The pursuit of fluency as a goal is often frowned upon, in the stuttering self-help movement
At the current post, I will highlight a number of concepts that are central to a current book project I have been working on for the past two years.
In my own way of dealing with stuttering, thirty-five years ago, I relearned how to speak. I learned fluency as a second language. I learned a set of fluency skills, practised them every day for several years, and I haven’t looked back since. Such an approach, however, is often frowned upon in the stuttering self-help movement, which I’ve been a part of for thirty-four years. 
Thirty-five years ago, in July 1987, I attended a three-week speech clinic in Edmonton. A year after attending the clinic, in September 1988, I founded a local self-help group in Toronto for people who stutter. That’s when I became intensively involved with volunteer work on behalf of people who stutter.
Over the next fifteen years, I was involved in the founding of national stuttering associations in Canada and Estonia. I was involved, as well, with the founding of a stuttering association which operates at the international level, bringing together national stuttering associations from around the world.
For fifteen years, from 1988 to 2003, I was intensively involved with the self-help movement. Since then, I’ve been less intensively involved. However, altogether, my involvement in such a form of volunteer work has spanned thirty-four years, from 1988 until the present moment.
Concepts of relevance for a current book project
The founding of self-help organizations is a matter of community self-organizing. Communities use their own spoken and written words, in order to bring people together, and launch organizations that will serve the needs of the people coming together. Typically, such organizations are involved with information sharing, advocacy on behalf of a particular cause, and outreach into the wider community. Many kinds of community organizations exist, and they serve many different purposes.
Today, my involvement with stuttering self-help organizations is as an observer and researcher. Being less intensively involved than previously, I observe things somewhat at a distance. As an observer and past active participant, I am writing a book about the life and legacy of an Alberta speech professional, Einer Boberg (1935-1995), who was co-founder, in December 1986, of the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research, or ISTAR for short.
The ISTAR clinic, located in Edmonton, is the speech clinic where, over a three-week period in July 1987, I relearned how to speak. The other co-founder was Deborah Kully.
The book is for a general audience, which makes for an interesting challenge. The challenge is to address relevant concepts, related to what stuttering is, and the ways it can be dealt with, in a way that captures the interest of the general reader. Of necessity, I must look at happenings, and consider general principles in the wider society, which resonate with the challenge of dealing with stuttering. [2, 3]
Developments since 1995
One chapter in the book will deal with developments in stuttering treatment and research, and in the stuttering self-help movement, that have taken place in the twenty-seven years since 1995, which is the year when Einer Boberg died.
Many of my recent interviews have been with people who stutter and clinicians who are using podcasting and video to raise awareness about stuttering, and to establish connections among people who stutter, in Latin America, Africa, and China. I have been learning that the major networking and information sharing that is being done among people who stutter appears to be now occurring more and more in the online ecosystem. A big change is underway which I am now documenting for my book about Einer Boberg.
Learning fluency skills has, indeed, worked well for me; however, just stuttering openly can also be a great way to go
From conversations at a May 2022 international conference in Montreal, and from recent interviews for the Einer Boberg book project, I’ve had the opportunity to recall some standard parts of my own communications (and avoidance of communications) repertoire, in the years before I learned fluency as a second language.
I think of things such as word substitution, circumlocution, and the avoidance of speaking situations. These are standard approaches, when a person who stutters wishes to deal with stuttering in a particular way.
Another way to deal with stuttering is to go ahead and just stutter openly, which in practice means stopping the practices of word substitution, and circumlocution, and the avoidance of speaking situations.
From recent interviews, I can add, I’ve learned that the matter of being open about being a person who stutters makes more sense in some parts of the world than it does in others. In some parts of the world, including in parts of the English-speaking world, by divulging that you stutter, you may be welcomed with open arms as an openly-stuttering exponent of neurodiversity – of neurodiversity, as it relates, in this case, to speech production. In other parts of the world, however, if it becomes known that you are a person who stutters, you may be out of a job.
The approach that I learned in Edmonton, in a three-week clinic in 1987, involved the learning of fluency skills and it also involved being open about being a person who stutters. As a matter of course, the clinic taught me to cease the substitution of words, to cease circumlocution, and to go ahead and speak – instead of avoiding the speaking situations that a person may encounter, or has the potential to encounter.