Many great opportunities to compare notes & have a good time, at events bringing together young people who stutter from across Europe

A previous post is entitled:

My Story as a Stutterer: Handout from talk at Nordic Seminar, Tallinn, Sept. 1, 2018

At the current post, I’d like to share a few notes about the international scene as it relates to the lives and experiences of people who stutter.

In years past, pretty well all of my volunteer work at the local, national, and international levels was in support of public education and community self-organizing on behalf of people who stutter.

As a child I stuttered severely. As an adult, I eventually found a way to achieve a strong measure of fluency. As an adult, now speaking quite fluently including by way of making presentations, however, I have never forgot those earlier years which included times when I could not get out any words at all.

As you may know (in the event you are a person who stutters) the next World Congress of the International Stuttering Association (ISA) takes place in Iceland in 2019.

Among the people closely involved with ISA is Anita Blom. I’ve known Anita since about the time when I was involved with the founding of ISA several decades ago. I met her again in Tallinn in the summer of 2018 at the Nordic Seminar.

She is doing awesome work by way of organizing what I would describe, based on what I’ve heard, as life-changing events for young people who stutter across Europe. Really impressive work.

Here’s a link with some background about Anita Blom:


Click here for details about the 2019 ISA World Congress >


Nordic Seminars

Among the things Anita Blom is actively involved in is information-sharing about the Nordic Seminars – large-scale seminars organized for and by people who stutter.

They are held in different Scandinavian countries – the next one is in Iceland in 2020, as I recall.

During the Seminar, people stay together at a hotel or other facility. There are presentations and workshops and a lot of time spent just having fun. There’s a good turnout and many people are regulars. People of all ages, all backgrounds – the one thing they share is the fact they stutter.

In the case of the 2018 Nordic Seminar, the main event which was in Tallinn was followed by a tour of Estonia, with people starting off at a hotel in Narva at the north of the country at the border with Russia.

When it was over everybody went to the airport and flew off to their respective countries. In my case, I flew home early and did not join the Narva portion of the Seminar.

Although it was a Nordic Seminar people from other countries – such as Belgium (and, in 2016 and 2018 also from Canada) – were there also.

As part of the main event on a weekend, at the Nordic Seminars, which have been held now for many, many years, the leaders of the various national associations at the event get together for an informal meeting. They talk about any new ideas or initiatives their respective countries may be involved with. They talk about what’s working, and what could work better.

I’m pleased that Daniele Rossi, a member of the Canadian Stuttering Association, made it to the 2016 Nordic Seminar. I learned a lot from speaking with him by email, prior to my own participation at the 2018 Nordic Seminar held in Tallinn, Estonia. I found everything connected with the 2018 event a lot of fun and most inspiring.

Festive event at top of Tallinn TV Tower in September 2018

At the 2018 Nordic Seminar in Tallinn the performances at the top of the Tallinn TV Tower (which we arrived at, and later left from, in a chartered bus) were quite amazing. The setting was ideal:

At the evening, festive dinner event, people used their iPhones as microphones, to amplify their voices using the sound system at the venue.

There was an online quiz, in which people used smartphones to give their answers, related to the Nordic Seminar, with the questions and results projected on a big screen.

An online comedy video about mix-ups that occur when people try to communicate across Scandinavian language barriers was screened. The punchline at the end of the video was: “If people from Scandinavia want to communicate, they should all speak in English.” This served to underline the fact that, for the Nordic Seminar, held for the first time in Estonia, the proceedings were all in English.

One of the skits (to turn to that topic) addressed words that are in common use in Sweden but that are identical to words used in other countries. The point was that sometimes, a word with an identical spelling, appearing in two different countries, can have an innocuous meaning in another nearby country and have a totally off-the-wall meaning in Sweden. The skit shared many entertaining examples of such double meanings.

Impact of smartphones on events of everyday life

In another skit, a dozen Finns acted out a scene involving people getting on a bus and sitting down, before and after the arrival of smartphones. In the “before” scene, people sit down and talk to people next to them and are quite vocal. In the “after” scene, everybody ignores everybody else, and sits in silence glued to the screen of a phone.

The skits were varied, well organized, and kept everybody entertained.

International events specifically for young people who stutter

At one of the earlier Seminar events, people met in pairs to share some stories, following a format that was established at the outset of the workshop session. I spoke with a young woman from Finland who now lives in Iceland. I was most interested to hear about an international event that she had attended, for young people who stutter from across Europe, that had taken place (earlier in the summer of 2018, as I recall) in Italy.

I was really impressed with how often young people who stutter from across Europe get together. It’s clear there’s a long tradition of such events in Europe. It’s also clear there’s a wide understanding, among national stuttering associations, that such well-organized and frequently held “youth” meetings are tremendously valuable.

The opportunity to compare notes, with other people who stutter, is tremendously valuable – especially when people are young, and have until that point been required to address stuttering pretty much on their own.

The Nordic Seminar held in Estonia was organized by the Estonian Stuttering Association. As I recall from conversations about the organizing process (and I must caution that my capacity for recall is not always the greatest), as many as 40 or so people were involved with the organizing. There were key organizers, who appeared to be most heavily involved, and at the same time pretty well everybody helped out in one way or another.

Leadership succession

I had given a talk early in the day, in which I spoke about the concept of a culture of leadership succession as a key ingredient for long-term success of national and international associations. At the Tallinn TV Tower dinner, we had quite long and intensive discussions about leadership succession, as a concept and as a practice.

I was impressed with the fact there was keen interest, among attendees at the Nordic Seminar, in exploring such topics in depth. It was clear that people were keen to share their experiences, and to learn about what people have been doing and learning in other countries.


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