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.

Here’s What Makes HCRI Stuttering Therapy Effective and Enduring

As you evaluate your stuttering therapy options, the key is to find a treatment approach that is proven, effective and long-lasting. To assist in your selection process, following is an overview of the 12-day therapy at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI). This one-of-a-kind immersion program was created by Dr. Ronald Webster and his clinical team.

 Below Dr. Webster provides a summary of HCRI stuttering therapy. You can use this overview to compare HCRI’s offerings to other available treatment options – and determine which therapy is best for you.

Dr. Webster Explains How HCRI Therapy is Designed

When our team created HCRI stuttering therapy, we focused on the behavioral analysis of stuttering. Our goal was to develop a premium stuttering therapy that was:

1. Objective

2. Reliable in its outcome

3. General in its usefulness across different persons who stutter

Dr. Ron Webster
HCRI President and Founder Dr. Ron Webster

Through the years, we have applied our latest research findings to continually refine HCRI’s stuttering therapy offering.

At the heart of HCRI therapy, we identified new core features that define stuttering. We developed new methods of training that empower our clients to actively generate fluent speech and to retain the skills learned in therapy.

One of the remarkable features of HCRI stuttering treatment is that it takes into account the inherent complexities of speech production and provides specialized, focused training, thereby improving the quality of our therapy process.

Our stuttering therapy represents a comprehensive treatment system that deals directly with the:

  • Motor malfunctions of speech
  • Formation of correct positioning of the vocal tract for different speech elements;
  • Built-in transfer training that facilitates everyday speech fluency after therapy is completed
  • Reduction in speech-related anxieties by means of in vivo (real world) desensitization exposure. The integration of transfer training and desensitization adds power and longevity to therapy outcomes

An additional feature is that vocal control training for fluent speech is facilitated by our electronic measurement of energy profiles that actively generate fluent speech. Our proprietary technology helps clients better learn and understand precisely how their fluent speech is being generated. Exacting physical measurements provide an unprecedented level of learning and retention of key fluency skills.

HCRI therapy is built upon the physical details that create fluent speech. By working properly with the correct physical details, you’ll benefit from the strength and longevity of fluency skills.

As a result, with HCRI ‘s comprehensive therapy system, you will acquire skills to control your stuttering in all types of situations and speak fluently with confidence.

HCRI Fluency Results – Effective and Long-Lasting

HCRI stuttering therapy addresses stuttering that ranges from mild to severe. THe institute’s clinicians have treated more than 7,000 individuals, aged 11 to 73, from across the U.S. and 50 countries.

Research demonstrates:

  • 93% of participants achieve fluency by the end of their 12-day therapy program
  • 75% of participants retain fluency when evaluated two years post therapy

Before-and-After Therapy Videos >>

Clients include broadcasters, athletes, teachers, engineers, students, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, paramedics, and other individuals from all walks of life.

Before coming to HCRI, most program participants tried other therapies for stuttering without long-term success. HCRI therapy is designed to teach fluency skills that can be maintained for a lifetime.

More 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.

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.

Overview of HCRI Work and Accomplishments

As Hollins Communication Research Institute (HCRI) enters its 50th year of stuttering research and treatment innovation, here’s a summary look at the breadth of work and accomplishments of the nonprofit center.

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.

HCRI HeadquartersStuttering Therapy

  • Under the direction of Founder and President, Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D, HCRI was the first to develop a comprehensive behavioral therapy for stuttering that is based on science. Since introducing the stuttering therapy program in 1972, HCRI has continually innovated and refined the therapy program by developing specialized electronics, computer software programs, detailed clinician training protocols, and technologically advanced therapy tools.
  • Dr. Webster and his research team invented the Voice Monitor, a real-time, computer-based speech measurement and feedback system. The Voice Monitor makes fluency-skill learning more exacting for clients and increases clinical efficiency by 500%. A U.S. patent was awarded for the Voice Monitor.
  • HCRI stuttering therapy delivers among the highest documented fluency outcomes of any stuttering treatment available. 93% of clients achieve fluency in 12 days and 75% maintain fluent speech when evaluated two years later.
  • HCRI introduced the first web-based home practice tool for clients called FluencyNet, which reinforces fluency skills learned in therapy.
  • HCRI introduced an iPhone app that serves as a “clinician in your pocket,” providing real-time speech feedback to stuttering therapy clients, helping them practice and stabilize newly acquired fluency skills.
  • HCRI created a training program exclusively for the institute’s clinicians to ensure consistent, results-based therapy delivery. This rigorous 500-hour program surpasses any available professional training or certification in the field.
  • HCRI clinicians have treated more than 7,000 individuals who stutter, aged 10 to 75,  from across the U.S. and 50 countries.

Recognition

  • HCRI’s stuttering treatment program was the distinguished recipient of the First Award for Scientific Merit by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
  • The Virginia General Assembly, during Governor Jim Gilmore’s term,  unanimously passed a house joint resolution commending HCRI for its groundbreaking research and therapy innovation.
  • HCRI was recognized by Virginia Business magazine for its long-standing track record of innovation.
  • HCRI Founder and President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and Professor Emeritus of psychology, received the Outstanding Contributions in the Application of Psychology award from the Virginia Psychological Association.

Research

  • HCRI partnered with the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD) on a pioneering study that discovered three mutant genes that are linked to stuttering. Results of the study were published in the February 2010 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
  • HCRI conducted a study on the genetics of stuttering and mucolipidosis in association with NIDCD, the Laboratory of Communications Disorders, and Porter Neuroscience Research Center. Findings demonstrated the two conditions are associated with different variants in the same genes. The study and its findings were published in the July 15, 2015 issue of the European Journal of Human Genetics.
  • HCRI participated with the NIDCD in the first study to evaluate stuttering therapy outcomes among a group of stutterers who possess one of the mutant genes for stuttering compared to a group of stutterers who do not carry the same mutant genes. The results were published in the July/August 2019 issue of the Journal of Communications Disorders.

Published Work

  • Dr. Webster has written dozens of stuttering articles and book chapters throughout his career that have appeared in publications including the Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, Journal of Fluency Disorders, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, and others.
  • Dr. Webster published a comprehensive book on stuttering and treatment that offers new insights and dispels the misinformation that surround the disorder. The book is “From Stuttering to Fluent Speech, 6300 Cases Later: Unlocking Muscle Mischief.”
  • He also authored an inspirational children’s story book on stuttering, “Katie: The Little Girl Who Stuttered and Then Learned to Speak Fluently.

HCRI Media Coverage

The HCRI therapy program and Dr. Webster’s work have been the subject of coverage in national, regional and local media. HCRI media coverage includes NBC Today, CBS Morning News, Good Morning America, 20/20, Nightline, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Newsweek, Scientific American, Sports Illustrated, U.S. News and World Report, and many others. In addition, articles about HCRI stuttering therapy have appeared in digital outlets across the internet.

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About Stuttering
Approximately 66 million people worldwide suffer from the effects of stuttering, with three million in the U.S, according to NIDCD. The condition is characterized by repeated or prolonged sounds, syllables, blocks and words that disrupt speech. Stuttering can impair social growth, educational attainment, and job potential.

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 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 www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032 or info@stuttering.org.

Young HCRI Alumnus Driven to Help Others Who Stutter

In sixth grade, Stanley D. Craig, Jr. of Richmond, Virginia, came to Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) for stuttering therapy after trying other treatments that did not produce results. At age 12, he was among HCRI’s youngest therapy participants.

Yet, Stan’s age didn’t deter his commitment to working hard during HCRI’s 12-day immersion therapy. His focus and dedication to the therapy process paid off. Stan achieved the ability to speak fluently and confidently by the end of his program. For the first time in his life, he could say his name, carry on conversations, and answer questions in class.

HCRI Alumnus Stanley D. Craig, Jr.
HCRI Alumnus Stanley D. Craig, Jr.

Now a 17-year-old junior in high school, Stan continues to speak fluently in all types of environments from school to social settings. He practices his fluency skills regularly and stays in touch with HCRI clinicians. He followed up his therapy with an HCRI refresher program to hone his fluency skills.

“Before HCRI, stuttering impacted my life on many levels, leaving me almost mute when I was in middle school. It took me up to 17 attempts to produce an initial sound. I developed a secondary behavior of head nodding, which exacerbated my struggles to communicate with peers and teachers,” Stan explained. “While I persevered and tried to push through my disfluencies, I was treated differently by kids and adults alike.”

“After HCRI, the change in my speech was remarkable. Now I am comfortable talking in any situation. HCRI therapy is life-changing and I want to do everything possible to help others who stutter,” Stan said.

Stan put his words into action…

Helping Teens Who Stutter

Stan organized a support group for teens who stutter in the Richmond area. The group is called SSEAT, which stands for Stuttering Support, Empathy, and Advocacy for Teens. SSEAT provides opportunities for teens to practice their fluency skills and promotes advocacy of stuttering research and intervention.

“SSEAT’s mission is to provide a safe community for stuttering teens to support each other through social, emotional, and academic impacts of their expressive language differences,” Stan said.

In addition to SSEAT, Stan mentored a student who attended HCRI therapy to help him practice and habituate his speaking skills.

Raising Funds for Therapy Scholarships

Stan set up a GoFundMe account to fund HCRI therapy scholarships for those with financial need. His goal is to make life-changing stuttering therapy more accessible to those who otherwise could not afford treatment. He raised more than $8,400 within two weeks and is continuing to push for more therapy scholarship dollars.

Research Internship with HCRI

Considering his passion for helping teens and young adults who stutter, Stan reached out to HCRI President and Founder Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. He inquired about doing a summer internship with the institute.

The two discussed potential projects that would be meaningful to Stan as an aspiring physician and research scientist, as well as beneficial to the institute. As a result, Stan’s internship work will involve collecting data of speech utterances and quantifying measurements that differentiate stuttered speech from fluent speech.

“Stan is an impressive individual. I remember when he came to HCRI at the age of 12. Even then, he was a go-getter – intelligent and hardworking. I’m looking forward to his contributions,” Dr. Webster said.

About HCRI

Hollins Communications Research Institute was founded by Dr. Webster in 1972 to investigate stuttering through scientific discovery and treatment innovation. Since that time, 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 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.

The Cost of Your Stuttering vs. the Cost of Stuttering Therapy at HCRI

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

In this article, Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., president of Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI), offers a quantitative perspective to help individuals evaluate the cost that stuttering imposes on people’s lives compared to the cost of attending HCRI’s 12-day stuttering therapy program. 

HCRI’s immersion therapy is a powerful, proven behavioral based treatment that works across stuttering types and severities. During therapy, participants systematically learn how to replace the distorted contractions and movements that give rise to stuttering with new speech-muscle behaviors that generate fluent speech.

Looking at the Numbers: Is HCRI Stuttering Therapy Worth the Investment?

It has been estimated that individuals who stutter, compared with those who do not stutter, are likely to earn approximately $7,000 to $8,000 less per year. The simple fact is that stuttering is generally viewed as a negative in the world of work. Typical business hiring practices and promotion policies do not provide accommodations for persons who stutter.

Cost of Stuttering1

Over the course of a working lifetime of 45 years, the anticipated personal earnings of the person who stutterers is approximately $335,000 less than for a person who does not stutter. That represents slightly over one third of a million dollars of lost earnings. And, in a significant number of potential high achievers, the lost earnings could be much higher.

Cost of Stuttering TherapyNow, contrast that number of lost wages with the cost of stuttering therapy at HCRI, with its high probability of a successful, fluent outcome.

The present HCRI stuttering therapy fee of $4,285 provides an intensive 12-day program involving 100 hours of treatment, pre- and post-therapy evaluation, and practice. That means that the actual cost of this program is under $43 per clock (60-minute) hour. Contrast that with other therapies that may well be $80 to $120 per 45- to 50-minute clinical hour. The lifetime cost of HCRI stuttering therapy comes to 1.8 cents per day.

Your Return on Investment with HCRI

Considering the potential of lost wages over a working lifetime, the investment in HCRI stuttering therapy delivers impressive returns.

Therefore, the return on investment of your therapy fees has the potential to be significant over a career.

Beyond the Money

You may also wish to learn that 78% of program graduates surveyed indicated they had increased their quality of life after participating in HCRI therapy.  In the same survey, 79% said their personal happiness and satisfaction increased and 84% reported greater confidence after participation.

There are genuine personal and economic factors to be considered when you are selecting a stuttering treatment program. Our program at HCRI provides exceptional value to our clients.

Proven Results

Research demonstrates that 93% of HCRI stuttering therapy participants achieve fluent speech by the end of their 12-day program. When evaluated two years after therapy, 75% maintain their ability to speak fluently. These numbers represents among the strongest documented outcomes of any stuttering therapy.

Therefore, there is a strong likelihood of success with HCRI stuttering therapy. Your commitment to the therapy process at HCRI plays a key role in your outcomes, as well.

We invite you to learn more about our approach to stuttering therapy and how our science-based treatment can benefit you. For more information, contact us at 855-236-7032 or via email. Our website at www.stuttering.org also offers extensive information on our program and what you can expect.

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  www.stuttering.org, or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032 or info@stuttering.org.

 

A View into Stuttering: Incidence, Characteristics and Treatment

Stuttering is one of humankind’s most misunderstood and mistreated disorders.

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

In this primer on stuttering, Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. provides an overview on the prevalence and characteristics of stuttering, along with key genetic findings and treatment options. Dr. Webster is president and founder of Hollins Communication Research Institute (HCRI). He also is a clinical psychologist, author, and professor emeritus of psychology. HCRI is an internationally recognized center for stuttering research and treatment innovation.

When Did Stuttering First Appear in Humans?

Stuttering is unique to humans and has a long, long history in human experience. Research and publications suggest that stuttering became part of the human condition as long as 60,000 years ago and evolved along with our species, homo sapiens.

Ancient Egyptian clay tablets from 4,000 years B.C. referenced stuttering and labeled it “nit-nit.” Chinese poetry noted stuttering over 2,500 years ago B.C. The Bible and Koran make reference to stuttering in a number of instances. In particular, the Bible suggests that Moses may have been a stutterer and, for that reason, asked his brother Aaron to read the Ten Commandments after he came down from the mountain.

Incidence of Stuttering

Stuttering, also known as stammering, is a global disorder, occurring in one-percent of the population. Thus, in the U.S., there are approximately three million persons who stutter. Globally, stutterers number about 70 million. Stuttering affects four times as many males as females. The type and severity of stuttering varies by individual – and the condition may change in intensity, based on the day and speaking situation.

Characteristics and Onset of Stuttering

Individuals who stutter experience involuntary disruptions in their flow of speech, which impacts their ability to speak fluently and effectively communicate in everyday situations.

primer on stutteringStuttering is characterized by interruptions in the flow of speech that take the form of repetitions of sounds, syllables and words (as with “my-my-my-my house”); prolonging the initial sounds of syllables (like “n-n-n-no”); and voice blockage when no sound is produced. These speech characteristics may be accompanied by overt physical behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks, facial twitches or tremors of the lips.

The onset of stuttering typically occurs in 4 to 5 percent of children. It happens when children are between two and four years of age, as speech and language skills are developing. While about 69% of children will outgrow the problem by age 12, their stuttering can negatively impact friendships, daily interactions, and school performance.

If childhood stuttering persists into adolescence, it is unlikely that spontaneous remission will occur as the person ages. Life-long stuttering can dramatically impede social, educational and economic growth, as well as limit the realization of an individual’s personal potential. Stutterers are estimated to earn about $5,000 to $8,000 per year less than their peers who do not stutter.

More on the cost of stuttering >>

Role of Genetics in Stuttering

Stuttering is well known to occur within families. Around 70% of persons who stutter can identify another family member or members who stutter.  For men who have ever stuttered, 9% of their daughters and 22% of their sons likely will be stutterers. For women who have ever stuttered, 17% of their daughters and 36% of their sons likely will be identified as stutterers. Thus, the evidence suggests that women pass on genetic material related to stuttering more than men, even though they are found to stutter less themselves.

In a breakthrough study by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), three mutant genes linked to stuttering were identified, and the identification of a fourth mutant gene followed. HCRI collaborated with the NIDCD on this genetic research, as well as with follow-up studies.

HCRI’s work on the genetics of stuttering >>

At the present time, one or more of the mutant genes have been found in approximately 20% of cases showing stuttering. Further research is likely to identify additional mutant genes involved in the causation of stuttering. The key point is that clear evidence of genetic involvement with stuttering support the basic thesis that mechanisms internal to the biological function of humans are causal in stuttering.

In addition to genetic factors, evidence is developing that both children and adults who stutter display anomalies of brain structure and function in areas involved in the production of speech.

Treatment Approaches

There is no cure for stuttering; yet, there are different therapies to help lessen or remedy the condition. Each of the treatments has varying degrees of success and individuals should evaluate treatment options to determine which approaches are best suited to their needs. Therapy options include the following.

  • Traditional speech therapy that involves regularly scheduled sessions with a provider to help reduce disfluency and stress. This type of therapy tends to be open-ended and can last for several years. Fluency outcomes are mildly effective.
  • Counseling-related therapies that focus on helping clients accept their stuttering and decrease communication anxiety. While those treated may benefit from counseling as a means to better accept the fact they stutter, few become fluent.
  • Self-help groups provide a support system for individuals who stutter and help them feel better about their speech. Yet, as with counseling-related approaches, very few individuals achieve fluency.
  • Science-based behavioral therapy, invented by HCRI research scientists, has consistently proven to help individuals achieve and sustain fluent speech. This 12-day immersion treatment teaches persons how to replace faulty speech muscles that give rise to stuttering and replace them with new muscle behaviors that generate fluent speech. Research demonstrates that 93% of therapy participants achieve fluency after 12 days. 75% maintain fluent speech when evaluated 2 years after therapy.

More about 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) nonprofit organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of scientifically derived therapy approaches.

More than 7,000 individuals from across the U.S. and 50 countries have come to HCRI for stuttering treatment. Clients represent 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 stuttering.org or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032 or info@stuttering.org.

 

HCRI Receives $200,000 Gift from National TV Journalist John Stossel

NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT

Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org), an international stuttering research and therapy center headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia, has received a $200,000 gift from national television journalist John Stossel.

John Stossel
Photograph of John Stossel by Gage Skidmore

Mr. Stossel is a former HCRI stuttering therapy client. He is an Emmy Award winning television journalist, news anchor, book author, columnist, and pundit. Mr. Stossel is recognized for his distinguished career on ABC News and Fox Business Channel, as well as his libertarian perspectives on Stossel TV.

“This meaningful gift will enable our nonprofit institute to continue helping individuals who stutter open doors of opportunity that were never before possible,” said HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D. Funds from Mr. Stossel’s  donation will be used to support the center’s therapy scholarship program and stuttering research initiatives.

“We are grateful for John’s generosity in supporting our important cause. His impressive communication skills are a fine example of how HCRI’s science-based therapy can help individuals stop stuttering and speak fluently in all types of situations,” Dr. Webster said.

Mr. Stossel has been an ally of HCRI through the years. He has promoted the institute in news stories and provided financial support. In recognition of Mr. Stossel’s generous gift, HCRI is designating clinical space at the institute in his name.

HCRI therapy participants spend 12 days in HCRI’s clinic learning lifelong skills that enable them to stop stuttering and speak fluently. The institute’s stuttering treatment program delivers among the highest documented fluency outcomes for stuttering therapy. Research demonstrates that 93% of program participants achieve fluency by the end of HCRI therapy. When evaluated two years after treatment, 75% of clients sustained their fluency skills.

Mr. Stossel made his donation to HCRI using bitcoin, which was the institute’s first experience accepting a gift in digital currency. Dr. Webster noted that processing the cryptocurrency donation was an intriguing learning experience – and likely an indicator of what is in store for future gifts across nonprofits.

More than 7,000 people from 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 was founded by Dr. Webster to investigate stuttering, develop new treatment approaches, and administer life-changing stuttering therapy. Stuttering impacts three million people in the U.S. and 66 million people globally.

HCRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is in its 49th year of operation. The center is located at 7851 Enon Drive, Roanoke, Va. 24019. For more information, visit www.stuttering.org or contact HCRI at 855-236-7032.

New Speech Pathologist Joins the HCRI Team

Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI), a national center for stuttering research and treatment innovation, welcomes Sarah Buchholz, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist joining HCRI’s expert team of stuttering therapists.

Sarah Buchholz
Sarah Buchholz

Sarah brings to HCRI strong experience working in a clinical team environment. She has treated students and other patients for a variety of fluency, language, and speech-sound disorders. An ardent interest in stuttering and HCRI’s science-based therapy drew her to the institute.

“Stuttering is difficult to treat effectively with traditional speech therapy. I experienced this first hand,” Sarah said. “Yet, HCRI’s approach is vastly different and more effective than anything I’ve seen in the field. It transforms speech. When I heard about the open position, I knew I wanted to be a part of the institute’s work.”

Sarah received her Master of Education in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Virginia (UVA). For her undergraduate studies, she earned a degree in Special Education Integrated Studies at Liberty University.

Sarah completed HCRI’s rigorous 500-hour training that certifies her to administer the nonprofit center’s advanced stuttering therapy program. Certification is required of all HCRI clinicians to ensure clients benefit from consistent, precise delivery of HCRI therapy and the highest standards of clinical excellence.

According to HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., “We are pleased to have Sarah on our clinical team. From day one, she has shown her dedication to HCRI therapy excellence and serving the needs of our clients.”

Sarah joins stuttering therapists Candy Smith, Amy Finch, Kristin Stanley, and Courtney Stackhouse in administering HCRI’s 12-day treatment program, as well as serving HCRI alumni.

In her free time, Sarah enjoys running, hiking, exercising, and spending time with her husband, Carl, and their two dogs. They also are devotees of UVA sports and activities.

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) nonprofit organization, has become an international leader in stuttering research and the development of scientifically derived therapy approaches.

Nearly 7,000 individuals 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.

FluencyNet: HCRI’s Fluency Practice Software

When stuttering therapy participants at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) complete their 12-day program, they return home with an extensive package of practice tools and clinical support to help them maintain fluency for the long term. One of these tools is a free six-month subscription to FluencyNet, HCRI’s proprietary fluency practice system.

The computer-based program complements HCRI stuttering therapy by validating and strengthening the use of specific fluency-generating behaviors that clients acquire during therapy.

How Does It Work?

FluencyNet is based on the physical analysis of speech sounds as they are being uttered. HCRI’s hardware and software provide…

  1. Real-time measures of speech sounds;
  2. An immediate evaluation of the utterances relative to HCRI fluency standards; and
  3. Delivery of speech results in graphs plotted on the computer screen.

FluencyNetlarger

When an onscreen graph shows an accumulation of many green bars and few red bars, the speech signals are judged to be mostly correct. On the other hand, when the onscreen graph shows an accumulation of many red bars and few green bars, the speech signals are judged to be outside the limits necessary for the maintenance of fluent speech.

Who Most Benefits from FluencyNet?

The answer to the question above relies on the level of skill attained in using fluency “targets” in everyday life. Targets are new speech-muscle movements/patterns that replace the distorted contractions and movements that give rise to stuttering. Using the new behaviors or targets generates fluent speech.

Most program graduates who are solidly on target with their new speech skills and talk with few disfluencies may not have a need to use the software. Yet, if individuals are somewhat unstable with their use of fluency skills, FluencyNet may provide the boost needed to move to more stable, consistent use of those speaking skills.

FluencyNet is always there in the event a past participant needs it – whether one month or ten years after attending HCRI.

How Much Is FluencyNet?

As noted earlier, the first six-month subscription is always free for HCRI therapy graduates. The subscription includes a standard microphone and FluencyNet software. If after 6 months, an individual wants to continue with FluencyNet, there are short-, intermediate- and long-term subscriptions available.

Pricing begins at $19.95 for 30 days. Three-month ($54.95), six-month ($99.94), annual ($174.95) and lifetime subscriptions ($425) are available.

Other Valuable Support and Practice Tools for Program Grads

In addition to FluencyNet, the HCRI clinical team stays in touch with program participants after therapy through phone contact and emails. Even years later, HCRI clinicians welcome calls from alumni needing support and guidance.

Other beneficial post-therapy tools includes HCRI’s iPhone practice app, therapy program materials, access to fluency practice groups by phone and Zoom, and remote and in-person refresher programs.

To learn more about HCRI’s alumni support offerings, click here or reach out at 855-236-7032 or info@stuttering.org.

At HCRI, we are your partner in fluency for life.