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

Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.
Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.

Stuttering expert and clinical psychologist Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI), has written a compelling book about stuttering that dispels the myths that surround the disorder and its treatment. 

In his book, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, Dr, Webster provides new insights into stuttering from a scientific perspective. As the chapters unfold, he reveals how his advanced behavioral therapy system has helped thousands acquire the ability to control their stuttering and sustain fluent speech. 

CHAPTER 6 EXCERPT

Biological Foundations of Stuttering

I have come to understand that stuttering, per se, is not the problem; anomalous muscle contractions that yield distorted speech-organ movements represent the crux of the matter.

Chapter 6 quoteDisfluencies and subsequent personal reactions to stuttering are driven by the earlier-appearing disturbed motor events and incorrect vocal-tract shapes. The visibility of disfluencies and the strong personal impact they have upon the individual can serve as persistent forces that divert our attention from more fundamental aspects of the disorder.

Our verbal communication system is a distinctive human feature, uniquely grounded in our anatomy, physiology, and behavior. The pervasive appearance of stuttering in peoples around the globe suggests that this problem was present within our species at least sixty thousand years ago.

Stuttering spread throughout the world as peoples migrated, developed distinctive languages, and experienced changes in their physical features through the forces of evolution. Stuttering has probably ridden along with human evolution because of our species’ specialized biological form and function.

Incidence and Prevalence of Stuttering

The common patterns in the incidence and prevalence of stuttering flow from its biological basis. When we refer to the incidence of stuttering we are calling attention to how many people have stuttered at some point in their lives. Prevalence, however, refers to how many people are stuttering at a particular moment in time. Thus, the incidence of stuttering is approximately 5 percent, with most of the cases reporting that their stuttering occurred during their preschool years (Andrews and Harris, 1964; Manson, 2000).

In the adult population, stuttering has a prevalence of approximately 1 percent, with slight evidence that the actual value may be a bit smaller at about .73 percent (Craig, A., Hancock, Craig. M, and Peters, 2002). An important study of 3,404 school-age children presented data showing a prevalence of 2.43 percent (Proctor, Duff, and Yairi, 2002; Yairi and Ambrose, 2005). There were no differences noted in prevalence across ethnic groups in this same study.

One of the fascinating aspects of stuttering is that…

[end of excerpt from Chapter 6]

From Stuttering to Fluent SpeechFor 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.

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

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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.

 

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.”

————————————
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.

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.

 

——————–

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.

Chapter 2 Excerpt – From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief

The following is the second in a series of chapter excerpts from the insightful and innovative book on stuttering, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, written by Ronald. L. Webster, Ph.D. An expert on stuttering, Dr. Webster is a clinical psychologist and president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org.).

CHAPTER 2 EXCERPT

How Stuttering Became a Universal Problem

There are fascinating unanswered questions about the origin of stuttering. How long ago did stuttering appear in human speech? What factors enabled stuttering to become a universal problem that appears in all language groups? Are there present-day implications about the cause of stuttering that flow from its possible origins? New tools have been developed that may enable us to suggest possible answers to some of these questions.

GeneticsWe live in exciting times. Recent advances in genetic analysis have provided opportunities to look into the molecular structure of life itself. Advanced forms of genetic analysis have generated new insights into human evolution that can guide our thinking about the origins of stuttering.

These new forms of genetic analysis deal with mutations in DNA molecules that lie outside the human genome and thus are not available for recombination during the normal course of reproduction. Rates of mutations can be calculated for different types of DNA, and identification can be made of patterns of mutations that are passed from generation to generation. Analysis of DNA sequences can reveal the distinctive genetic variations for different groupings of the human species.

In fact, these new methods provide a virtual time machine that allows us to travel back through the centuries and identify when specific elements of genetic material first appeared in the DNA of our species. Recent analyses of the evolution of the FOXP2 gene, identified as the first gene clearly associated with the human capability to develop language, have indicated that the human variant of this gene was established in the past two hundred thousand years.

Thus, the time of appearance for the FoxP2 gene is consistent with the notion that the rapid expansion of humans to locations beyond East Africa was driven by the presence of increased speech and language abilities (Enard, Przeworski, Fisher, Lal, Weibe, Kitano, et al. 2002).

As we shall see, genetic analyses have indicated that there were two population “bottlenecks” in human evolution that occurred about 135,000 years ago. At the time of the first bottleneck, offspring of a single female became the survivors from whom all of us are descended. Sometime later, when the second bottleneck occurred, offspring of a single male became the survivors from whom we have all evolved.

… [end of excerpt from Chapter 2]

From Stuttering to Fluent SpeechFor more information about Dr. Webster’s book, 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.

Chapter 1 Excerpt – From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief

Book written by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.

bookcover1aStuttering 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 and psychologist Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. dispels the myths that surround the disorder and takes readers on a compelling journey into stuttering from a scientific perspective.

Dr. Webster explains the origin of stuttering, possible causes, and how his nonprofit center, Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) uses cutting-edge science to successfully treat stuttering. The following is the first in a series of chapter excerpts from his in-depth book.

CHAPTER 1 EXCERPT

A Unique Problem in a Most Special Species

Stuttering is a most special problem. It rides within the flow of language—specifically, spoken language. My work has involved examining stuttering as a set of phenomena in nature. I have searched for patterns of lawfulness within this problem. I believe that the discovery of unique patterns among physical events in stuttered speech can set the stage for both developing a way to explain stuttering and to construct an effective treatment program for it.

Stuttering is special in a cosmological sense. Look up into the clear, dark night sky. The naked eye allows us to see about a thousand stars. Occasionally, we are able to see planets or watch man-made satellites cross above us. We can also make out a faint band of stars, the Milky Way, streaming across the sky.

There is much more out there in the night sky beyond the scope of the human eye. Trillions of stars and billions of galaxies are spread throughout the universe. The numbers are so large and the distances so vast that they are difficult to comprehend. It is amazing to grasp the idea that the distance light can travel in a year is a standard unit of measurement in the study of the universe.

Stop for a moment and consider the billions upon billions of galaxies that make up the universe. At the present time, we know of only one where stutterers are found. That is the Milky Way galaxy, characterized as a spiral nebula over one hundred light years across, about ten light years thick, and consisting of hundreds of billions of stars. Our solar system—comprised of the sun, eight planets, and a variety of moons, asteroids, and comets—lies in the Orion-Cygnus arm of the Milky Way galaxy, about twenty-seven thousand light years from its center.

In our solar system, there is only one location where stuttering is found: that is on planet Earth, the third planet from the sun. Even though the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (the SETI project) continues, to date, there are no signs of life beyond Earth. Clearly, this planet is an unusually distinctive place.

Stuttering is special, not only in terms of galactic distribution but also when viewed against the broad range of animal species represented on our planet. It has been estimated that there are more than two million animal species on planet Earth. However, there are a relatively small number (about five thousand) of mammalian species.

It is particularly meaningful that only a single mammalian species uses the distinctive and powerful form of communication identified as language. Of course, that species is the modern human, Homo sapiens sapiens. The important point is that while many different animals demonstrate communication, the evidence indicates that the powerful tool of syntactic language is unique to humans and is a necessary condition for the presence of stuttering.

In my view, speech represents the most complex naturally occurring individual behavior humans produce. The complexity of speech production can represent a barrier to trying to understand stuttering. However, if we take time to learn and understand some of its basic properties, we can begin to make sense out of the miracle of our speech—and we can improve our understanding of stuttering.

… [end of excerpt from Chapter 1]

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.

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.