John and Annie Glenn are beloved national heroes, each in their own right. With John’s recent passing, public interest in the couple’s remarkable lives has continued to grow.
John is recognized as a space pioneer and made history as the first man to orbit Earth. He made history again as the oldest astronaut to complete a space mission when he was 77 years old. In addition to his NASA contributions, John’s impressive military service and leadership as a four-term U.S. senator from Ohio will be long remembered.
For Annie, life was often overshadowed by the daily challenges brought on by her stuttered speech. As a severe stutterer, she was afraid to speak in social settings and meetings, use the phone, hail a taxi, order food in a restaurant, or summon help when needed. While she was able to adapt to get things done, her stutter held her back. John served as a tremendous support system for Annie, helping her navigate through life with her speech disability.
Her severe stutter was not known to many, even considering John’s very public profile. The couple often appeared together and John helped to shelter his wife from speaking opportunities whenever possible.
Then, when she was 53 years old, Annie and John saw television news coverage on NBC Today about the behavioral stuttering therapy developed by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI).
After she and John extensively researched the therapy approach, Annie enrolled in the science-based treatment program at HCRI in Roanoke, Virginia. By the end of her intensive therapy, Annie was able to speak fluently for the first time in her life. She called John and it stunned him to hear her fluent voice over the phone.
HCRI therapy was the beginning of a new chapter in Annie’s life. With her new-found ability to talk at will, Annie seized opportunities to speak out on issues and help others. She became a national advocate for people with speech disabilities and provided hope and inspiration to many.
While John and Annie are known for their many accomplishments, the Glenns are admired for their loving, supportive marriage that is viewed as a role model for couples everywhere.
At HCRI, we continue to mourn John’s passing. He was a dear friend of the Institute and always accompanied Annie when she visited HCRI. John and Annie have helped raise stuttering awareness and the importance of receiving effective treatment. We are deeply grateful for all the couple has accomplished.
Following are links to some articles that have appeared over the years about Annie’s struggles with stuttering and the couple’s remarkable lives.
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of the book, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief. The book is written by stuttering expert and clinical psychologist Ronald. L. Webster, Ph.D. Dr. Webster is founder and president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org), a nonprofit center dedicated to stuttering research and treatment innovation. The book is available on Amazon.com.
CHAPTER 3 EXCERPT
Stuttering and the Vortex of Verbal Confusion
I firmly believe that a major problem with stuttering is that “stuttering” is not the problem. People talk about stuttering as if it is a real thing. That is not so. No one sees stuttering. When we notice a person repeating sounds and words, struggling to initiate speech, or blocking in attempts to get his or her words out, we then apply the label “stuttering.” However, we do not witness stuttering. We observe classes of behavioral speech events, and then we add the stuttering label to the situation.
I believe that much of the work that has been done on stuttering also involves major problems with words. I am not referring here to the fact that the stutterer has problems in his or her production of words.
In this case, I mean that the words used to describe and talk about stuttering have contributed to what I perceive to be the persistent ignorance and general lack of therapeutic efficacy that surrounds this disorder. It seems clear to me that difficulties in understanding and successfully treating stuttering have been perpetuated by insufficient rigor in thought about—and poor attention to—how words actually apply to our ideas about events in nature.
In our everyday lives, we often use words loosely. We assume that others know what we mean when we talk to them. We talk about our lives, our problems, our intentions, our likes, and our dislikes, blithely believing that we are being understood. Our politicians blather on and on, using words that seem more like bubbles strung together than substantive thoughts. In fact, on any given day, a politician may cleverly use his or her words with an implied set of meanings and on the next day use the same words to mean something entirely different.
Word meanings can be slippery when used in our daily discourse. One famous politician, when pressed on a point regarding his misbehavior with a White House intern, said, “It all depends on what your meaning of ‘is’ is.” Here he slyly implied that we can assign meanings to words that suit our purposes.
This matter becomes particularly troublesome when we use abstract words and phrases that are not well linked to the physical world. Dictionary definitions of words provide some anchors for meaning by attachment of a word to other clouds of words; however, what we often end up with is a set of abstractions used to identify an initial abstraction.
… [end of excerpt from Chapter 3]
For more information about From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, visit Amazon.com. To learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, please click here: www.stuttering.org.
The following is the second in a series of chapter excerpts from the insightful and innovative book on stuttering, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, written by Ronald. L. Webster, Ph.D. An expert on stuttering, Dr. Webster is a clinical psychologist and president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org.).
CHAPTER 2 EXCERPT
How Stuttering Became a Universal Problem
There are fascinating unanswered questions about the origin of stuttering. How long ago did stuttering appear in human speech? What factors enabled stuttering to become a universal problem that appears in all language groups? Are there present-day implications about the cause of stuttering that flow from its possible origins? New tools have been developed that may enable us to suggest possible answers to some of these questions.
We live in exciting times. Recent advances in genetic analysis have provided opportunities to look into the molecular structure of life itself. Advanced forms of genetic analysis have generated new insights into human evolution that can guide our thinking about the origins of stuttering.
These new forms of genetic analysis deal with mutations in DNA molecules that lie outside the human genome and thus are not available for recombination during the normal course of reproduction. Rates of mutations can be calculated for different types of DNA, and identification can be made of patterns of mutations that are passed from generation to generation. Analysis of DNA sequences can reveal the distinctive genetic variations for different groupings of the human species.
In fact, these new methods provide a virtual time machine that allows us to travel back through the centuries and identify when specific elements of genetic material first appeared in the DNA of our species. Recent analyses of the evolution of the FOXP2 gene, identified as the first gene clearly associated with the human capability to develop language, have indicated that the human variant of this gene was established in the past two hundred thousand years.
Thus, the time of appearance for the FoxP2 gene is consistent with the notion that the rapid expansion of humans to locations beyond East Africa was driven by the presence of increased speech and language abilities (Enard, Przeworski, Fisher, Lal, Weibe, Kitano, et al. 2002).
As we shall see, genetic analyses have indicated that there were two population “bottlenecks” in human evolution that occurred about 135,000 years ago. At the time of the first bottleneck, offspring of a single female became the survivors from whom all of us are descended. Sometime later, when the second bottleneck occurred, offspring of a single male became the survivors from whom we have all evolved.
… [end of excerpt from Chapter 2]
For more information about Dr. Webster’s book, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, visit Amazon.com.
To learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, click here: www.stuttering.org.
At Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI), we lost a dear friend this week with the passing of John Glenn, an American hero recognized for his history-making journeys into space, stellar military service, and leadership as an Ohio senator for 25 years.
Our relationship with the Glenns began more than forty years ago when we received a call from them requesting information about HCRI’s stuttering therapy program. John’s wife, Annie, lived with a severe stutter.
Annie faced remarkable communication challenges throughout her life. She avoided talking on the phone, found face-to-face communications extremely difficult, and tried to escape the spotlight at a time when her husband was receiving national acclaim for being the first American to orbit the Earth.
Yet, John saw his wife as the true hero and champion in the family, based on her unyielding determination, strength, and talent. His love and adoration for Annie was always apparent for all to witness.
The couple learned about HCRI while watching an interview on national television with HCRI Founder and President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. They contacted the Institute to learn if the advanced treatment offered at HCRI could help Annie. Stuttering was holding her back in life and, most importantly, she wanted the ability to talk with her grandchildren and read a story to them without stuttering.
After consulting with Dr. Webster about HCRI’s behavioral therapy approach, Annie decided to attend our therapy program in Roanoke, Virginia. She was 53 years old.
At the conclusion of her intensive three-week treatment program, she asked to use the phone to call John before she returned home. He was surprised to hear her voice on the phone. She spoke clearly and fluently for the first time in her life. The call brought John to tears.
With her stuttering under control, Annie’s world opened up. She became an advocate for people with communications disorders and dedicated her time to helping a multitude of organizations by serving on boards and committees, as well as taking on high-profile speaking opportunities. She readily joined John at public events and felt comfortable talking with attendees and answering questions. Her world was transformed through her ability to speak fluently.
Following therapy, Annie and John stayed in close touch with HCRI and Dr. Webster. They communicated through phone calls and emails. And, the couple returned to Roanoke many times to attend HCRI reunions where John always made sure that Annie was the spotlight rather than him. In addition, Annie served as the keynote speaker at HCRI’s building dedication.
We will deeply miss John and consider our long-standing friendship with the Glenns truly special. Annie is an inspiration to people who stutter and exemplifies how life can significantly change through fluency.
Book written by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.
Stuttering is one of the most misunderstood and mistreated of human disorders. In his book, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, stuttering expert and psychologist Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. dispels the myths that surround the disorder and takes readers on a compelling journey into stuttering from a scientific perspective.
Dr. Webster explains the origin of stuttering, possible causes, and how his nonprofit center, Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) uses cutting-edge science to successfully treat stuttering. The following is the first in a series of chapter excerpts from his in-depth book.
CHAPTER 1 EXCERPT
A Unique Problem in a Most Special Species
Stuttering is a most special problem. It rides within the flow of language—specifically, spoken language. My work has involved examining stuttering as a set of phenomena in nature. I have searched for patterns of lawfulness within this problem. I believe that the discovery of unique patterns among physical events in stuttered speech can set the stage for both developing a way to explain stuttering and to construct an effective treatment program for it.
Stuttering is special in a cosmological sense. Look up into the clear, dark night sky. The naked eye allows us to see about a thousand stars. Occasionally, we are able to see planets or watch man-made satellites cross above us. We can also make out a faint band of stars, the Milky Way, streaming across the sky.
There is much more out there in the night sky beyond the scope of the human eye. Trillions of stars and billions of galaxies are spread throughout the universe. The numbers are so large and the distances so vast that they are difficult to comprehend. It is amazing to grasp the idea that the distance light can travel in a year is a standard unit of measurement in the study of the universe.
Stop for a moment and consider the billions upon billions of galaxies that make up the universe. At the present time, we know of only one where stutterers are found. That is the Milky Way galaxy, characterized as a spiral nebula over one hundred light years across, about ten light years thick, and consisting of hundreds of billions of stars. Our solar system—comprised of the sun, eight planets, and a variety of moons, asteroids, and comets—lies in the Orion-Cygnus arm of the Milky Way galaxy, about twenty-seven thousand light years from its center.
In our solar system, there is only one location where stuttering is found: that is on planet Earth, the third planet from the sun. Even though the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (the SETI project) continues, to date, there are no signs of life beyond Earth. Clearly, this planet is an unusually distinctive place.
Stuttering is special, not only in terms of galactic distribution but also when viewed against the broad range of animal species represented on our planet. It has been estimated that there are more than two million animal species on planet Earth. However, there are a relatively small number (about five thousand) of mammalian species.
It is particularly meaningful that only a single mammalian species uses the distinctive and powerful form of communication identified as language. Of course, that species is the modern human, Homo sapiens sapiens. The important point is that while many different animals demonstrate communication, the evidence indicates that the powerful tool of syntactic language is unique to humans and is a necessary condition for the presence of stuttering.
In my view, speech represents the most complex naturally occurring individual behavior humans produce. The complexity of speech production can represent a barrier to trying to understand stuttering. However, if we take time to learn and understand some of its basic properties, we can begin to make sense out of the miracle of our speech—and we can improve our understanding of stuttering.
… [end of excerpt from Chapter 1]
For more information about From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, visit Amazon.com. To learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, click here: www.stuttering.org.
By Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI President
Many individuals who stutter have participated in a spectrum of speech therapies beginning at a young age. Concerned parents enroll their sons and daughters in traditional speech treatment through schools and/or with private therapists to help stop the stuttering. Treatment typically begins in elementary school and can last through the teen years.
For those who experience persistent stuttering after the age of 12, these well-intentioned efforts show minimal or no lasting fluency results. Compounding the impact of stuttering in daily life, the lack of fluency outcomes from treatment produce increasing frustration, confidence erosion and thinner wallets.
At Hollins Communications Research Institute, we find that the majority of people who contact us share this real-life scenario. As adults, many reach out as a last resort. They are at a tipping point where achieving fluency can change their trajectory in life – whether it be related to their academic achievement, career choice or personal lives.
They are deeply discouraged by their past treatment experiences, as well as the time and money they invested in therapies that didn’t work. When they contact us, these individuals inquire about expected outcomes from HCRI’s 12-day stuttering treatment and ask about the program fee. We welcome these and other questions.
HCRI Treatment Outcomes – What You Can Expect
HCRI stuttering therapy works with a very wide range of stuttering types and severity. After 12 days of systematic and intensive treatment, 93% of participants achieve fluency. When evaluated one and two years post therapy, 70-75% retain the ability to control their stuttering and speak fluently. This means you can expect similar results.
As you consider your therapy options, we encourage you to ask other providers for their statistics on successful treatment outcomes to better understand your probability of positive fluency results.
Science is at the core of the consistent outcomes that HCRI stuttering therapy delivers. Our in-house research scientists pioneered the concept of comprehensive behavioral therapy for stuttering after HCRI investigative work revealed stuttering is a physical phenomenon – and needs to be treated as such. Utilizing data and test results with thousands of stuttering cases, the HCRI team designed a sophisticated, powerful treatment that helps people achieve fluency in 12 days. Our therapy program has been continually enhanced through the years and is now in its fourth generation.
HCRI stuttering treatment teaches participants how to replace faulty speech muscle movements that cause stuttering with new speech muscle behaviors that enable fluency. In addition, we invented new ways to use technology in therapy that facilitate the learning of lasting fluency skills.
HCRI Therapy Cost and Value
The cost of stuttering therapy at HCRI represents a significant value when the therapy fee and results are considered together. At HCRI, clients benefit from a scientifically proven treatment program, administered by world-class clinicians, with a high probability of a positive and lasting outcome.
The 100 hours spent in HCRI’s stuttering therapy program equate to $42.85 per hour. This is likely much less than spending the same amount of time with traditional speech therapists. In addition to investing $4,285 for comprehensive treatment and post-therapy support, we recognize that travel and lodging costs will be incurred. Yet, consider these factors in relation to the speech outcomes from program participation.
At HCRI, you acquire fluency skills you can use for the rest of your life.
Also, consider the enormous value experienced daily by HCRI therapy graduates who enjoy the benefits of fluent speech in their everyday lives. After all, stuttering has significant personal costs. When you think about the human potential that is bottled up within a person who stutters, and the fact that this set of extraordinary capabilities is not realized, the costs of stuttering are enormous.
There is yet another cost of stuttering. It involves the cost that comes from missing the simple joy of speaking freely and fluently at will.
Taking into account all factors related to stuttering and treatment, the value of HCRI stuttering therapy is exceedingly strong. The treatment fee relative to therapy results yields tremendous value – quite possibly one of the best values available anywhere.
HCRI’s Roanoke, Virginia stuttering treatment center is easily accessible and within a day’s drive of 65% of the U.S. population. We offer several options to help you meet the cost of therapy. We have payment plans, scholarships and advice on agencies that might assist in meeting your costs. Our staff will help you in every way possible to make HCRI stuttering therapy available to you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-236-7032.
The Board of Directors of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) unanimously voted to appoint Ann T. Fain as a lifetime honorary member of the HCRI Board. The appointment is in recognition of Ms. Fain’s decades of service, support and guidance to the nonprofit organization, which is internationally recognized for its work in stuttering research and treatment innovation.
“Ann is a remarkable woman who has helped our Institute through the years in a multitude of ways,” said HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. “Her wise counsel, generous support and dedicated service over the past 30 years have been pivotal in our advancing our mission to help people around the world achieve fluency.”
Ms. Fain has an in-depth understanding of the negative consequences of living with a stuttering condition. Her late husband, Charles L. Fain, was a stutterer. She witnessed his daily communication challenges and the hindrances that come with stuttering. Yet, once Charles participated in HCRI stuttering therapy, he acquired the skills to speak fluently and confidently.
Like his wife, Mr. Fain was deeply involved in helping HCRI. He was a long-standing member of the HCRI Board of Directors and assisted with important research and development projects that advanced the treatment of stuttering.
“It has been a privilege to have the Fains play such an important role in our organization’s progress and stuttering treatment delivery. Ann’s appointment exemplifies our deep appreciation for her ongoing engagement and counsel to further the important work we do,” Webster added.
HCRI was founded by Ronald L Webster, Ph.D. in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Virginia-based HCRI is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization. The Institute has treated more than 6,500 individuals who stutter from across the U.S. and 50 countries. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032.
This year has been exhilarating for our nonprofit institute. In addition to treating a growing number of stuttering therapy clients, our team at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) has been hard at work testing a new service offering and developing more treatment innovations that advance fluency outcomes. Following is an overview of HCRI news and activities.
New Therapy Release
In August, we launched a new “high definition” version of our stuttering therapy program. This new release elevates HCRI treatment to an unprecedented level of precision and ease with which fluency can be learned. For details, click here: Hollins Fluency System III.
Pilot Training Program for Parents of Children who Stutter
This training initiative involves a series of individualized sessions with parents and kids at HCRI. Over two and a half days, we impart specialized speech techniques and exercises that parents can put into practice with their children when they return home. Then, we follow-up with the parents to monitor progress. More testing and refining will continue over the coming months and into 2017.
Remote-Access Therapy Testing
Trials continue to determine the viability of offering remote-access, quality-controlled alumni refresher programs via the web using an iPad, computer or late-model iPhone. The use of Bluetooth headsets with these devices facilitates instruction, speech measurement and fluency progress.
Current findings show great promise. Our goal is to be able to offer refreshers – and ultimately the HCRI stuttering therapy program – to anyone, anywhere who has a device and internet connection.
Multi-Dimensional, Automated Speech Measurement
As we develop this new system, we will evaluate how well we can use objectively extracted acoustic features to assist in improving the diagnosis and treatment of stuttering. Our early work is encouraging. We are continuing our efforts to reach the stage where practical clinical benefits can be achieved.
At HCRI, we continue to push forward advancing stuttering treatment and helping people from across the U.S. and worldwide achieve their full potential in life through fluency. It is a privilege and a pleasure to serve our clients and alumni on an ongoing basis.
We are always here for you and encourage you to reach out if you need assistance, have questions or want to connect for any reason. Contact us at email@example.com or 855-236-7032.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-236-7032.