Positivity, Commitment and Faith Paved the Way to Fluency for Clemson University Student Russ Smith

College sophomore Russ Smith is intensely focused on his career goal of becoming a specialist in the field of dentistry. He maintains a rigorous academic schedule as a biochemistry major with a double minor in financial management and biology at Clemson University. Along with his studies, he serves as a recreational program leader on campus, participates in internship opportunities, and volunteers his time to help others.

HCRI Therapy Participant Russ Smith
Russ Smith

To meet the challenges of his educational and co-curricular demands, Russ faces each day with a positive mindset, commitment to succeed, and reliance on his deep, enduring faith. These same attributes also helped him take action to overcome his severe stutter, a speech condition he lived with since early childhood.

While growing up, school classmates and friends were accepting of his stuttered speech. Though, each day presented unpredictable communication challenges.

“The people who knew me appreciated me for the person I am. Yet, having a stutter was hard to deal with mentally because I didn’t know how it was going to manifest itself at any moment – or in the future.” he explained. In retrospect, Russ noted that his stuttering helped him become tougher, more resilient, and more determined than ever to succeed in life.

During high school, Russ resolved to do something about his stuttering once and for all. He had unwavering support from his parents. Together they researched treatment options and learned about the unique stuttering therapy at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) in Roanoke, Virginia. They liked the fact that HCRI is a science-based treatment program, which teaches participants life-long skills to control stuttering and talk fluently at will.

According to HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., the HCRI therapy program has been tested with thousands of stuttering cases that range from mild to severe. “Our behavioral therapy was invented here at our stuttering research and treatment center. HCRI therapy features detailed clinical protocols and advanced technology that systematically teach participants how to control stuttering’s repetitions, prolongations and voice blockages.”

Research demonstrates that 93 percent of HCRI participants achieve fluent speech by the end of their 12-day program. Follow-up studies reveal 70 to 75 percent maintain fluency when tested one and two years after therapy.

Russ is quick to point out that HCRI stuttering treatment is rigorous and involves eight hours of intense therapy each day, plus homework. “You have to be totally committed to the program. Only then will you see strong fluency results and a lasting speech transformation.”

When Russ attended HCRI stuttering therapy, he was 15 years old. He entered the program not knowing what to expect. With “blind faith” he followed the treatment process with precision. He saw his speech improve with each day. After 12 days, Russ achieved the ability to control his stuttering and speak fluently.

Remarking about his new-found fluency, Russ said it was a feeling of “absolute freedom.” At the same time, he emphasizes that HCRI stuttering therapy is not a magic pill. Acquiring and sustaining the skills to speak fluently requires hard work while in therapy and practice post treatment.

“For our clients, we are a partner in fluency for life,” Dr. Webster said. His nonprofit center encourages participants to maintain ongoing phone contact with HCRI’s clinical team – even years after treatment. To help clients maintain robust fluency once they leave, HCRI provides post-therapy resources and networking opportunities, including online practice software, retreats, refresher courses, and client-run practice groups.

Russ believes the opportunity to network is an exceptional benefit offered by the Institute. He attends HCRI events and volunteers his time to facilitate a weekly HCRI practice group that helps other alumni keep their speech skills at peak levels.

“I couldn’t pursue a career in dentistry without HCRI stuttering therapy,” Russ said. “The dentist-patient interaction goes on all the time, every day– and requires consistently proficient communication. I’m blessed to have that ability now thanks to HCRI.”

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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.

More than 6,500 people from across the U.S. and 50 countries have come to HCRI for stuttering treatment. Clients come from all walks of life and 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.

2017 HCRI Alumni Retreat

April 29-30, 2017 – Roanoke, Virginia

 

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.

2017 HCRI Alumni RetreatThe 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.

For more information and to sign up, click here: Register Today!

For questions, contact Linda Booth or Bonnie Witt at 540-265-5650, 855-236-7032 or info@stuttering.org.

Chapter 5 Excerpt – From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief

Book on stuttering by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.Stuttering is one of the most misunderstood and mistreated of human disorders. In his book, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, stuttering expert Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. dispels the myths that surround the condition and takes readers on a captivating journey into stuttering from a scientific perspective. 

The following continues the series of chapter excerpts from this compelling book on stuttering.

CHAPTER 5 EXCERPT

Stuttering and the Arrow of Time

The problem with stuttering is that stuttering is not the problem. This is a paradoxical statement, yet I believe it is accurate. This chapter will expand the definition of what we now refer to as stuttering by showing that additional levels of observation are required in order to better understand the events involved in this problem.

Stuttering Book ExcerptEarlier I made the point that stuttering is inferred when, during speech initiation, particular observed speech events occur. However, as I indicated in the previous chapter, the simple identification of these behaviors and their cognitive/emotional consequences provides an incomplete and not particularly practical view of the problem.

Figure 4.1, in the previous chapter, presents a schematic illustration of the elements that appear in the legacy definition of stuttering. Note that in this model, the behavioral manifestations of disfluent speech are fundamentally important. Their presence gives rise to the accessory behaviors arrayed immediately below the disfluent speech events.

In addition, the disfluent speech activities and the accessory behaviors, together, are seen to generate activity within the cognitive/emotional domain as others react to the speech of the individual involved. In addition, the individual processes his or her experiences and establishes their meaning in his or her own manner. In my opinion, something is missing in this equation.

The legacy model recognizes specific behavioral events that are identified as the elements that permit the inference of stuttering. Note, however, that the behaviors identified in the model are behaviors by type; they are not stuttering. I believe that there is a critical need to sustain our focus on behavioral details because that, frankly, is where the action occurs…

… [end of excerpt from Chapter 5]

For more information about From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, visit Amazon.com. To learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, click here: www.stuttering.org.

Roanoke Valley Serves as an Inspiring Backdrop for HCRI’s International Stuttering Treatment Center

Participants in the Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) stuttering therapy program, held in Roanoke, Virginia, come ready to immerse themselves for 12 consecutive days to acquire skills that enable a lifetime of fluency.

Before arriving at the Institute, program participants engage in multiple communications by phone, mail and email with members of the HCRI team. This ensures attendees know exactly what to expect from their therapy experience and what is required to maximize fluency outcomes.

An evening view of Roanoke, Virginia -Photo by Joe Ravi

While attendees are well-informed about HCRI’s comprehensive behavioral treatment system, they often are surprised by the mountainous, lush beauty of the Roanoke area and the plethora of available activities.

Since the program’s 12 days are packed with therapy activities, many individuals make plans to return to the area or extend their stay to take in the recreation and area attractions.

Something for Everyone

McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed places on the Appalachian Trail. – RoanokeOutside.com

Outdoor activities abound in the Roanoke Valley with the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains, inspiring trails, expansive parks, scenic overlooks, lakes, wildlife, and rivers. From hiking and biking to kayaking and fishing, the Roanoke Valley offers enticing recreation to appeal to nearly every interest.

The Appalachian Trail goes through the Roanoke area and offers superb hiking, along with spectacular views. Other scenic trails pepper the area and offer fun and challenging hiking and mountain-biking adventures.

Smith Mountain Lake covers 20,600 acres and offers water activities and entertainment for all ages.
Smith Mountain Lake covers 20,600 acres and offers water activities and entertainment for all ages.

Nearby Smith Mountain Lake, with its 500 miles of beautiful shoreline, is a hub of activity for all types of water sports, including boating, skiing and swimming.

For anglers, the James River offers some of the best fishing in the state. The river is ideal for kayaking, canoeing and river tubing, as well.

The Blue Ridge Parkway offers unforgettable views of long-range vistas, pastoral landscapes and mountainscapes.
The Blue Ridge Parkway offers unforgettable views of long-range vistas, pastoral landscapes and mountainscapes.

For more leisurely outdoor activities, the Blue Ridge Parkway is minutes from Roanoke and a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon driving in the midst of breathtaking scenery. There are many overlooks along the way and places to picnic while taking in the views.

Visitors also enjoy spending time strolling and biking along the miles of Roanoke Valley Greenways that weave through the heart of the city and beyond. Plus, there are more than 70 parks in the area to enjoy.

Roanoke Star
The Roanoke Star is a popular destination and offers two overlooks with picturesque views of the city. -VisitRoanokeVa.com

Unique Attractions and Cultural Experiences

The Roanoke area features a wide range of appealing sights and attractions. These include the famous mountaintop Roanoke Star, the city’s charming historic downtown, unique shops, and award-winning restaurants.

Roanoke is rich in museums, including The Taubman Museum of Art, Virginia Museum of Transportation, Harrison Museum of African American Culture, Science Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke Pinball Museum, O. Winston Link Museum, History Museum of Western Virginia and others.

The area is host to a growing number of craft breweries and wineries that offer tours and tastings. The city provides a full calendar of special events, theater, concerts, and festivals throughout the year.

Easy Access

Our friendly city is easily accessible and within a day’s drive of 65% of the U.S. population. If you choose to fly, you will find the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport a short 15-minute drive to the Institute.

When you schedule your HCRI therapy, we will provide you with a list of area lodging options and contact information for reservations. We have negotiated special rates for HCRI program participants at nearby hotels – some within walking distance of the Institute – to help reduce your travel costs.

To learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, please reach out by calling 855-236-7032 or send an email. Our website, www.stuttering.org, provides a host of helpful information, before-and-after therapy videos, and HCRI’s online therapy application.

For more about things to do in the Roanoke area, click here: VisitRoanokeVa.com.

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.

Farewell to a Dear Friend and Hero – John Glenn

john-glenn
John Glenn

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.

HCRI President Dr. Ron Webster with Annie and John Glenn at the Institute's 35th Anniversary Event
HCRI President Dr. Ron Webster with Annie and John Glenn at the Institute’s 35th anniversary event.

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.

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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.