Learning from Nature and Science to Address Stuttered Speech

Creating effective stuttering therapy involves understanding specific events in nature that give rise to stuttering – and then developing a solution through science to address the problem.

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

The one-of-a-kind stuttering therapy at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) is grounded in science and successful with thousands of stuttering cases at all levels of severity.

The therapy was invented by HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. and his research team who demonstrated that characteristics of stuttering are produced by misbehaving contractions within the muscles of the tongue, lips, jaw, and vocal folds. The result is that the speech organs during stuttering incorrectly move into positions that are not correct for the intended sounds.

This discovery dispelled long-standing assumptions that stuttered speech is derived from emotional or mental issues. Dr. Webster’s findings changed the way stuttering is viewed and needs to be treated. His research led to defining specific behavioral patterns that occur naturally in fluent speakers. Correct use of these patterns replaces the distorted contractions and movements that produce stuttered speech.

These muscle-movement patterns are called “targets.” Targets include clearly specified speech behaviors and feature permissible ranges of variation. Science shows that targets can be readily learned and retained with the right type of therapy. HCRI’s experience treating more than 6,500 individuals who stutter demonstrates that proper training and use of targets yields fluency in 93 percent of cases.

During a recent presentation at HCRI’s annual retreat, Dr. Webster explained the foundation of the institute’s comprehensive stuttering therapy system, which delivers among the highest documented fluency outcomes of any speech therapy. He shared that it is the job of science to:

  • Create methods that help us understand nature
  • Describe essential features of events in nature
  • Define causal relations between and among events in nature

“The good thing about science is that it is true, whether or not you believe in it,” Dr. Webster explained. “When considering the problem of stuttering, the events that happen are also true, whether or not you believe in it.”

Targets learned in HCRI’s 12-day stuttering therapy program are based on what nature has taught us. They are real and they work if done correctly and consistently when speaking, according to Dr. Webster.

HCRI’s comprehensive therapy system involves detailed instruction, practice and support on the use of targets to help individuals who stutter become fluent speakers. The nonprofit center’s therapy program includes:

  • One-on-one guidance by specially trained HCRI clinicians who teach participants how to produce targets when they speak
  • Use of computers in therapy to measure target production and help participants lock in fluency skills
  • Fluency training in the clinical setting and in real-world environments
  • Extensive post-therapy support that includes HCRI’s FluencyNet practice software, a mobile app, program materials, access to fluency practice groups, and HCRI events
  • Clinician follow up after therapy through phone contact and emails

Dr. Webster shares that we all are creatures of nature and our bodies obey natural laws. “Individuals stutter because a physical mechanism within their body forces speech muscles to contract in usual ways. The vocal tract is forced into positions that are not right for sounds that need to be produced,“ he said.

At the same time, Dr. Webster emphasizes that, because of the laws of nature, speech-muscle activities can be reconstructed and retained. Vocal tract shapes and shape changes can be normalized. When therapy participants apply precise standards of performance to targets when they speak, reliable production of fluent speech can be achieved.  Then, a world of new possibilities becomes a reality through fluency.

To learn more about HCRI’s approach to overcoming stuttered speechs using the laws nature and principles of science, click here: HCRI Stuttering Therapy.

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.

More than 6,500 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.

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

HCRI Stuttering Therapy: A Mother’s Experience

Annette Tepper of Birmingham, Michigan began stuttering when she was six years old. Her speech condition was not pronounced; yet, it inhibited her from speaking up in class and feeling comfortable with herself. She always worried that she would stutter when she spoke.

As she progressed through her education and grew into adulthood, Annette was able to manage her stuttering in most circumstances. Yet, she remained concerned about her speech and how stuttering can hinder an individual’s potential in life – professionally and socially.

mother and sonAnnette went on to marry and have a successful career as an engineer at Ford Motor Company. When she and her husband started their family, Annette watched for signs of stuttering with their two young children. She read that stuttering, in some cases, may have a genetic predisposition.

When her older child, Stephen, reached the age of six, he began to stutter. It was the same age that she started stuttering. Yet, unlike Annette’s mild case of stuttering, Stephen’s condition was severe.

The Teppers enrolled Stephen in speech therapy at school to help treat his stuttering. When that didn’t work, they took their son to private-practice speech therapists in the years that followed.

“There was some improvement with one of the therapists Stephen saw, but the results were not lasting. So Stephen moved forward with his young life, surrounded by accepting friends and supportive teachers,” Annette said. The Teppers continually encouraged their son and did everything possible to build his confidence so his speech would not get in the way of his aspirations.

When he entered his teens, Stephen became more self-conscious about his speech. He was ready to try a new type of therapy offered by Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI). Annette learned about HCRI early in her career when she was investigating therapies for herself. The Virginia-based nonprofit center is recognized for its groundbreaking work in stuttering research and therapy innovation.

HCRI’s stuttering therapy is an intensive, 12-day behavioral program, which is designed for teens and adults who stutter. Invented by HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. and his research team, the therapy teaches individuals who stutter how to control misbehaving muscles that give rise to stuttering. At the same time, they learn new ways to use speech muscles to generate fluent speech at will.

“HCRI stuttering therapy is powerful and practical. Individuals receive one-on-one instruction by specially trained clinicians who guide them through each step of our fluency program.” Webster explained. “Participants also utilize our advanced technology and a proprietary mobile app that make fluency acquisition easier and exacting.”

Stuttering treatment takes place in HCRI’s clinical setting, as well as in real-world environments. When participants return home, they are provided with a comprehensive package of post-therapy support and practice tools to help maintain fluency.

Stephen worked hard throughout his 12-day program and was dedicated to the therapy process. According to Annette, by the end of treatment, Stephen’s speech had transformed from stuttering 90 percent of the time to speaking fluently 90 percent of the time.

When Stephen returned home, he practiced his newfound fluency skills each day. HCRI clinicians emphasize the importance of practice after therapy to habituate speech-muscle movements that generate fluency.

Two years later, as Stephen prepared for college, he asked to return to HCRI for two days to hone his fluency. With ambitions to study for a career in politics and public speaking, he wanted to ensure his speech was perfected for his future.

“As a parent, it feels so good to know Stephen has the tools to manage his stuttering and has achieved a high level of fluency. HCRI was the right decision for Stephen and I highly recommend it,” Annette said.

More than 6,500 people from across the U.S. and 50 countries have come to HCRI for stuttering treatment. Clients include many students like Stephen, as well as individuals from all walks of life, including television journalists, business professionals, teachers, engineers, doctors, military personnel, police officers, actors, a supreme court nominee, and even royalty.

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

Post Therapy Support at HCRI – Clinical Services

When stuttering therapy participants at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) complete their 12-day program, they return home with a comprehensive package of HCRI support tools and clinical support to help them maintain fluency for the long term.

Tools for use after therapy include HCRI’s FluencyNet practice software, an iPhone app, program materials, and access to fluency practice groups. The HCRI clinical team actively stays in touch with program participants after therapy through phone contact and emails. Even years after completing therapy, HCRI clinicians welcome calls and emails from alumni needing support and guidance.

For many HCRI clients, stuttering therapy is a one-time experience; fluent speech has replaced stuttering and additional treatment is not necessary.  Yet if  individuals desire additional help to fine-tune their fluency, the institute provides a number of clinical programs. To participate in these programs, alumni need to contact a member of the clinical team for an assessment and discuss which program is the best match for their needs. Following are the clinical programs and services that HCRI offers after therapy.

Alumni Refresher

In this five-day program, targets are introduced at a one-second syllable duration. During the course of the week, participants move to practice at one-half-second syllable duration and then to slow-normal syllable duration. The program provides a review of stretched syllable, full breath, and amplitude contour targets. Other review includes target pairs, exaggeration, and covert practice. Additional activities include telephone transfer, daily situation transfer, and speeches. At the conclusion of the program, participants receive a packet of materials for follow-up and practice. Clinicians review this information with participants and discuss practice strategies that can be utilized at home.

Target Tune-Up

During this two and a half day course, practice sessions are at slow-normal syllable duration. Clinicians review stretched syllable, full breath, and amplitude contour targets. Clients practice using FluencyNet software and audio tracks. Target pairs, exaggeration, covert practice, and self correction are also covered. Additional activities include telephone transfer and daily situation transfer, including mall visits and speeches.

Remote Refresher Therapy – Eight-Session Package

This service enables alumni to review and refresh targets at home via FaceTime with a clinician. The therapy package includes eight one-hour sessions, which are scheduled two times per week. All practice and transfer is at slow-normal syllable duration. Therapy includes a review of stretched syllable, full breath, and amplitude contour targets. The remote program also covers target pairs, exaggeration, covert practice, and self correction. Computer practice is utilized with equipment mailed to alumni for the eight sessions. Transfer practice is tailored to each participant’s specific needs.

Remote Therapy – One-Hour Sessions

This flexible therapy option enables HCRI alumni to have one-on-one FaceTime transfer sessions with a clinician. Each session is tailored to the participant’s practice requirements, such as interview practice, presentations, introductions, question and answer sessions, and exaggeration practice. All sessions are at slow-normal syllable duration. The number of sessions is based on client needs.

For more information about HCRI post therapy support, contact the institute at info@stuttering.org or 855-236-7032.

Chapter 7 Excerpt – From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief

The following continues the series of chapter excerpts from the breakthrough book about stuttering, From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, written by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.

Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.
Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.

Dr. Webster is an internationally recognized expert on stuttering. He pioneered the concept of comprehensive behavioral stuttering therapy and has dedicated his career to helping individuals who stutter achieve and sustain the ability to speak fluently. 

He is president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org.), a nonprofit center he founded to investigate stuttering and develop treatment innovations. Dr. Webster is also a clinical psychologist and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

CHAPTER 7 EXCERPT

Conditions That Generate Fluent Speech in Stuttering

Book about stuttering by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D.…Whispering is yet another fluency-inducing condition. When a speaker whispers, the vocal folds are held apart and air is passed through the vocal tract, where it becomes turbulent and yields the characteristic sound of this activity. It has been observed that stutterers become fluent while whispering (Bruce and Adams, 1978; Cherry and Sayers, 1956; Commodore and Cooper, 1978; Perkins et al., 1976).

White-noise masking (WNM) has been found to generate fluent speech in stutterers when the signals are presented through headphones at amplitudes in the range of 95 to 98 decibels (dBA). White noise is an audio signal that consists of equal-power, randomly generated acoustic signals from across the frequency spectrum. We hear white noise as the “sh” in “shoe.” The effect of the noise condition is immediate and clearly observable. An audio amplifier can be used to adjust the overall amplitude of the sound as it is presented in a sound field or through headphones.

A number of studies have demonstrated that WNM yields reduced disfluencies in stuttering (Cherry and Sayers, 1956; Maraist and Hutton, 1957; Burke, 1969; Murray, 1969). Additional studies (Sutton and Chase, 1961; Webster and Dorman, 1970) used four different conditions that varied the manner by which WNM was presented: (1) noise onset presented contingent upon initiating phonation; (2) noise offset made contingent upon initiation of phonation; (3) continuous noise; and (4) a no-noise condition. The results were quite striking in as much as each of the three noise conditions produced significantly less stuttering than the no-noise control condition.

I believe that there is an important question that was not resolved by the authors of these experiments…

[end of excerpt from Chapter 7]

For more information about From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief, visit Amazon.comTo learn more about HCRI stuttering therapy, click here: www.stuttering.org.

Overcoming Stuttering with HCRI Opened Doors for Harvard-Bound Justin Ernest

Justin Ernest is heading to Harvard Business School this fall after four years working for Coca Cola in the company’s Capital Markets Group. The Atlanta, Georgia native is eager to start his advanced degree and will study entrepreneurship and finance. His goal is to launch his own business after graduation

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Justin Ernest

Working hard and taking on challenges are second nature for Justin. For as long as he can remember, he has coped with a severe stutter that impacted him academically and socially.

Answering questions in class, reading out loud, and giving presentations were ongoing challenges. Seeing how strangers responded when he tried to speak was unsettling, as well. Yet, Justin persisted with unwavering determination and a positive attitude.

Justin participated in different speech therapies to stop his stutter, but only experienced minimal improvement that was not lasting. He also tried an auditory feedback device to reduce stuttering. The device performed better than his therapy, yet it did not make him fluent.

Then, a friend in high school who also had a stutter told him about the stuttering therapy provided at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI ). The friend’s speech transformed from stuttering to fluency after attending. Justin researched HCRI’s behavioral treatment program and enrolled.

According to HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., “During HCRI’s stuttering therapy program, participants work with specially trained clinicians to systematically learn new, detailed speech behaviors that enable lasting fluency. Proprietary technology also is used in the treatment process to make fluency-skill acquisition easier for clients to master and sustain.”

HCRI stuttering therapy was developed in-house by the Institute’s research scientists and tested with thousands of stuttering cases. The science-based program includes 100 hours of intensive treatment in clinical and real world settings over 12 days.

“The therapy program at HCRI was more rigorous than I expected. It was fulfilling and exceeded my expectations,” Justin said. “There were 10 others in the program with me, ages 15 to 35, who came from across the country. Clinician’s taught us step-by-step how to replace stuttered speech with fluent speech in all types of situations,” he explained.

Research demonstrates that 93 percent of HCRI stuttering therapy participants achieve fluency by the end of their 12-day treatment program. Follow-up studies reveal that 70 to 75 percent of clients maintain their fluency when evaluated one and two years after therapy.

“Stuttering is a life-long issue and there is no cure. You have to consider all your options to manage it effectively. For me, HCRI was the answer,” Justin said.

Webster noted, “Highly motivated individuals like Justin are very likely to achieve long-term fluency with HCRI. A commitment to post-therapy practice is key to habituating newly acquired speaking skills.”

HCRI provides clients with a comprehensive package of post-therapy resources and clinician support. Since attending, Justin uses HCRI practice tools, manuals and software, as well as occasionally participates in training calls with other HCRI alumni. He also reaches out to his clinician whenever he needs assistance.

“Fluency has opened doors for me socially, academically and from a business perspective,” Justin said. “The ability to speak spontaneously wherever and whenever I want changed my life for the better,” he said.

Justin offers the following advice to others who stutter.

  • Focus on the positive
  • Be open and honest about your stuttering
  • Spend time with a supportive group of friends
  • Find a treatment approach that works for you
  • Seek out situations that bring out the best of your abilities

About HCRI – www.stuttering.org

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.

More than 6,500 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 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.

 

Positivity, Commitment and Faith Paved the Way to Fluency for Clemson University Student Russ Smith

College sophomore Russ Smith is intensely focused on his career goal of becoming a specialist in the field of dentistry. He maintains a rigorous academic schedule as a biochemistry major with a double minor in financial management and biology at Clemson University. Along with his studies, he serves as a recreational program leader on campus, participates in internship opportunities, and volunteers his time to help others.

HCRI Therapy Participant Russ Smith
Russ Smith

To meet the challenges of his educational and co-curricular demands, Russ faces each day with a positive mindset, commitment to succeed, and reliance on his deep, enduring faith. These same attributes also helped him take action to overcome his severe stutter, a speech condition he lived with since early childhood.

While growing up, school classmates and friends were accepting of his stuttered speech. Though, each day presented unpredictable communication challenges.

“The people who knew me appreciated me for the person I am. Yet, having a stutter was hard to deal with mentally because I didn’t know how it was going to manifest itself at any moment – or in the future.” he explained. In retrospect, Russ noted that his stuttering helped him become tougher, more resilient, and more determined than ever to succeed in life.

During high school, Russ resolved to do something about his stuttering once and for all. He had unwavering support from his parents. Together they researched treatment options and learned about the unique stuttering therapy at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) in Roanoke, Virginia. They liked the fact that HCRI is a science-based treatment program, which teaches participants life-long skills to control stuttering and talk fluently at will.

According to HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., the HCRI therapy program has been tested with thousands of stuttering cases that range from mild to severe. “Our behavioral therapy was invented here at our stuttering research and treatment center. HCRI therapy features detailed clinical protocols and advanced technology that systematically teach participants how to control stuttering’s repetitions, prolongations and voice blockages.”

Research demonstrates that 93 percent of HCRI participants achieve fluent speech by the end of their 12-day program. Follow-up studies reveal 70 to 75 percent maintain fluency when tested one and two years after therapy.

Russ is quick to point out that HCRI stuttering treatment is rigorous and involves eight hours of intense therapy each day, plus homework. “You have to be totally committed to the program. Only then will you see strong fluency results and a lasting speech transformation.”

When Russ attended HCRI stuttering therapy, he was 15 years old. He entered the program not knowing what to expect. With “blind faith” he followed the treatment process with precision. He saw his speech improve with each day. After 12 days, Russ achieved the ability to control his stuttering and speak fluently.

Remarking about his new-found fluency, Russ said it was a feeling of “absolute freedom.” At the same time, he emphasizes that HCRI stuttering therapy is not a magic pill. Acquiring and sustaining the skills to speak fluently requires hard work while in therapy and practice post treatment.

“For our clients, we are a partner in fluency for life,” Dr. Webster said. His nonprofit center encourages participants to maintain ongoing phone contact with HCRI’s clinical team – even years after treatment. To help clients maintain robust fluency once they leave, HCRI provides post-therapy resources and networking opportunities, including online practice software, retreats, refresher courses, and client-run practice groups.

Russ believes the opportunity to network is an exceptional benefit offered by the Institute. He attends HCRI events and volunteers his time to facilitate a weekly HCRI practice group that helps other alumni keep their speech skills at peak levels.

“I couldn’t pursue a career in dentistry without HCRI stuttering therapy,” Russ said. “The dentist-patient interaction goes on all the time, every day– and requires consistently proficient communication. I’m blessed to have that ability now thanks to HCRI.”

————————————
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.

More than 6,500 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 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.

2017 HCRI Alumni Retreat

April 29-30, 2017 – Roanoke, Virginia

 

The 2017 Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) Alumni Retreat is a prime time for past therapy participations to sharpen fluency skills, spend time with the HCRI team, hear informative presentations, and reconnect with other alumni.

2017 HCRI Alumni RetreatThe retreat will take place April 29-30, 2017 in Roanoke, Virginia on the campus of nearby Hollins University. Alumni will come from across the U.S. to attend this two-day event. The retreat weekend features a packed schedule that includes the following.

Saturday: Activities begin at 9 a.m. and include an information session, target review, alumni workshops, transfer activities, and a presentation by Gerald R. McDermott, Ph.D. An HCRI alumnus, Dr. McDermott is Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School and author of the book, Famous Stutterers. In the evening, HCRI will host a buffet dinner for attendees and their guests.

Sunday: Activities feature more alumni workshops and presentations, along with “round robin” practice opportunities. The weekend will wrap up at 1 p.m.

Registration and Conference Fees:

The registration fee for alumni to attend the weekend event is $285. The fee for participants who accompany alumni is $160 per guest. There is no charge for children ages 10 and under who are accompanying alumni over the weekend.

For more information and to sign up, click here: Register Today!

For questions, contact Linda Booth or Bonnie Witt at 540-265-5650, 855-236-7032 or info@stuttering.org.

Chapter 5 Excerpt – From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6,300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief

Book on stuttering 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 Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. dispels the myths that surround the condition and takes readers on a captivating journey into stuttering from a scientific perspective. 

The following continues the series of chapter excerpts from this compelling book on stuttering.

CHAPTER 5 EXCERPT

Stuttering and the Arrow of Time

The problem with stuttering is that stuttering is not the problem. This is a paradoxical statement, yet I believe it is accurate. This chapter will expand the definition of what we now refer to as stuttering by showing that additional levels of observation are required in order to better understand the events involved in this problem.

Stuttering Book ExcerptEarlier I made the point that stuttering is inferred when, during speech initiation, particular observed speech events occur. However, as I indicated in the previous chapter, the simple identification of these behaviors and their cognitive/emotional consequences provides an incomplete and not particularly practical view of the problem.

Figure 4.1, in the previous chapter, presents a schematic illustration of the elements that appear in the legacy definition of stuttering. Note that in this model, the behavioral manifestations of disfluent speech are fundamentally important. Their presence gives rise to the accessory behaviors arrayed immediately below the disfluent speech events.

In addition, the disfluent speech activities and the accessory behaviors, together, are seen to generate activity within the cognitive/emotional domain as others react to the speech of the individual involved. In addition, the individual processes his or her experiences and establishes their meaning in his or her own manner. In my opinion, something is missing in this equation.

The legacy model recognizes specific behavioral events that are identified as the elements that permit the inference of stuttering. Note, however, that the behaviors identified in the model are behaviors by type; they are not stuttering. I believe that there is a critical need to sustain our focus on behavioral details because that, frankly, is where the action occurs…

… [end of excerpt from Chapter 5]

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.

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.

Farewell to a Dear Friend and Hero – John Glenn

john-glenn
John Glenn

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.

HCRI President Dr. Ron Webster with Annie and John Glenn at the Institute's 35th Anniversary Event
HCRI President Dr. Ron Webster with Annie and John Glenn at the Institute’s 35th anniversary event.

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.