From Stuttering to HCRI Therapy to Treating Others Who Stutter

Ross S. Barrett believes luck was on his side when it comes to his stuttering and career. Yet, more than luck, it was his drive to achieve fluency, hard work, and passion that led him to where he is today.

Ross S. Barrett
Ross S. Barrett, M.A., CCC/SLP

Barrett recently retired after 39 years as Director of the Precision Fluency Shaping Program at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). In character with his dedication to helping persons who stutter, he still maintains an office at the institution to provide support to former clients who may need him.

His journey to fluency wasn’t easy. Barrett began stuttering at the age of two and endured his speech condition during his educational years. While many children may stutter at some point in their young lives, Barrett was among the 25 percent of stuttering kids who never outgrow it.

During his formative years, Barrett was taunted by schoolmates because of his stutter. As he grew older, his speech hindered his academic performance in high school and college. He tried traditional speech therapies, hypnosis and even faith healing to address his stuttering. None of the methods worked.

New Hope and Opportunity

When he was 28, Barrett saw an article in the New York Times about a new behavioral treatment for stuttering, which was invented by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. at his Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI). Webster founded nonprofit HCRI in 1972 to investigate stuttering from a scientific perspective and focus on treatment innovation.

Barrett refers to the New York Times article as his “first stroke of luck” on his journey to fluency. He contacted HCRI to enroll. While the waiting list was typically long to get into the immersion program, Barrett was able to secure a spot in a matter of months. He calls that his “second lucky break.”

“Once I started HCRI therapy, I knew it was the type of help I needed – therapy that addresses the physical aspects of stuttering and not an approach that focuses on emotions or psychology,” Barrett said.

He found HCRI stuttering therapy to be a transforming experience. For the first time in his life, Barrett was able to control his stuttering and speak fluently. By staying true to the fluency skills he learned at HCRI, he has maintained the ability to speak fluently and confidently throughout his life.

HCRI’s Science-Based Therapy

HCRI stuttering therapy is a comprehensive behavioral therapy program invented by Webster and continually honed through the years. The institute’s approach teaches individuals how to address misbehaving speech-muscle activities that give rise to stuttering – and replace them with new muscle behaviors that produce fluent speech.

Dr. Ron Webster
Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI President and Founder

“At the heart of the stuttering problem is the faulty speech-muscle contractions that occur within the speech production system. Speech organs are forced into positions that are wrong for saying the intended sounds,” Webster explained. “Stuttering occurs as a downstream result of muscle events going wrong earlier in time.”

Once therapy participants are taught new ways to use their speech muscles, they acquire the ability to control their stuttering and speak fluently. Research demonstrates that 93 percent of HCRI program participants achieve fluency in 12 days, and 75 percent maintain fluent speech over time.

HCRI’s specially trained clinicians work with participants using systematic treatment protocols and proprietary therapy technology that guide individuals step-by-step through the treatment process. Therapy occurs in HCRI’s clinical setting, as well as in real-world environments. When clients return home, they are provided with a comprehensive package of post-therapy support and fluency tools to help them maintain fluency skills.

“Many therapy programs have evolved from the groundbreaking work Ron accomplished,” Barrett said.

Changing His Career to Pursue a Passion

Barrett’s experience at HCRI inspired him to change his career focus from finance to speech pathology. He went to graduate school and earned his Master’s degree in speech language pathology. After graduation, he said he “lucked out” again. Webster called Barrett and invited him to join the institute as a speech therapist and administer HCRI’s program.

After more than 10 years with HCRI, Barrett relocated to Norfolk, Virginia with his wife when she accepted a new position there. While in Norfolk, Barrett was given the unique opportunity to start his own fluency program at EVMS. Webster arranged for him to use a version of HCRI stuttering therapy so Barrett’s clients could benefit from the same life-changing therapy that he personally experienced.

Barrett and Webster developed a close friendship through the years. Recently, Webster received a note from Barrett sharing that he had retired. Here are excerpts from that communication.

“… I ran my last 12-day therapy group in July. I have officially retired. I will keep a small office on campus just to answer past patient calls.

I wish to thank you for all your support over the years professionally and personally. The therapy you developed changed my life and thousands of others.

It was 50 years ago in July that I came to HCRI as a client. Little did I know then the impact therapy would have on my life…”

Webster said, “I was touched by Ross’s note. I have tremendous respect for him and what he has accomplished. He is a valued friend and colleague.”

Was it Really Luck?

Barrett sums up the role luck has had in his life by noting…

  • I lucked out seeing the New York Times article about Ron and HCRI.
  • I lucked out getting into HCRI’s therapy program without a long wait.
  • I lucked out when Ron asked me to serve as a speech therapist at the institute.
  • I lucked out when Ron gave me the opportunity to use a version of HCRI’s therapy program at EVMS.

Advice for Selecting the Right Stuttering Therapy

For those interested in stuttering therapy, Barrett recommends researching various therapy options and requesting a track record of success from each provider being considered. He also advises to talk with former clients, as well as get a feel for how transparent providers are about their therapy approach.

About HCRI

Since opening its doors in 1972, Virginia-based HCRI, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, has become a leader in stuttering research and the development of innovative, scientifically derived therapy approaches.

Clinicians at HCRI have treated more than 7,000 individuals who stutter. Clients come from all walks of life and include broadcasters, 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 or info@stuttering.org.

HCRI Achieves 50 Year Milestone For Stuttering Therapy Innovation and Research

– H C R I   N E W S   R E L E A S E –

Roanoke, VA, October 4, 2022… Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI), a nonprofit center dedicated to stuttering research and treatment innovation, accomplishes another milestone with the center turning 50 years old this month.

HCRI Program Participants
Recent HCRI program participants who attended the center’s 12-day immersion program. Stuttering therapy is held in a small group setting with up to 10 attendees at a time.

Rather than take time to celebrate, HCRI Founder and President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. and his team are looking to the future and the opportunities that lay ahead. In addition to extensive planning, the team is continuing to conduct research on stuttering and further hone HCRI’s award-winning stuttering therapy program.

What started in 1972 as a small stuttering research and therapy operation in Roanoke, Virginia has evolved into an international center that has treated thousands who stutter with one of the most sophisticated and successful treatment programs available today.

Grounded in science, HCRI’s 12-day stuttering therapy involves systematic instruction by specially trained clinicians who guide participants through each therapy step. Clients utilize HCRI’s advanced technology and a proprietary app during treatment to make fluency skill learning easier and more exacting. When clients return home, they are provided with a comprehensive package of post-therapy support.

Research demonstrates 93% of HCRI stuttering therapy participants achieve fluency by the end of their 12-day program. Follow-up studies reveal that 75% maintain fluent speech when evaluated two years later. These fluency results are among the highest documented outcomes of any stuttering therapy.

“Stuttering limits educational, career and social opportunities. When individuals acquire skills to control their stuttering, new doors of opportunity open. The ability to speak fluently and confidently transforms lives,” Dr. Webster said.

Approximately 66 million people worldwide suffer from stuttering, with three million in the U.S. The condition is characterized by repeated or prolonged sounds, syllables, blocks and words that disrupt speech.

Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.
HCRI Founder and President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.

According to Dr. Webster, “the problem with stuttering is that stuttering is not the problem.” At the heart of the stuttering problem is the faulty speech muscle contractions that occur within the speech production system. Speech organs are forced into positions that are wrong for saying the intended sounds. Stuttering occurs as a downstream result of muscle events going wrong earlier in time.

These faulty speech muscle activities are addressed directly within the HCRI therapy system. Once participants are taught new ways to use their speech muscles, they acquire the ability to control their stuttering and speak fluently.

HCRI is recognized for its many accomplishments, awards and “firsts” related to stuttering treatment.

“Our ongoing research focuses on increasing knowledge of stuttering as a physical condition – and uncovering new insights to effective treatment,” Dr. Webster added.

This includes understanding the role genetics plays in stuttering. HCRI partnered with the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) on a pioneering study that discovered three mutant genes linked to stuttering.

HCRI has conducted follow-up studies on the genetics of stuttering, including participating with the NIDCD on the first study to evaluate stuttering therapy outcomes among those with and without mutant genes for stuttering.

Looking to the Future

HCRI has a full slate of initiatives planned for the near future.

  • Genetics-Driven Therapy – HCRI will delve deeper into the genetics of stuttering and examine the possibility of customizing therapy for different mutant gene carriers.
  • Anxiety and Speech – The institute’s team will research the effects of anxiety related to speech performance in therapy and identify ways to reduce the impact of anxiety during treatment.
  • Research Partnerships – HCRI seeks to establish new partnerships for cooperative research on stuttering. One of the efforts includes using brain scan technology to identify brain activity before, during and after therapy.
  • Children and Stuttering – Studies focused on children who stutter are in the planning stages and may lead to exciting new ways to help kids learn to speak fluently with greater ease and efficiency.
  • Remote-Access Stuttering Therapy – To make therapy more accessible, HCRI will test the feasibility of remote access therapy that maintains the same rigorous quality standards as the center’s in person program.

“The future holds exciting promise. We look forward to the next 50 years of making a real difference in the lives of persons who stutter,” Dr. Webster said.

More About HCRI

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

More than 7,000 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 teachers, business professionals, athletes, broadcasters, engineers, musicians, students, doctors, military personnel, police officers, actors, a Supreme Court nominee, and even royalty.

The institute is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Virginia 24019. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or call 855-236-7032.

HCRI Receives Special Funding to Make Therapy More Affordable

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT!  

HCRI Headquarters
HCRI’s stuttering therapy institute is located in Roanoke, Virginia.

Thanks to the generosity of several of HCRI’s past stuttering therapy participants, the nonprofit institute is able to provide a special tuition reduction of $500 to individuals who participate in one of HCRI’s 12-day programs by the end of 2022.

The financial gifts from these HCRI alumni reduce the therapy fee for HCRI’s 12-day immersion program from $4,285 to $3,785. Therapy includes 100 hours of intensive stuttering treatment and evaluation, as well as a comprehensive package of post-therapy support.

2022 Eligible Program Dates

Sep. 12-23

Oct. 3-14

Nov. 7-18

Nov. 28-Dec. 9

About HCRI Stuttering Therapy

Pictured here are recent stuttering therapy participants who attended HCRI's 12-day program.
Pictured here are recent stuttering therapy participants who attended HCRI’s 12-day program.

Clinicians at HCRI have treated individuals with stuttering conditions that range from mild to severe – and who come from across the U.S. and 50 countries. The institute’s one-of-a-kind, science-based treatment helps persons who stutter achieve life-long skills to control stuttering and speak fluently.

Therapy is conducted in a small group setting at HCRI’s center in Roanoke, Virginia. It includes fluency training in the clinic, as well as practice in real-world environments. Additionally, HCRI’s computer technology and an iPhone app are used in treatment to make fluency acquisition faster and more precise.

HCRI Stuttering Therapy Can Be a Life-Changing Experience

Attendees can expect their therapy experience to be challenging, rewarding and even transforming. HCRI’s documented fluency outcomes are among the most successful you will find anywhere in the world.

  • 93% of participants achieve fluency in 12 days
  • 75% maintain fluent speech when evaluated two years after therapy

Individuals can expect similar results when they attend HCRI.

Act Now To Benefit from the $500 Tuition Reduction

Linda Booth, Director of Client Services
Linda Booth, Director of Client Services

For those who have already submitted a therapy application, contact Linda Booth for scheduling so you can take advantage of the $500 tuition incentive. Call 855-236-7032 or send an email to info@stuttering.org.

For persons who have yet to apply for HCRI therapy, click here: HCRI Therapy Application. When your application is received, a member of the HCRI team will reach out shortly.

In addition to the links above, call 855-236-7032 or send an email to info@stuttering for questions or more information.