Alan Tonelson of Riverdale Park, Md. began stuttering as a young child. While most kids outgrow the inhibiting speech condition by the age of eight, Tonelson did not. He is among the three million people in the U.S. who live with stuttering, which can range from mild to severe. Throughout his youth, he participated in a variety of speech therapies, including attending in-school speech sessions and visits with private speech-and-language pathologists. None helped him achieve fluency.
Shannon Armes of Wilsons, VA had a similar experience. She started stuttering in grade school. After trying a range of treatment approaches, fluent speech continued to elude her. As she entered college and into adulthood, Armes’s stuttering eroded her self-confidence. Her speech condition served as a constant barrier to educational, career and social opportunities.
Yet, the lives of Tonelson and Armes would soon change when they learned about an advanced, behavioral treatment for stuttering, developed at nonprofit Hollins Communications Research Institute (HCRI) in Roanoke, VA.
Created by stuttering expert and HCRI Founder Ronald L. Webster, Ph.D., HCRI stuttering therapy is an intensive, 12-day treatment program that is grounded in science and continually refined, based on research with thousands of stuttering cases. The center’s clinicians utilize detailed behavioral therapy protocols and advanced technology to teach people how to replace abnormal muscle contractions that cause stuttering with specific, new muscle movements that generate fluent speech.
“Our early research revealed that stuttering is physical. The repetitions, prolongations and voice blockages that we label as stuttering are caused before a sound is ever spoken,” Webster said. “To provide effective treatment, at HCRI we focus where the problem occurs, which is at the muscular level.”
Research shows that 93% of HCRI therapy participants achieve fluency in 12 days and 70-75% maintain fluent speech when evaluated one and two years post treatment.
According to Webster who is also a clinical psychologist, “HCRI’s approach to stuttering treatment is a systematic, step-by-step process that is analogous to the precision of a finely choreographed ballet. Each step in the process is critical and must be exact to enable success.”
Tonelson noted, “I attended HCRI stuttering therapy and saw a dramatic increase in my fluency. The therapy did its job. Yet for treatment to work over time, I continue to practice my speech skills on a regular basis.”
While Tonelson began his career as a journalist, his ability to speak fluently opened significant doors of opportunity. Today, he is a well-known and respected expert on economic and globalization policy. He regularly appears on national television and radio programs to offer commentary and debate with other policy analysts.
In addition, he gives presentations to universities, government agencies, and business organizations around the globe. His book, The Race to Bottom, and blog, RealityChek (http://alantonelson.wordpress.com), feature his perspectives on economics, foreign policy, and politics that he has passionately voiced throughout his professional life.
Tonelson says HCRI was a “game changer” for his career.
For Armes, the fluency skills learned at HCRI enabled her to take on key leadership roles within her community, secure a coveted promotion in customer service with her company, and win highly competitive Toastmasters International speaking awards.
With her impressive communication and strong management abilities, Armes is now president of her area’s Motivational Toastmasters Club and serves as an area governor overseeing five other Toastmasters International clubs in the Richmond, Va. area.
Yet, reciting her wedding vows without stuttering was among the greatest gifts she experienced from fluency.
“Learning to speak fluently whenever and wherever I choose has changed my life. HCRI’s rigorous fluency training was hard work and it takes daily practice. Though, the therapy made a remarkable difference in what I can do every day,” she said.
Tonelson and Armes are among the 6,300 people from 48 countries who have participated in HCRI stuttering therapy. Most program participants tried other stuttering treatments before coming to HCRI for stuttering help.