How Fluency Changed Scott Nickell’s Trajectory in Life

Scott Nickell spends his work days calling prospects, conducting face-to-face meetings, strategizing solutions with co-workers, and giving presentations to packed rooms of industry professionals.

Scott Nickell - HCRI Therapy Participant
Scott Nickell

As Business Development Manager for a leading distribution company, success depends on Scott’s ability to effectively communicate with decision makers and convey how his company can transform their operational systems into a competitive advantage.

His daily communication requirements are demanding even for the most eloquent and powerful speakers. Though, the gift of speech isn’t something Scott takes for granted – and it isn’t something that comes naturally or easily. He lives with a stuttering condition that surfaced in his youth.

In school, his stuttering hindered his ability to socialize and diminished his self-confidence. He couldn’t say certain words and struggled to communicate each day.

After trying traditional speech therapies with no success, Scott’s parents heard about the unique behavioral therapy offered at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) in Roanoke, Virginia. They enrolled him in the intensive treatment program when he was 12 years old.

“My parents and I saw HCRI as the last shot. The ability to speak fluently meant everything to me and I was committed to giving 110 percent to the therapy program,” Scott recalled.

He found HCRI stuttering treatment unlike any other therapy experience. It was hard work and he was the youngest of 10 participants in his therapy group. Yet, HCRI clinicians provided tremendous support and guided Scott through each step in the treatment process.

According to HCRI President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI clinicians work one-on-one with therapy participants and help them learn new, specifically defined ways to use speech muscles that enable the ability to speak fluently. Webster and his research team invented HCRI’s comprehensive behavioral therapy approach, which has been tested with thousands of people who stutter and continually refined through the years.

“Today, the use of advanced computer technology and real-time speech measurement during therapy at HCRI makes fluency acquisition even easier and more precise for participants,” Webster said. “In addition, our post-therapy clinical support and a comprehensive package of practice tools keep participants on track with fluency throughout their lives.”

HCRI research demonstrates that 93 percent of therapy participants achieve fluent speech at the conclusion of their treatment. When evaluated two years later, 75 percent of participants maintained their fluency.

By the end of his HCRI program, Scott spoke fluently for the first time in his life. When he returned home, people could not believe how well he spoke. It was exhilarating for the 12-year-old to talk like everyone else.

However, Scott is quick to point out that it is easy to fall back to old speaking habits without ongoing practice of the speech skills he learned during treatment. In fact, he practiced his HCRI fluency techniques every day for many years.

“When you are a stutterer, how you talk is always in the back of your mind,” he said. “Even to this day, I recall my HCRI fluency training and take advantage of HCRI’s online fluency-practice tools that are available to alumni.”

Scott believes his experience with HCRI at an early age changed his trajectory in life – from his educational achievement to his career success. “I talk every single day, every single hour, as part of my job. I love what I do. I would be in a completely different line of work if it hadn’t been for HCRI. I don’t know where I would be without fluent speech,” he added.

HCRI clinicians have treated nearly 7,000 people who stutter, aged 11 to 73, from 50 countries. Clients include students, broadcasters, athletes, teachers, engineers, doctors, military personnel, business professionals, police officers, actors, paramedics, and others from all walks of life. For more information about HCRI stuttering therapy, visit www.stuttering.org.

Producer and Filmmaker Elan Dassani Overcomes Stuttering, Makes his Mark in an Industry Where Talk is Everything

 

Elan Dassani in MoscowAs a sought-after television series producer and filmmaker, Elan Dassani’s ability to effectually communicate with directors, actors, visual-effects artists, and staffers is paramount to his success.

On any given day, he may speak with up to a hundred people at a time. When he is not working on television shows, he scouts locations or pitches decision makers on using the many production and special-effects services of his company, Master Key.

Along with industry expertise, Dassani’s ability to speak persuasively is his most important asset. Yet, it is also among his greatest challenges because Dassani is a stutterer. Since he was a young child, his ability to speak fluidly and spontaneously was hindered by stuttering, which made it difficult even to say his name.

His condition produced involuntary interruptions in his flow of speech. Dassani experienced intermittent blocks, repetitions and prolongations of sounds and syllables, which made it difficult to carry on conversations. To fix his stutter, he tried different treatments that ranged from wearing an auditory feedback device to meeting with speech therapists. None produced lasting fluency.

While in college, he learned about the unique behavioral therapy offered at Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI), the same center that helped television broadcaster John Stossel overcome stuttering and catapult his career. Dassani decided to enroll and try HCRI’s stuttering therapy program.

Elan Dassani in Paris“The program was challenging and markedly different than any other stuttering treatment I experienced,” Dassani said. “The techniques and skills I learned at HCRI helped me proactively manage my stuttering and speak fluently in everyday situations.”

According to HCRI Founder and President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI stuttering therapy takes hard work, commitment and ongoing practice for optimal, life-long results. Developed by Webster and his research team – and tested with thousands who stutter, the therapy program is systematic and quality-controlled. HCRI participants work intensively with specially trained clinicians to learn new speech behaviors that replace distorted contractions and muscle movements that cause stuttered speech. The new behaviors enable people to generate fluent speech at will.

For Dassani, the ability to speak fluently makes life and what he wants to accomplish “easier and better.” He experienced firsthand the transforming impact fluency can have on someone’s life – professionally and personally.

He also acknowledges the importance of practicing HCRI fluency techniques on a regular basis. Practicing the behaviors taught during therapy helps sustain fluent speech for the long-term. When Dassani attended HCRI’s program, he was young and had a lot of ambitions that took time away from practice. Fifteen years after therapy, he noticed his speech was starting to degrade. So to get his fluency on track, he attended HCRI therapy a second time.

Now, his fluency has returned to the high levels he desires. He is committed to ongoing practice and follow-up with HCRI clinicians. He is using apps to serve as practice reminders and queues to focus on his fluency.

“There is no cure for stuttering. Yet, research demonstrates that HCRI therapy can help the majority of people who stutter acquire the ability to speak fluently.” Webster explained. “Elan Dassani is an excellent example of how fluency can open up doors of opportunity and enable people to reach their full potential in life.”

Dassani added, “I want people to know that stuttering is not insurmountable. There were times when I was frustrated and down in the dumps about my stuttering. Yet, you can get past it with the right treatment and focus,” he concluded.

HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,400 people, between the ages of 11 and 73, from across the U.S. and 50 countries. For more information about Virginia-based HCRI, visit www.stuttering.org.

Perspectives about HCRI Stuttering Therapy Participation

Stuttering therapy participant Bill R. attended the Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) 12-day intensive treatment program nearly one year ago. During a recent phone call, he answered the following questions and shared his perspectives about HCRI stuttering therapy and his experience with program participation.

Why did you choose HCRI stuttering therapy?

During my life, I tried about every type of stuttering therapy available, including using an auditory feedback device.

Yet, nothing worked for me. I continued to seek treatment options in hopes of finally finding a solution to my stuttering problem. Then, I heard about HCRI. I went to the center’s website (www.stuttering.org) to learn about HCRI’s behavioral therapy approach.

I saw the statistics about HCRI’s fluency success rates [93% achieve fluency in 12 days and 70-75% sustain fluent speech over time]. To be honest, I was skeptical of those numbers since my previous therapies didn’t produce results. HCRI’s fluency outcomes seemed too good to be true.

Yet, while I didn’t have a lot of hope that HCRI would help me, it was the one approach I hadn’t tried. I took a leap of faith and enrolled in the 12-day program.

What were your impressions on the first day of HCRI stuttering therapy?

I was nervous when I first arrived at HCRI. I was worried that the therapy wouldn’t work. Though, I saw HCRI as my last resort for getting my stuttering under control.

Describe your experience during the first half of your HCRI therapy program.

In the first week, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. The way the therapy is designed to systematically progress, you don’t see fluency results until the last few days. Initially, it was hard for me to link what the clinicians were teaching ­– and the speech exercises I practiced – to the ultimate outcome of fluent speech.

Yet, I remained committed to the therapy process. I worked hard each day and followed the guidance of HCRI’s clinicians. In the evenings, I continued to practice the speech techniques I learned so I wouldn’t slip back into my old way of speaking.

What were your impressions during the second week of therapy?

Everything came together during the second half of my HCRI program and particularly in the last two days. What I was learning and doing all made sense. Week 2 is where you reap the rewards of your hard work. Each day, my speech got better and better. It was impressive.

What are your thoughts about HCRI now that nearly a year has passed since your therapy program?

I am a fluent speaker now. The fluency statistics on HCRI’s website hold true. Yet, they directly correlate with an individual’s work ethic each day of treatment. If someone stays dedicated to the therapy process and works hard every day, fluency will happen. There’s no limit to the success and fluency you can achieve.

In addition to the actual therapy, the support system you have with HCRI makes such a difference. HCRI clinicians are always there for you – during therapy and once you return home. I check in with them every few weeks to keep my speech on track. Mentally and through speech, that support system promotes such confidence. If I run into an issue with stuttering, HCRI clinicians take the time to work with me over the phone to address it.

Also, you become close with other therapy participants and help one another during the program and afterwards. I’ve stayed in contact with a number of people from my program. We regularly talk on the phone and practice the skills we learned to maintain fluency.

What advice to you have for others considering HCRI stuttering therapy?

Most other stuttering therapies treat the symptoms, which is why results don’t last. At HCRI, you focus on the source of your stuttering and relearn how to speak to generate fluency. Before coming to HCRI, I didn’t grasp the success that could be achieved.

Now that I have fluent speech, I’ve excelled in my career. I just accepted a new position that requires me to speak in front of groups on a regular basis. I wish more people who stutter knew about HCRI and the difference it can make in your life.

So my advice is… If you are committed to fluent speech, HCRI is the place to go.

Speech Transformation over 12 Days with HCRI Stuttering Therapy

Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) conducts 12-day intensive stuttering therapy programs throughout the year to help people overcome stuttering conditions that range from mild to severe. The center’s unique treatment approach is systematic, quality-controlled, and results-driven.

Specially trained clinicians work one-on-one with stuttering therapy participants to help each individual acquire new ways of using speech muscles to generate fluent speech. Each participant benefits from expert clinical guidance, advanced therapy technology, fluency training in real-world environments, and ongoing support once they return home.

By the end of treatment, research shows that 93 percent of participants achieve fluency. Seventy to 75 percent maintain fluent speech for the long term.

The change in speaking ability and confidence among participants from the first day of HCRI stuttering therapy to the last is dramatic. Consider the answers to these questions from four people (Mario T., Justin R., Gillian E. and Jason M.) who participated in a recent 12-day HCRI stuttering therapy program.

DAY 1 of HCRI THERAPY

How does stuttering affect you?

  • “It holds me back from doing things I like to do. Stuttering puts a dent in my confidence.”
  • “Stuttering influences my life in the military and hinders me from what I want to say.”
  • “Stuttering keeps me from moving up in my company. It also affects my daily life and causes stress.”
  • “Stuttering slows me down at work and I’m not outgoing socially. In addition, my wife has to order for me when we go out.”

How would your life be different if you could control your stuttering?

  • “My life would be much simpler. It’s just hard to say what I want to say.”
  • “It would be a huge stress reliever not to stutter. I would be in the public a lot more, moving up a lot more in my company, and able to achieve my goals and dreams that I’ve had for a very long time.”
  • “I like to talk a lot but I try not to talk because I don’t want to make a fool of myself.  If I could talk normally, I would participate more in school and go out with friends.  I would raise my hand more often in class because I usually know the answer but I’m afraid I’ll mess up.”
  • “I would have a lot more confidence if I didn’t stutter. I wouldn’t have to worry about my speech so much and I could focus on other things.”

DAY 12 of HCRI THERAPY

How will things be different now that you can control your stuttering?  

  • “I can go out. I can be more independent. I don’t have to worry about my wife ordering things for me. I can make phone calls. I can just achieve more.”
  • “I believe that I will get the job that I am applying for. I will be able to socialize more in public, I just feel a lot happier now.”
  • “Now that I have some great techniques that will enable me to control my speech, I will be more able to speak in public situations and public settings.”
  • “I’m going to join clubs and go back to church. I stopped because I didn’t want to meet new kids or get called on and have to talk.”

What would you tell others about HCRI stuttering therapy?  

  • “If you are sick and tired of stuttering, then invest in yourself and come to HCRI.”
  • “Don’t stop and don’t give up.  I feel great.  I feel that I have taken so many steps forward with HCRI.”
  • “If you are considering HCRI, you should come. You gain more confidence and you talk fluently at the end of the program.”
  • “Try HCRI. I’ve achieved things here that I never thought I would achieve. It’s very worth it.”

For information about HCRI therapy, click here: Hollins Fluency System II – Advanced Speech Reconstruction for Stuttering™.

Hollins Communications Research Institute – A Primer

The following serves as a primer about the award-winning Hollins Communications Research Institute. It includes the nonprofit center’s mission, overview and recognition. For more indepth information and to view before-and-after therapy videos, click here: HCRI Stuttering Therapy.

 

HCRI MISSION STATEMENT

 

SERVE the greatest possible number of people who stutter and give them tools to acquire the ability to speak fluently.

TRANSFORM the lives of individuals from around the globe who face educational, career, and social barriers because of their stuttering.

ENABLE people who stutter to retain fluency for a lifetime to fully realize their potential and achieve life-long dreams.

CHAMPION the cause of stuttering on the world stage for people of all ages through scientific discovery and treatment innovation.

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INSTITUTE OVERVIEW

 

CasualHeadshotWebHollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI), founded in 1972 by Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., has become a leader in stuttering research and the development of innovative, scientifically based treatment approaches. The Institute is a Virginia-based 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization.

HCRI’s proprietary stuttering therapy was developed in-house by research scientists who are internationally recognized experts in the investigation and treatment of stuttering. These Ph.D.-credentialed team members have tested HCRI’s therapy approach with thousands of people who stutter.

This intensive work led to new discoveries, ongoing therapy refinement, and the development of specialized treatment tools that make acquiring and maintaining fluent speech easier and long-lasting for therapy participants.

HCRI clinicians have treated thousands of people who stutter, representing a full range of stuttering types and severity. HCRI offers 12-day stuttering therapy programs throughout the year at the center’s specially built stuttering treatment facility. Therapy participants range in age from 11 to 73 and come from across the U.S. and 49 other countries.

***

HCRI RECOGNITION

 

  • HCRI partnered with the National Institutes of Health on a pioneering study that confirmed a genetic link to stuttering. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
  • HCRI was recognized by Virginia Business magazine for its long-standing track record of innovation.
  • The Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed a house joint resolution commending HCRI for its groundbreaking research and therapy innovation.
  • HCRI’s stuttering treatment program was the distinguished recipient of the First Award for Scientific Merit at a national convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
  • HCRI media coverage includes the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Newsweek, Scientific American, Sports Illustrated, U.S. News and World Report, 20/20, NBC Today, CBS Morning News, Good Morning America, Nightline, and many others.
  • Founder and President Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., who is also a licensed clinical psychologist, received the Outstanding Contributions in the Application of Psychology award from the Virginia Psychological Association.
For more information about HCRI stuttering research and therapy inovation, call 540-265-5650 or 855-236-7032 – or send an email.

How Mountain Climbing, World Travel and HCRI Stuttering Therapy Helped This Attorney Achieve Fluency

Attorney and mountain climber Leigh P. Bennett of Edmonds, Washington has stuttered since he uttered his first sentence. Yet, he considers himself lucky to have dealt with the challenge of stuttering at such a young age.

During school and into adult life, Leigh regularly faced difficult situations and frustration because of the way he talked. Though, he believes his speech condition served as the impetus to develop a can-do attitude, courage, and emotional strength early in life. These traits have stayed with him through the years, enabling him to thrive professionally and personally.

“My stuttering was ever-present for as long as I can remember. While it got in the way whenever I spoke, I was determined to stay positive and become stronger because of it,” Leigh said.

Stuttering affects three million people in the U.S. and 66 million worldwide, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Stuttering ranges in severity and often hampers educational and career aspirations, inhibits social growth, and serves as a barrier to people reaching their full potential in life.

From Stuttering to Fluency

Leigh’s journey to fluency included a gamut of unsuccessful treatment attempts that included speech therapy in elementary school, unproductive sessions with a psychologist, and visits to a speech clinic once every two weeks during high school. None of these efforts produced results.

Leigh P. Bennett
Leigh P. Bennett

After high school, Leigh went to college and also became an avid mountain climber and windsurfer. His outdoor activities required significant mental focus, training, self-control, and self-reliance. He learned how to manage his fear and maintain a sense of calm, as he scaled summits, traversed rough waters, and achieved each new goal he set for himself.

At the time, he didn’t consider that these carefully honed skills would help him on the path to fluency.

Upon graduation, Leigh traveled the world and grew even more self-assured. He also ran his own mountaineering school. Yet, he knew he needed to bring his stuttering under control to pursue the next chapter in his life.

Then, he learned about the unique behavioral stuttering therapy provided by Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI – www.stuttering.org) in Roanoke, Virginia. He was drawn to HCRI’s physically based approach, scientifically derived methodology and intensity of therapy. The treatment strategy made sense to him and he enrolled in the stuttering therapy program.

HCRI Therapy Participation

At HCRI, Leigh worked one-on-one with specially trained clinicians and systematically learned how to replace faulty muscle behaviors that cause stuttering with new speech motor skills that enable fluency. His can-do attitude, strong self-reliance, and ability to adapt – which were skills he cultivated through his outdoor sports and independent travels – served him well in achieving success during therapy.

According to HCRI Founder and President Dr. Ron Webster, “Our physically based therapy takes hard work, focus and total commitment to the process. Clients who give 110 percent leave with the knowledge and techniques they need to take control of their stuttering and remain fluent for life.”

Research shows that 93 percent of HCRI therapy program participants achieve fluency by the end of treatment. Follow-up studies reveal 75 percent retain fluency for the long term. “Our results are in stark contrast to other speech therapy approaches that work in only 25 percent of cases,” Webster noted.

New Opportunities through Fluency

After attending HCRI, Leigh was able to manage his stuttering for the first time in his life. “HCRI treatment provided me with the tools I needed to speak fluently,” Leigh explained. “When I would start stuttering in stressful situations, I knew just what I needed to do to regulate my speech.”

With his newly acquired fluency, Leigh decided to go to law school, become an attorney in Edmonds, and follow in his father’s respected footsteps. Today, Leigh has a busy law practice with his brother, Peter W. Bennett, and is carrying on his father’s legacy at his Bennett and Bennett law firm. He specializes in estate planning, elder law, trusts, Medicaid planning, real estate law, and other related legal services. Leigh is a member of the Washington State Bar Association, board member of the Hubbard Family Foundation, member of the Everett Mountaineers, and a ski instructor.

He believes that success requires an individual to proactively take control of his or her life and “make things happen.” Leigh attributes his ability to overcome stuttering to having the right attitude, learning from his experiences, and getting the right stuttering treatment.

About HCRI

Hollins Communications Research Institute (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 based therapy approaches. HCRI clinicians have treated more than 6,500 individuals from across the U.S. and 50 countries. 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 (toll-free) or admin@stuttering.org.

About Bennett and Bennett

The Bennett and Bennett partnership was founded in 1988 by brothers Leigh P. Bennett and Peter W. Bennett in Edmonds, Washington, The goal of the law firm is to guide clients successfully through the often complex processes of estate planning, probate, trusts, elder law, real estate law, and related legal matters – and to make the process educational, practical, and cost effective. Bennett and Bennett is located at 400 Dayton, Suite A, Edmonds, Wash. 98020. For more information, visit www.edmondslaw.com, call 425-776-0139, or send an email to bb@edmondslaw.com.