ISTAR is celebrating its 25th anniversary in March 2012

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.


2 replies
  1. Norm McEwen
    Norm McEwen says:

    Congratulations and deepest thanks to all mentioned in your presentation, Jaan; including yourself.

    It is only because of people like Einer, Marilyn and Deborah on the teaching side, that people like us who stutter, and specifically you Jaan, can take what they taught you, process it, use the knowledge, and transform yourself from student to advocate. You are a perfect example of determination and persistence to travel so far in a relatively short time.

    While I received my therapy from another fine source, ISTAR has continued to be in the forefront of adaption and using the most recent knowledge in their programs to teach us who stutter that control is possible. Again, you are a perfect example of the results of their work.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Wonderful to read your message, Norm. The program in Ottawa, the one you refer to, is also a highly impressive program.

    The 25 years have gone quickly. I’m pleased that for a great many of those years, I’ve been working with you, as a fellow volunteer, in the work that the Canadian Stuttering Association has been doing, and continues to do, on behalf of people who stutter and their families.


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