Below is an essay written by one of our clients about his experience attending our last 3-week intensive program:
My name is Desmond Brown, and I am a stutterer. I started stuttering from about age three and found it more arduous as I got older. My stuttering was so bad that I read at a rate of eight words per minute. I was affected both physically and emotionally. My life then changed when my clinician, Carolyn, referred me to The American Institute for Stuttering. The American Institute for Stuttering (AIS), founded by Catherine Montgomery, is the only non-profit organization in the United States that offers state-of-the-art treatment to people who stutter, and support to their families. AIS has precious speech pathologists who offer psychological, physical and mental support to their clients.
My first visit to The American Institute for Stuttering was on January 9, 2012. The reason for my visit was to participate in a three-weeks intensive program, which was really my first experience in a group session. My first day at AIS was one when my body secreted adrenaline at a faster rate than usual. I was very nervous! First, I had to introduce myself to my new set of friends who all turned out to be wonderful people. As my turn to speak approached, my heart pumped faster and faster, but in the end I was able to confidently say my name and get to know everyone. My fellow stutterers were Latoya, Daniela, Andres, Adam, Jonathan, Jeremiah and Tim. At the end of the first day, I learned a lot from my therapists, Heather and Amy, along with the graduate student clinicians Eli, Carolyn, Zisi, Teresa, and Ellen. Overall, it was a tremendous first time experience!
After my first week at AIS, I was a somewhat changed person in terms of my attitude towards my speech. I learned how to accept myself as a stutterer. I also worked to change my mentality that “a stutterer will always stutter.” Week two was more of a challenge because we learned different techniques such as prolongations, voluntary stuttering, easy onsets, continuous phonations, and pre-block, in-block and post-block corrections. The two most important techniques for me are prolongations and voluntary stuttering. Prolongation is when the initial part of every word is prolonged or stretched. Voluntary stuttering is when one deliberately stutters. I liked prolongations because by using them, I found that I experienced less blocks and my speech became more fluent. However, voluntary stuttering was also very important because it helped me to desensitize myself to stuttering moments. At first, I was not comfortable with voluntary stuttering because my deliberate stutters often turned into real ones that were out of my control. The other objective for week two was to go on the streets and advertise to strangers and complete surveys about stuttering. We went to Madison Square Park, and I got the chance advertise my stutter to wonderful ladies. I was very nervous at first going up to someone and just advertising, but I was very audacious and in the end it was a remarkable feeling.
Confidence beamed through my skin, and I was looking forward to my third and sadly, my final week. During this final week, we went to advertise our stuttering while speaking with strangers at Grand Central Terminal and Macy’s in Manhattan. I went on these excursions filled with confidence, and I enjoyed every moment even though I experienced both good and not so good situations.
On the first day of the intensive program, we were told that we would have to do speeches on the penultimate day of the program, and we were to invite our friends and families. I had never given a speech in all my life, and throughout my first two weeks of the program, my mind was focused on that speech. But eventually, I just thought of it as another challenge. On the day of my speech, I had a somewhat average feeling because I was very naive about speaking in front of such a large group. In the morning, we rehearsed, and I did an exceptional job, including proper usage of my prolongation techniques. But a few hours later, it was time for the real thing. I was the first person to give his speech, and I did a promising job after a shaky start. I was also impressed with everyone else’s speeches.
In concluding, I would love to say that AIS is not only an institute for modifying speech but also a home for everyone who visits. From my first day, I recognized that this was definitely the environment that could change the life of any stutterer. I have changed a lot in a very positive way. I am now a lot more courageous and willing to speak even when I am stuttering and this would not have been possible without the help of the entire AIS organization. Finally, but most importantly, thank God for giving me the chance to be a part of AIS. I would also love to say a big thank you to Heather and Amy for being so generous to all AIS clients, and I hope one day I will be able to show my appreciation by helping in the development of the best stuttering institute in the world.