Stuttering Therapy Enabled Monroe, Ohio Detective to Secure Confessions and Testify in Rape Case

When a middle school resource officer alerted authorities that a 12-year-old said she was repeatedly raped by three adults in her neighborhood, Monroe, Ohio Police Detective Ken Parson used his expert interrogation skills to secure a confession from each suspect. Parson was the only person to testify last week in the Middletown, Ohio sexual abuse case, which has now been bound over to a grand jury.

Testifying in court and interviewing suspects are integral to Parson’s job in law enforcement, which he has had for ten years. Yet, three years ago, a life-long stuttering problem that had minimally interfered with his speaking ability unexpectedly began to worsen.

“My stuttering didn’t affect my performance on the job until one day in 2007 when I went to court to testify. All of a sudden I wasn’t able to talk and couldn’t force a single sound out of my mouth. I couldn’t articulate my case. It was terrible,” Parson said.

Parson is among the three million people in the U.S. and 66 million worldwide who stutter. According to the National Institutes of Health, the condition occurs when speech muscles inappropriately contract and jump out of control during attempts to speak. Stuttering ranges in severity and often serves as a barrier to people reaching their full potential in life.

Though Parson decided from an early age that he wasn’t going to let stuttering stand in the way of what he wanted to do, his experience of not being able to utter a word in court was dramatic and pivotal. He knew he had to address the problem and get serious treatment for his speech condition.

Like many who stutter, Parson tried different types of speech therapy while growing up. None produced lasting results. He began researching different types of therapy and learned about a physically based treatment approach, developed by scientists at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – ) in Roanoke, Virginia. HCRI’s stuttering treatment focuses on retraining faulty speech muscle movements that cause stuttering to create new muscle activities that produce fluent speech.

“HCRI’s treatment made sense to me because the people there treat stuttering like a medical condition rather than something that’s in your head,” Parson said. “I went through the therapy and it worked. The people at HCRI teach you skills that bring your stuttering under control. And that’s just what I needed.”

HCRI’s program involves 12 days of intensive stuttering treatment where participants work one-on-one with specially trained clinicians to learn new speech motor skills. Through detailed steps, individuals learn how to reconstruct distorted speech muscle behaviors to generate fluent speech. Then once fluency is achieved in the clinic, participants learn how to transfer their new-found speaking abilities into everyday life.

“We have worked with thousands of stuttering cases since HCRI’s doors opened in 1972. Data has consistently shown that stuttering is a physically based condition. It is not caused by emotional or psychological issues,” said HCRI Founder and President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.

Webster’s approach is consistent with the findings of a groundbreaking research study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine that confirmed a genetic link to stuttering and the physical nature of the disorder. HCRI was asked to be a partner in this National Institutes of Health research project and an HCRI staff member was a co-author of the article.

HCRI pioneered the concept of physically based treatment for stuttering more than 30 years ago and has continued to enhance the therapy program over the years. Advanced electronics and computers have been incorporated into the treatment regime to enhance the ease of learning and retaining fluent speech. Ninety-three percent of HCRI clients achieve fluency by the end of treatment. Follow-up studies show 70 to 75% retain fluency for the long term.

According to Webster, “Physically based therapy takes hard work and commitment. Clients leave our center with all the tools they need to control their stuttering and remain fluent for a lifetime. Yet for treatment to work over time, they must continue to practice their new speech skills on a regular basis when they return home.”

To maintain his fluency, Parson participates in weekly speech practice calls with other past HCRI therapy participants. Before going to court to testify, he uses one of HCRI’s post therapy practice tools and listens to an audio track that focuses on practicing specific sound classes to produce fluent sentences.

“I have a lot of people who depend on me and count on my ability to effectively communicate. HCRI stuttering therapy has given me the skills to remain fluent and in control of my speech,” Parson added.

About HCRI

Hollins Communications Research Institute, founded in 1972 by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., has grown into a world-leading center for the investigation and treatment of stuttering. The 501 (c) (3) nonprofit institute is unique from other stuttering organizations in that work focuses on developing scientifically based treatment methods, as well as administering stuttering therapy.

HCRI offers 17 stuttering therapy programs annually and has treated more than 5,700 people from across the U.S. and 23 other countries. Clients include John Stossel of Fox News; Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons; and Annie Glenn, wife of Senator and Astronaut John Glenn. HCRI is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Virginia, 24019. For more information, visit Contact HCRI at or 540-265-5650.