This Fighter Pilot Addresses His Stuttering with Positivity and Action

Navy fighter pilot Justin Norton never lets his stuttering get in the way of what he wants to accomplish in life. As a young child, he remembers how hard it was to simply say his name and get his words to flow smoothly and quickly. However, he always would do his best to communicate, while brushing off the teasing and strange looks from others. As he got older, he kept a positive attitude and maintained an active social life even with his stuttering.

When he finished high school, Justin attended Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. It was there that he learned how to fly airplanes. Soon after he graduated, he joined the Navy and began flight training. He quickly rose to the rank of Navy Lieutenant and became a member of the Strike Fighter Squadron known as the “Black Knights.” The Black Knights are an operational fleet squadron flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

“When I was in the Navy, I noticed my stuttering getting progressively worse under the pressure of my increased responsibilities,” Justin said. “My speech was affecting my flying, and my ability to deliver flight briefs and de-briefs. I knew I needed to address my stuttering to be as effective as possible.”

While Justin participated in stuttering therapy with speech-language pathologists during his youth, he knew he needed a therapy approach that would transform his speech for the long term. His wife learned about the intensive stuttering therapy program at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) in Virginia. After extensively researching HCRI, he enrolled in the institute’s 12-day treatment program.

HCRI stuttering therapy participant Justin Norton
HCRI stuttering therapy participant Justin Norton is pictured here with his family standing next to the F/A-18 Super Hornet he flies for the Navy.

Grounded in science, HCRI stuttering therapy is a one-of-a-kind behavioral therapy invented by HCRI Founder and President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. The therapy 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. Specially trained HCRI clinicians work with participants using systematic treatment protocols and proprietary therapy technology that guide individuals step-by-step through the treatment process.

“HCRI is one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I acquired lifelong skills to control my speech and learned the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of my stuttering. I’m so thankful for the team at Hollins,” Justin remarked.

When he returned to his Navy responsibilities Justin’s fluency was noticeably improved. There was a marked difference in his ability to communicate while flying, as well as briefing and debriefing flights.

“When he attended our therapy, Justin was fully committed to the treatment process and achieved fluency by the end of his 12-day program. Since returning to his naval air station, he practices daily to habituate his newly acquired fluency skills. Moreover, he knows that to win, sometimes you need to work hard – and he has done just that,” Dr. Webster said.

Dr. Webster also noted that Justin’s ability to speak fluently will open up many career pathways.

When asked about his advice to persons who stutter, Justin said, “My advice to others who stutter is to avoid self-pity and do something about your stuttering rather than be consumed by it. Spend time with people who matter and support you. And, remember to laugh.”

About Stuttering

Approximately 66 million people worldwide suffer from the effects of stuttering, with three million in the U.S, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). The condition is characterized by repeated or prolonged sounds and syllables, blocks and words that disrupt speech. Stuttering can impair social growth, educational attainment, and career potential.

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 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, or contact HCRI at (540) 265-5650 or