Overcoming Stuttering with HCRI Opened Doors for Harvard-Bound Justin Ernest

Justin Ernest is heading to Harvard Business School this fall after four years working for Coca Cola in the company’s Capital Markets Group. The Atlanta, Georgia native is eager to start his advanced degree and will study entrepreneurship and finance. His goal is to launch his own business after graduation

Justin Ernest

Working hard and taking on challenges are second nature for Justin. For as long as he can remember, he has coped with a severe stutter that impacted him academically and socially.

Answering questions in class, reading out loud, and giving presentations were ongoing challenges. Seeing how strangers responded when he tried to speak was unsettling, as well. Yet, Justin persisted with unwavering determination and a positive attitude.

Justin participated in different speech therapies to stop his stutter, but only experienced minimal improvement that was not lasting. He also tried an auditory feedback device to reduce stuttering. The device performed better than his therapy, yet it did not make him fluent.

Then, a friend in high school who also had a stutter told him about the stuttering therapy provided at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI ). The friend’s speech transformed from stuttering to fluency after attending. Justin researched HCRI’s behavioral treatment program and enrolled.

According to HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., “During HCRI’s stuttering therapy program, participants work with specially trained clinicians to systematically learn new, detailed speech behaviors that enable lasting fluency. Proprietary technology also is used in the treatment process to make fluency-skill acquisition easier for clients to master and sustain.”

HCRI stuttering therapy was developed in-house by the Institute’s research scientists and tested with thousands of stuttering cases. The science-based program includes 100 hours of intensive treatment in clinical and real world settings over 12 days.

“The therapy program at HCRI was more rigorous than I expected. It was fulfilling and exceeded my expectations,” Justin said. “There were 10 others in the program with me, ages 15 to 35, who came from across the country. Clinician’s taught us step-by-step how to replace stuttered speech with fluent speech in all types of situations,” he explained.

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

“Stuttering is a life-long issue and there is no cure. You have to consider all your options to manage it effectively. For me, HCRI was the answer,” Justin said.

Webster noted, “Highly motivated individuals like Justin are very likely to achieve long-term fluency with HCRI. A commitment to post-therapy practice is key to habituating newly acquired speaking skills.”

HCRI provides clients with a comprehensive package of post-therapy resources and clinician support. Since attending, Justin uses HCRI practice tools, manuals and software, as well as occasionally participates in training calls with other HCRI alumni. He also reaches out to his clinician whenever he needs assistance.

“Fluency has opened doors for me socially, academically and from a business perspective,” Justin said. “The ability to speak spontaneously wherever and whenever I want changed my life for the better,” he said.

Justin offers the following advice to others who stutter.

  • Focus on the positive
  • Be open and honest about your stuttering
  • Spend time with a supportive group of friends
  • Find a treatment approach that works for you
  • Seek out situations that bring out the best of your abilities

About HCRI – www.stuttering.org

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.


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.


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.