientifically derived therapy approaches.

Clients come from all walks of life and 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, a supreme court nominee, business professionals, police officers, actors, and even royalty.

HCRI is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Va. 24019. For more information, visit http://www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI by calling toll-free 855-236-7032.