Preserved Stories Blog


For my 3-minute talk, I’ve added a paragraph about what I learned at ISTAR

In response to feedback on my earlier drafts, I’ve added a paragraph about my experiences in Edmonton in July 1987. I’ve removed a few words elsewhere in order to stay within the 3-minute limit.

My next step has involved calculating how quickly I would need to speak in order to deliver the text within 3 minutes. My calculation has yielded a speech rate of about 210 syllables per minute with the draft I’ve been working with. After completing this calculation, I’ve shortened the text a bit more in order to slightly reduce the rate of speaking.

A slighly slower speech rate will provide more time for pauses. Below is the most recent version of the remarks I’ve prepared for a March 2012 event celebrating the 25th anniversary of  the ISTAR clinic. I like working on such a project, a few minutes every day before the presentation.

Some people like to calculate speaking rates in terms of words per minute. I prefer the more precise method of calculating syllables per minute. After years of practice, I can listen to a recording of my speech and estimate the rate within 5 or 10 syllables of what the calculated rate will be.

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Good evening. I began to stutter at the age of 6. In my teens and early twenties, I stuttered severely. Sometimes I could not get out any words at all.

I had some treatment over the years, but I did almost no public speaking until I attended ISTAR in July 1987.

At the ISTAR clinic, I relearned how to speak. I like to say I learned Fluency as a Second Language. I received expert, individualized instruction regarding the application, in everyday situations, of a set of five clearly defined fluency skills.

After the clinic, I practised my new fluency skills every day for over four years. It took a while to adjust to my new situation. Each time I’d be making a fluent presentation to a large audience, a voice inside me would say, “You’re not supposed to be able to do this. You’re supposed to be falling flat on your face.”

That voice really bothered me. At first I thought I should get some psychotherapy. But then I realized that what I really needed to do was to compare notes with other people who stutter. As a result, I formed a self-help group in Toronto in 1988. About a year later, a speech therapist, Tony Churchill, told me at one of our meetings that the inner voice was telling me I needed to adjust to some changes that had occurred in my life. After that, the inner voice never bothered me again.

Around that time, Einer Boberg contacted several self-help groups across Canada, and suggested we organize a national conference. That conference took place in Banff, Alberta in 1991 and led to the founding of the Canadian Stuttering Association. In those years, I was also active as a volunteer at the international level. In that role, I was a co-founder of the Estonian Stuttering Association and the International Stuttering Association.

Einer Boberg, Deborah Kully, Marilyn Langevin, and many others at ISTAR have provided effective treatment for large numbers of people who stutter over the years. ISTAR practises a data-driven, evidence-based approach to stuttering treatment. The program is continuously updated. I find these ways of doing things tremendously inspiring. I wish you continued success in your work, on behalf of people who stutter, and their families, in the years ahead.

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