ISTAR is the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research.
Einer Boberg and Deborah Kully are the founders of ISTAR, which is located in Edmonton.
My visit to ISTAR 25 years ago changed the direction of my life. So many unexpected and positive things have happened in my life in the years that followed.
I’m really pleased I happened to read a Canadian Press article about the institute in the May 4, 1987 edition of The Toronto Star. I wasn’t planning to read a newspaper that day but a neighbour happened to give me her copy after she’d read it. I owe many thanks to her. A small gesture, a small kindness, that changed my life. I still remember the time of day, and where I was sitting, as I read the paper. It was late in the afternoon of May 4, 1987. I was on the phone to Edmonton, speaking with Deborah Kully, soon after I’d read the article.
I’ll be making a three-minute presentation at ISTAR’s 25th anniversary celebration in March 2012. I currently have a video about stuttering on Vimeo. The speaking notes for the latter presentation are available online.
Here’s the draft of the three-minute presentation I’ll be making in March:
My name is Jaan Pill. 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 was not able to engage in public speaking, to any great extent, until I graduated from ISTAR, in July 1987.
After my trip to Edmonton, I practised my new fluency skills every day for over four years. It took a while to adjust to my new level of fluency. Each time I’d be making a fluent presentation to a large audience, back home in Toronto, 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. I decided that it would be helpful, as a way to deal with this, 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, the inner voice stopped bothering me.
Also about a year later, Einer Boberg contacted several self-help groups in Canada, and suggested that we organize, for the first time in Canada, a national conference for people who stutter. We organized such a conference, in Banff, Alberta, in 1991. That event led to the founding of the Canadian Stuttering Association.
During his lifetime, Einer Boberg made a strong contribution to the worldwide self-help movement for people who stutter.
I very much like the fact that the ISTAR program is data-driven, evidence-based, and continuously improved, from one year to the next.
The work that Einer Boberg, Deborah Kully, Marilyn Langevin, and many others at ISTAR have done over the past 25 years warrants celebration. My own trip to Edmonton 25 years ago changed my life. I wish ISTAR continued success, in the years ahead, in the inspiring and effective work that you are doing, on behalf of those of us who stutter.