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

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

Gerald R. McDermott
Gerald R. McDermott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Famous Stutterers

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

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

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

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

 

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About HCRI

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

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

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

Overcoming Stuttering Enabled a Dream Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bethany’s Advice to Individuals who Stutter

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

About HCRI

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

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

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

How Fluency Changed Scott Nickell’s Trajectory in Life

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

Scott Nickell - HCRI Therapy Participant
Scott Nickell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HCRI research demonstrates that 93 percent of therapy participants achieve fluent speech at the conclusion of their treatment. When evaluated two years later, 75 percent of participants maintained their fluency.

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

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

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

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

HCRI clinicians have treated nearly 7,000 people who stutter, aged 11 to 73, from 50 countries. Clients include students, broadcasters, athletes, teachers, engineers, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, paramedics, and others from all walks of life. For more information about HCRI stuttering therapy, visit www.stuttering.org.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,400 people, between the ages of 11 and 73, from across the U.S. and 50 countries. For more information about Virginia-based HCRI, visit www.stuttering.org.

Nathan Greiner Driven by Passion for Horses and Achieving Fluency

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

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

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

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

He went to work for world-renowned horsemanship master Buck Brannaman. Brannaman inspired the character of Tom Booker in the Nicholas Evans novel The Horse Whisperer and the movie by the same name that starred Robert Redford.

Nathan now travels the country organizing and staging Brannaman’s sought-after equine training clinics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12,000 Miles to Fluency

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Linda,

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,

Keith C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Mountain Climbing, World Travel and HCRI Stuttering Therapy Helped This Attorney Achieve Fluency

Attorney and mountain climber Leigh P. Bennett of Edmonds, Washington has stuttered since he uttered his first sentence. Yet, he considers himself lucky to have dealt with the challenge of stuttering at such a young age.

During school and into adult life, Leigh regularly faced difficult situations and frustration because of the way he talked. Though, he believes his speech condition served as the impetus to develop a can-do attitude, courage, and emotional strength early in life. These traits have stayed with him through the years, enabling him to thrive professionally and personally.

“My stuttering was ever-present for as long as I can remember. While it got in the way whenever I spoke, I was determined to stay positive and become stronger because of it,” Leigh said.

Stuttering affects three million people in the U.S. and 66 million worldwide, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Stuttering ranges in severity and often hampers educational and career aspirations, inhibits social growth, and serves as a barrier to people reaching their full potential in life.

From Stuttering to Fluency

Leigh’s journey to fluency included a gamut of 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.

Leigh P. Bennett
Leigh P. Bennett

After high school, Leigh went to college and also became an avid mountain climber and windsurfer. His outdoor activities required significant mental focus, training, self-control, and self-reliance. He learned how to manage his fear and maintain a sense of calm, as he scaled summits, traversed rough waters, and achieved each new goal he set for himself.

At the time, he didn’t consider that these carefully honed skills would help him on the path to fluency.

Upon graduation, Leigh traveled the world and grew even more self-assured. He also ran his own mountaineering school. Yet, he knew he needed to bring his stuttering under control to pursue the next chapter in his life.

Then, he learned about the unique behavioral stuttering therapy provided by Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) in Roanoke, Virginia. He was drawn to HCRI’s physically based approach, scientifically derived methodology and intensity of therapy. The treatment strategy made sense to him and he enrolled in the stuttering therapy program.

HCRI Therapy Participation

At HCRI, Leigh worked one-on-one with specially trained clinicians and systematically learned how to replace faulty muscle behaviors that cause stuttering with new speech motor skills that enable fluency. His can-do attitude, strong self-reliance, and ability to adapt – which were skills he cultivated through his outdoor sports and independent travels – served him well in achieving success during therapy.

According to HCRI Founder and President Dr. Ron Webster, “Our physically based therapy takes hard work, focus and total commitment to the process. Clients who give 110 percent leave with the knowledge and techniques they need to take control of their stuttering and remain fluent for life.”

Research shows that 93 percent of HCRI therapy program participants achieve fluency by the end of treatment. Follow-up studies reveal 75 percent retain fluency for the long term. “Our results are in stark contrast to other speech therapy approaches that work in only 25 percent of cases,” Webster noted.

New Opportunities through Fluency

After attending HCRI, Leigh was able to manage his stuttering for the first time in his life. “HCRI treatment provided me with the tools I needed to speak fluently,” Leigh explained. “When I would start stuttering in stressful situations, I knew just what I needed to do to regulate my speech.”

With his newly acquired fluency, Leigh decided to go to law school, become an attorney in Edmonds, and follow in his father’s respected footsteps. Today, Leigh has a busy law practice with his brother, Peter W. Bennett, and is carrying on his father’s legacy at his Bennett and Bennett law firm. He specializes in estate planning, elder law, trusts, Medicaid planning, real estate law, and other related legal services. Leigh is a member of the Washington State Bar Association, board member of the Hubbard Family Foundation, member of the Everett Mountaineers, and a ski instructor.

He believes that success requires an individual to proactively take control of his or her life and “make things happen.” Leigh attributes his ability to overcome stuttering to having the right attitude, learning from his experiences, and getting the right stuttering treatment.

About HCRI

Hollins Communications Research Institute (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 innovative, scientifically based therapy approaches. HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,500 individuals from across the U.S. and 50 countries. The center is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Va. 24019. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032 (toll-free) or admin@stuttering.org.

About Bennett and Bennett

The Bennett and Bennett partnership was founded in 1988 by brothers Leigh P. Bennett and Peter W. Bennett in Edmonds, Washington, The goal of the law firm is to guide clients successfully through the often complex processes of estate planning, probate, trusts, elder law, real estate law, and related legal matters – and to make the process educational, practical, and cost effective. Bennett and Bennett is located at 400 Dayton, Suite A, Edmonds, Wash. 98020. For more information, visit www.edmondslaw.com, call 425-776-0139, or send an email to bb@edmondslaw.com.

Defense Attorney Uses Fluency Skills Learned at HCRI to Effectively Serve Clients

Meeting with clients, arguing cases in court, and making scores of phone calls represent a typical day’s work for public defenders. Yet, for attorney Christopher Missiaen of Medford, Oregon, these communication tasks are activities he never takes for granted. Missiaen has a stuttering condition that makes it difficult for him to get his words to flow smoothly and spontaneously.

The successful defense attorney is one of three million people in the U.S. and 66 million globally who stutter. The condition occurs when speech muscles inappropriately contract and jump out of control during attempts to speak. Stuttering ranges in severity and has the potential to serves as a barrier to people reaching their full potential in life.

However, observing Missiaen’s powerful closing argument in a recent high-profile Oregon murder trial, no one would know he has endured stuttering since his youth.

Unlike many people who stutter, Missiaen’s speech condition didn’t get in the way of his education or social life, as he was growing up. He was highly determined and learned how to “accommodate” his speech by replacing words and avoiding certain speaking situations.

When he graduated from University of Oregon School of Law in 2005, he landed a position as a personal injury attorney. Missiaen’s days were spent talking with clients, making calls, and doing public speaking. The techniques he previously used to mask his stuttering, including word substitution, were no longer working for him.

“With the law, you can’t replace one word with a different one simply because you are having trouble saying it,” Missiaen said. “I found myself unable to say things I needed to say.”

As a result, Missiaen grew increasingly concerned about his stuttering. He felt his speech was being misperceived and undermined his effectiveness in his job. “A lot of my disfluencies are blockages where I can’t get a particular word to come out when I’m trying to speak. It looks to outside observers that I can’t figure out what I want to say,” he explained.

Compounding his concern and frustration, Missiaen also had ambitions to become a public defender, a role requiring eloquent, persuasive speaking abilities in court. He knew it was time to address his speech disorder if he was going to succeed as a courtroom attorney.

Then, he read about Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) in a book written by broadcast journalist John Stossel, who overcame an inhibiting stuttering condition by participating in HCRI’s intensive stuttering therapy program. Missiaen was intrigued and reviewed information on the internet about the Roanoke, Virginia-based program.

He learned that HCRI treats stuttering as a physical disorder. Therapy involves teaching people how to replace faulty speech muscle movements that cause stuttering with new muscle behaviors that generate fluency. After reading through HCRI’s website, www.stuttering.org, Missiaen enrolled in the Institute’s 12-day therapy program.

During treatment, Missiaen learned new ways to use his speech muscles to bring his stuttering under his control. He spent 100 hours in therapy, which also included learning how to transfer his new speaking skills to real-world situations. By the end of his two-week program, he spoke fluently for the first time in his life. In addition, Missiaen acquired tools to maintain his fluency over time.

According to HCRI’s Webster, “Our approach to stuttering therapy is objective, comprehensive, and results driven. No other stuttering treatment replicates the sophistication of HCRI’s treatment program or the individualized approach from which clients benefit.”

Research shows 93 percent of HCRI therapy program participants achieve fluent speech by the end of their 12-day treatment program. Follow-up studies indicate that 70 to 75 percent of people maintain fluency for the long term. HCRI researchers continually refine the Institute’s stuttering therapy, based on research and experience with thousands of cases that range from mild stuttering to severe speech impairments.

“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 tools help me get through that,” Missiaen added. To maintain his fluency, the public defender practices regularly and maintains ongoing contact with his clinical team at HCRI.

HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,000 people, aged 9 to 73, from across the U.S. and 47 other countries. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at call 855-236-7032 (toll-free), 540-265-5650 or admin@stuttering.org.