Draft 3 of panel presentation: 30th anniversary of first national stuttering conference in Canada for people who stutter
As I’ve noted at a previous post, I’m writing drafts for an upcoming panel presentation at a Canadian Stuttering Association online conference taking place on Nov. 12 to 14, 2021.
Our panel discussion is on for Friday, Nov, 12, 7:15 pm to 8:30 pm (Toronto time).
There are three questions to answer, with four minutes for each.
To further develop the draft I made a 12-minute iPhone video which I then uploaded as a private YouTube video, from which I made a rough transcript using the YouTube Subtitles app.
From working on the drafts, I’ve learned that I just need to focus on the key points that I want to get across. In the time available, I’m not going to get into very much detail.
The previous work on the draft has really come in handy for the third draft, which reads:
1) Why did you go to Banff 1991? What did it mean for you to attend?
So, the first item is why I went to Banff. I went to Banff because I wanted to be involved in the setting up of a national network of self-help groups for people who stutter.
I had become interested in self-help groups because I had attended a treatment program in Edmonton in 1987, at the age of 41, and after all those years for the first time I could make fluent presentations to large audiences.
But I had a problem adjusting to the fact I could now do this, and as a way to to make the adjustment, I realized it would be useful to compare notes with other people who stutter, and that’s what led me to become involved in the founding of the Stuttering Association of Toronto, in September 1988 about a year after I had attended the Edmonton clinic.
A number of groups across Canada, self-help groups across Canada, came together to organize the national conference. The Stuttering Association of Toronto group and the Alberta Stutterers Association based in Edmondson were the key players in the organizing of the Banff 1991 conference.
In 1989, I attended a refresher clinic in Edmonton to brush up on my fluency skills, which I had learned in July 1987, and in 1989, when I was in Edmonton I met with a number of people including Mattie Matheson and Larry Stone as part of the organizing work that was connected with the planning for the Banff 1991 conference.
There were regional meetings held in Ontario as part of the planning process. We also sent out a survey to self-help groups across Canada to make sure there was enough interest in the staging of such a conference. Eventually we had 80 people turn up at the event including a number of speech therapists and professionals.
And we had three seminars, which were a key part of what was happening at the conference. The last seminar asked the question: Should we form a national association? And the answer was yes; and so that’s my story about Banff 1991.
2) What has your journey been like in the 30 years since the conference in Banff?
In terms of what has happened in the years since then, I was involved in organizing some of the early national conferences which followed the one in Banff in 1991. There was a conference in Ottawa in 1993 also one in Toronto in 1995, and so, at the conferences in 1993 and 1995, we worked out the constitution and the bylaws for the Canadian Stuttering Association.
I think it’s really important to emphasize that input from a large number of people was involved in the development of the structure, the operating structure, for the CSA.
Among the key points, that we all agreed on, was that there would be a process of leadership succession in place, so that the national coordinator would serve, I think, for a two terms of three years each, and then another national coordinator would take over.
We have a culture of leadership succession; that’s very important to make sure that the organization continues as the years go by.
We also made a point of ensuring that we offered an impartial forum for the sharing of information, so that we don’t become a mouthpiece for a particular way of dealing with stuttering.
And although we offer an impartial forum, at the same time we have established that we don’t provide a forum or platform for fly-by-night operators, who claim to have a quick cure for stuttering; there is no quick cure for stuttering, and so we make sure that we don’t provide a forum for scam artists.
In terms of my own life, one of the key things that happened was in 1997 I got married. By that time I was 50 years old and I’m glad we made that decision. It’s been a good life; it’s been about 25 years now since we’ve been married.
Also, between 1988 and 2003 I was heavily involved with volunteer work on behalf of people who stutter. Sometimes, in the 15 years between 1988 and 2003, I would work 16 hours a day, during summer breaks and on weekends, doing such work.
And I’ve been involved with self-help organizations at the international level, the national level, and local level during those years, and from 2003 until now, I’ve been more involved with other kinds of volunteer projects.
3) Now that we’re 30 years ahead, what would you tell a younger version of yourself that attended that conference?
In terms of what I would tell my younger self, as I look back, I would say that it’s wonderful that after the Edmonton clinic, I really became aware of the value of what’s called evidence-based practice, where things that we do are based on evidence – are not just based on conjecture, or what we think is the right thing to do, in the absence of evidence.
Evidence is really important and I would I would emphasize to my younger self that I was on the right path way back then, in focusing on evidence.
Another thing that has been key in my volunteer work is that I’ve always made a point of listening closely to what other people have to say, instead of me pushing my own ideas.
I’ve always made a point that whatever leadership role I have, is based on what other people want. We’ve had surveys, we’ve had well-organized, professional quality surveys; we’ve found ways to find out what people want, and if I was speaking now to my younger self, I would say listen even more closely.
Also, I became aware as a volunteer – as a volunteer, years ago, I became aware the value of collaboration and there’s no question that I would tell my younger self that collaboration is really key to the kind of work that we are doing together.
Also, as I look back, I realize that spending 16 hours a day – spending 16 hours a day is is very valuable: I’ve achieved a lot of things as a result of that kind of input, that kind of work.
But, I’m also aware that it’s good to maintain a sense of balance in a person’s life, and so if I was speaking to my younger self now, I would say make sure that you maintain some balance: Think about your own personal interests, your own personal life; make sure that you have some balance between between your volunteer work and your own life.
As well, one of the things I learned in those years is the value of organizing – the value of being organized.
I was organized in my work, say, in terms of project management, when I was involved in the organizing of conferences, and if I were speaking to my younger self now, I would say be even more organized; in terms of the information management infrastructure that you work with, for example, make sure your filing cabinets are all in good shape; make sure that you have a database, a way of organizing your information. Make sure that your address lists are up to date, and that you find your way around all of the information that you work with. In that way a person can be more organized. But as I look back I’m really pleased that things have worked out well.