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HCRI Alumni Tell Their Stories

Joe S.
Boston, Massachusetts

I spent my life avoiding new situations where I would have to interact with people. I wouldn’t go to new restaurants because I didn’t want to be faced with trying to say my order to the waiter. The small things that people take for granted – like talking on the telephone or answering questions – were hard for me because of my stuttering.

My speech not only inhibited my social life, it caused difficulties and embarrassment in my work as a trial court officer and when I helped with my family’s funeral home business.

I attended HCRI when I was young and didn’t keep up with the program or take it seriously. As I got older, I experienced even more difficulty with stuttering and decided to go back and attend the therapy program again. This time I was more mature, applied the techniques I learned, and saw results. There was close to a 100 percent improvement in my communication.

The clinicians worked with me one-on-one and made sure I fully understood what they were teaching. It was incredible how much time they spent with me. They wanted to ensure I fully understood what to do and why I needed to do it. While I still have my moments, my speech is more controllable now than it was before.

Communicating is much easier and better. I am comfortable introducing myself, answering questions and speaking in public. With HCRI, there’s a lot to it. You only get out of it what you put into it. Life for me is greatly improved.

Henry K.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

While it was always a struggle, I never let my stuttering stop me as I went through school and started on my career path. Yet, I always felt like I paid a price for each of my accomplishments. That price meant dealing with immense fear, anxiety, and stress every time I needed to communicate.

When I started working after business school, I realized how important strong communication skills were to my future. To advance in my field, I needed to master public speaking and effortlessly give presentations, participate in meetings and talk on the phone.

Since childhood, I have participated in different types of speech therapy and even tried using a special device designed to help with stuttering. None of the approaches helped with my fluency.

Then I was told about HCRI by a senior executive from my company who took a special interest in my career development. She knew of a colleague who had tremendous success with the Hollins program and put me in touch with him. Soon thereafter, I went to Roanoke and participated in the program. It was the first time any speech therapy had worked. At HCRI, I learned techniques and exercises that enabled me to speak fluently.

Since attending the program, my fear and anxiety from stuttering have been replaced with enjoyment and anticipation. I've advanced to a new position with my company and now look forward to presenting in front of groups and talking with business associates.

While I didn't recognize doors being closed before I went to HCRI, now I definitely see them opening.

Leigh B.
Seattle, Washington

I’ve stuttered since I uttered my first sentence. Yet, I consider myself lucky to have dealt with the challenge of stuttering at such a young age. During school and into adult life, I regularly faced difficult situations and frustration because of the way I talked. Though, I was determined to stay positive and become stronger because of it.

My journey to fluency included many unsuccessful treatment attempts that included speech therapy in elementary school, unproductive sessions with a psychologist, and visits to a speech clinic once every two weeks during high school. None of these efforts produced results.

After high school, I went to college and also became an avid mountain climber and windsurfer. My outdoor activities required significant mental focus, self-control and self-reliance. I learned how to manage my fear and maintain a sense of calm. At the time, I didn’t consider that these acquired abilities would help me with fluency.

Upon graduation, I traveled the world and grew even more self-assured. I also ran my own mountaineering school. Yet, I knew I needed to bring my stuttering under control to pursue the next chapter in my life. Then, I learned about the behavioral stuttering therapy at HCRI. I was drawn to HCRI’s approach and intensity of therapy. The treatment strategy made sense to me and I enrolled in the program.

At HCRI, I worked one-on-one with specially trained clinicians and learned how to replace faulty muscle behaviors that cause stuttering with new speech motor skills that enable fluency. My self-reliance and ability to adapt, which I cultivated through my outdoor hobbies, served me well in achieving success during therapy.

After attending therapy, I was able to manage my stuttering for the first time in my life. HCRI treatment provided me with the tools I needed to speak fluently. When I start stuttering in stressful situations, I know just what I need to do to regulate my speech.

I decided to go to law school and follow in my father’s footsteps. Today, I have a busy law practice and am carrying on my father’s legacy. I attribute my ability to overcome stuttering to having the right attitude, learning from my experiences, and getting the right stuttering treatment with HCRI.

Larry P.
Buffalo, New York

As long as I can remember, I was shy and unsure of myself because of my stuttering. While academically successful in school, kids made fun of me because of my stuttering.

Sometimes my classmates were nasty and even brutal. My parents tried to help by taking me to psychologists and speech therapists. Yet, those professionals didn’t know how to treat stuttering and the therapy didn’t work.

When I was older, I got a job that required some interaction with people. I was so fearful of using the telephone that I would take the time to drive and meet with people in person rather than call them. Throughout my life, when I made phone calls, people would hang up on me because I couldn’t get my words out when they answered. It was so demeaning. On the personal front, my dating life was terrible. Women weren’t interested in seeing me after the first date. I was convinced that I was going to be a life-long bachelor.

Then I heard about HCRI and went through the program. It changed my life. Finally I was able to talk fluently, have conversations on the phone, express myself, and look people in the eye during discussions. I gained self-confidence and felt good about myself.

With the stuttering therapy and ongoing practice, my life dramatically improved – professionally and personally.

Patrick D.
Edmond, Oklahoma

My stuttering didn’t bother me when I was a child. Though, my parents arranged for me to participate in speech therapy while I was in school. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I became more self-conscious and concerned about the impact stuttering was having on my life.

I continually worried about my ability to communicate and would go to great lengths to avoid situations where I would have to speak to others. When I began interviewing for jobs as college graduation approached, my stuttering became even more pronounced. As a result, I went for some therapy at a nearby university and found it to be a turning point.

Going through the treatment process enabled me to be open and honest about my stuttering problem instead of pretending like it didn’t exist. My speech improved and I landed a job that I liked.

Yet, the results of my earlier treatment didn’t last. A few years later, my stuttering became more pronounced and I decided to go through the HCRI program. I chose Hollins because the institute specializes in the treatment of stuttering – and no other types of speech issues. I found HCRI’s approach more advanced and sophisticated. It made a real difference in my life.

Shannon A.
Wilsons, Virginia

Throughout my life, my stuttering eroded my confidence and served as a constant barrier during school, at work and in social settings. When I graduated from college, I knew I needed to make fluency a priority in my life if I was going to achieve my full potential.

I worked as an administrative assistant at that time and wanted to position myself for greater responsibility with the company. So I looked into a variety of different stuttering therapy programs. I enrolled in HCRI’s fluency program because I discovered the therapy is designed to work in the real world – and that’s exactly what I needed.

HCRI treatment was intensive. I spent 100 hours over 12 days retraining my speech muscles and acquiring skills to speak fluently. By the end of therapy, I was able to control my stuttering.

Soon after I returned to work with my new fluency skills, I was approached by management to serve as co-chair of a company organization that promotes collaboration, community service and outreach. With new found confidence, I seized the opportunity.

The new role required me to speak in front of management and staff on a regular basis. I would have never been able to do that before going through HCRI's program. Now I consider public speaking opportunities a chance to put my fluency skills to the test and help make a difference in the lives of others.

Learning to speak fluently whenever and wherever I choose has changed my life. I have since joined Toastmasters, received a promotion, and taken on greater responsibilities – at work and as a community volunteer. I also help HCRI by leading phone practice groups and workshops. Maintaining fluency takes daily practice. Yet, my ability to speak fluently makes a remarkable difference in my life.

Christopher M.
Medford, Oregon

My stuttering didn’t get in the way of my education or social life as I was growing up. I was highly determined and learned how to adapt my speech by replacing words and avoiding certain speaking situations.

When I graduated from law school, I landed a position as a personal injury attorney. My days were spent talking with clients, making calls, and doing public speaking. The techniques I previously used to mask my stuttering, including word substitution, were no longer working for me.

With the law, you can’t replace one word with a different one simply because you are having trouble saying it. I found myself unable to say things I needed to say. As a result, I grew increasingly concerned about my stuttering. I felt my speech was being misperceived and undermined my effectiveness on the job. A lot of my disfluencies were blockages where I couldn’t get a particular word to come out when I tried to speak. It looked to outside observers that I couldn’t figure out what I want to say.

I also had ambitions to become a public defender, a role requiring excellent, persuasive speaking abilities in court. I knew it was time to address my speech disorder if I was going to succeed as a courtroom attorney.

I read about HCRI in a book written by broadcast journalist John Stossel, I was intrigued and reviewed HCRI’s website for more information. I decided to enroll. By the end of my therapy program, I spoke fluently for the first time in my life.

Without HCRI therapy, I could not talk to my clients or be effective in court. There are still times when I stumble on words; but, HCRI’s practice tools and clinician support helps me get through that.

Gladys R.
Centreville, Maryland

My stuttering started when I was six years old. The range of therapies I tried through the years failed to help me stop stuttering. Then, I read about HCRI’s scientifically based approach to stuttering therapy. It was different than other treatments I tried so I enrolled in the 12-day intensive program.

Participating in HCRI’s program was rigorous. Yet, it was the first therapy that worked for me. Before treatment, I would substitute one word for another so I could get my words to flow properly. After treatment, I could say what I wanted, when I wanted.

With stuttering, I was sometimes limited in my role as a high school educator and Spanish teacher. After HCRI therapy, I was able to do more for my students and become involved outside of the classroom. I now serve as chair for my school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program, which is a national initiative designed to enhance academic and behavioral outcomes in students. As chair, I regularly speak in front of groups and call on businesses.

My fluency skills make all the difference in my ability to do more to help my students excel. In addition to my increased responsibilities at school, I joined Toastmasters and won first place in an area speech competition.

Maintaining fluency requires ongoing practice, which I do nearly every day. Since I’m bilingual, I practice the skills I learned at HCRI in both Spanish and English. I also went back to HCRI for a five-day refresher training to sharpen my speaking skills in both languages for the benefit of my students.

Anthony S.
Aurora, Colorado

Participating in the HCRI therapy program gave me greater confidence and enabled me to take on leadership roles in my academic career that I never before would have considered.

When I began my career as a teacher in Aurora, Colorado, my speech was not a major concern. I could control the environment in my classroom and create structure that helped me manage my stuttering. Yet, once I became a school administrator, things changed. My stuttering was increasingly interfering with daily tasks.

Because of my stuttering, I was not comfortable doing presentations, speaking up in meetings, or talking on the telephone.

I decided to enroll in the HCRI stuttering therapy program. My fluency continued to improve with each day of treatment.

Since stuttering is a journey that continues through life, I realized when I returned home that I needed to regularly practice the breathing, articulating and other skills I learned at HCRI to maintain my fluency..

Soon after attending HCRI, I landed a new job with even greater responsibility and now serve as the Chief Operating Officer for Aurora Public Schools. With practice and fluent speech, I have more self-assurance than ever before and can comfortably talk in front of people whenever the need arises.

Sander A. Flaum

As a stutterer since childhood, I knew I had to work smarter and harder than fluent speakers to be successful in everything from school to career. I tried many different types of therapy over the years to address my stuttering. The results were either disappointing or temporary. As a young adult, I heard about HCRI and the Institute’s scientific approach to therapy. I decided to give it a try and went for treatment. For the first time, I was taught life-long skills that enabled me to speak fluently.

With my new-found communication abilities and a continuing drive for excellence, Iwas able to excel through the ranks of a global corporation. One day, I was told by a Human Resources representative that I would soon be appointed to head up the company. Yet, when it came time for the board of directors to vote, they chose someone else to fill the position.

It was a tremendous blow – especially since I had turned down a lucrative job offer on the assurance that I was in line for the big job. I left the company and put my expertise and success strategies to work for another organization; this time it was an advertising agency.

One day, shortly after I left, I received a call from a board member from my former company. He was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer and wanted to meet with me right away. He wanted me to know something before he passed away. In our conversation, he revealed that he had resigned because one board member, who had heard my stuttering speech before HCRI treatment, convinced others that my stuttering was a symptom of mental illness and I could not be trusted to lead the company.

I was shocked by the news and resolved that day to prove my abilities by making my current company the best in the world. Fifteen years later, the organization rose to the top of the ad agency world and I had accomplished my goal.

I am a stutterer and am always going to be a stutterer. I am fluent most of the time because I practice each day the techniques I learned at HCRI. We must use what we have. I believe the miracle is in each of us to succeed.

Mr. Flaum has generously created the Rose Flaum Scholarship to honor his mother and help others who stutter realize their full potential and joy in life.

Andrea A.

I want to thank HCRI for being part of my journey in reaching my dreams. I finished my Political Science degree and graduated from college. Also, I got a flat 1 (or A+ grade equivalent) on my college thesis.

All of this was possible because of HCRI stuttering therapy and my attaining fluency. I am grateful to everyone who gave me the wonderful opportunity, especially Dr. Webster, Clinicians Holly Humphreys and Can Smith, Office Manager Linda Booth, and the sponsors who contributed to my scholarship. You will all be forever in my heart.

As I embark on a new chapter in my life, I will still be working hard to maintain my fluency. HCRI made a great difference in my life. It helped open new doors of opportunities I never thought would be there and gave me courage and confidence.

Russell W.
Springfield, New Jersey

I grew up as a severe stutterer and always avoided situations where I would have to talk, including never wanting to use the phone. I was always aware of what other people thought and the many misconceptions that exist about stutterers.

Some people assumed I stuttered because of nerves. Others thought my speech issues were related to a mental condition or lack of intelligence. At one point, a college professor told me that he thought I stuttered because I had been struck by lightning.

While I saw a number of speech therapists, HCRI was the first therapy program that enabled me to get control of my speech. Finally, I could talk fluently. I was a freshman in college at the time and believe HCRI helped me open doors and go places in my life that I never thought possible.

Having fluent speech enabled me to more actively participate in my education, assume leadership roles, volunteer as a basketball coach, and help achieve my career aspirations. What you learn at HCRI doesn’t last just a few weeks – it lasts forever.

Kevin M.
Arlington Heights, Illinois

I had a severe case of stuttering before coming to HCRI. The condition is degrading and extremely challenging. My stuttering affected me socially and I was afraid to talk to people. For six years, I went to speech therapy one day a week at my school. It did help me a little bit.

But the intensive regime at HCRI and the therapy tools they use are what it took to retrain my speech muscles to speak fluently. The technology used during HCRI therapy made a huge difference. The computer tools provided clear, precise feedback about my speech and signaled whenever I needed to make adjustments.

I enrolled in HCRI therapy two weeks before Christmas and in time for an interview with a prestigious college where I wanted to transfer. After therapy, I was able to speak fluently for the first time in my life. And, I was confident and ready to meet with the admissions representative and discuss my educational goals.

Experiencing the joy of speaking smoothly and spontaneously is the best possible gift to receive.

Mark B.
Atlanta, Georgia

Stuttering is always on my mind. At the same time, I’ve always been determined never to allow the way I talk to stop me from doing what I want to do in life. Most important, I never want the way I speak to reflect negatively on my employer, The Salvation Army, and the great work we do.

My commitment to The Salvation Army motivated me to seek treatment about 15 years ago at HCRI. The Institute really understands what goes wrong with speech when people stutter – and how to fix it. This puts people in control when they talk without resorting to a mechanical or electronic crutch. It was the first therapy that worked for me.

With HCRI stuttering therapy, I perform my work responsibilities with greater confidence and effectiveness. I do work continually to manage my stuttering. Though, now I have the tools that make that possible.

The ability to speak fluently is a joy and a gift. I use my gift of fluency every day to make lives better for others through my work with The Salvation Army.

J. T.
Alexandria, Virginia

Thanks to excellent parents, I went through the HCRI program when I was ten and was one of the Institute’s youngest participants. I’ve often thought what life would be like without receiving treatment for my stuttering.

Growing up with stuttering is devastating. I know others who have stuttered into adulthood and it makes their lives extraordinarily complicated. Whether we like it or not, people judge us by how we look and how we speak. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how things are.

Without stuttering therapy, it would be far more difficult to perform my job. I have daily interaction with co-workers and upper management. I can verbally communicate with anyone on any matter – with confidence.

With fluent speech, I am able to be highly productive and gain respect from people with whom I work. I would advise anyone with a stuttering condition to research all available options and get help. HCRI’s treatment program has made a remarkable difference. Life is much better without stuttering.

William S.
Suffern, New York

Stuttering was a major handicap for me until the age of 42. It colored everything I did and stopped me from being able to do the things I wanted to do.

I didn’t go to college because I didn’t want to be in a classroom situation and speak around people whom I didn’t know. I didn’t seek out the type of jobs I wanted. Instead, I worked in the back-room of a bank where I didn’t have to talk with people.

I tried a number of treatment programs over the years that were recommended to me, including speech therapy, hypnosis, and psychiatric therapy. A doctor even cut the membrane under my tongue in hopes of stopping my stuttering. Nothing worked.

Then, I found out about HCRI. I went for treatment and, for the first time, was taught ways to make my speech more fluent. That’s when my life began to change. As my speech improved, so did my confidence. I sought new jobs in different fields that enabled me to interface with the public. At one point, I even worked for a member of the New York Assembly, where I wrote and gave speeches on governmental and activist-related issues.

Now that I’m retired, I’ve written a play and am involved with a theatre group. I also volunteer my time to work at a hospital information desk. The HCRI therapy program changed my life and opened up new worlds to me.

Sean A.
York, Pennsylvania

I’ve struggled with stuttering since I was young. Over the years, I tried a variety of approaches to overcome my speech impediment, including a home-treatment course designed to promote fluency. While nothing helped my stuttering, I focused on my education and career aspirations to become a writer.

When I decided to go to graduate school and study journalism, people thought it was strange that I was going into a communications field as a stutterer. Even though I had difficulty conducting phone interviews, I successfully completed graduate school and landed a position as a reporter for a daily newspaper.

On the job, I noticed my stuttering was getting worse – especially when I was doing face-to-face interviews. It was obvious I was making people uncomfortable when I interviewed them. That’s when I realized I needed to take serious action to address my speech. I researched different therapy programs and read about broadcast journalist John Stossel’s successful experience with HCRI. That’s what ultimately led me to attend the therapy program.

After two-weeks of intensive treatment, I spoke beautifully. A few months later, I realized I needed to keep practicing the techniques I learned to maintain fluency. I started a practice group for stutterers.

My work as a journalist continued to progress. On a daily basis, I comfortably interview people I’ve never met, have overcome my need for verbal cues, and speak fluently.

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