Caryn Herring, a speech-language pathology graduate student and AIS intern, wrote this summary of the recent NSA conference:
I recently attended the National Stuttering Association’s (NSA) annual conference. This year the conference was held in Fort Worth, Texas and it was considered the largest gathering of people who stutter in history. There were over 800 people that attended the conference, including people who stutter, parents of children who stutter, siblings of people who stutter, and speech-language pathologists. Being both a person who stutters and a speech-language pathology graduate student, attending the NSA conference was both educational and therapeutic. The NSA offers workshops that address a variety of things, including research findings, therapy approaches, parent workshops, and activities themed for children. Workshops that I found particularly interesting addressed: the effectiveness of different types of stuttering therapy, how medications impact a person’s fluency, genetic causes of stuttering, and brain imaging studies to show neural differences between people who stutter and people who do not stutter.
While I enjoyed the workshops at the NSA conference, I benefited most from being surrounded by people who stutter. Walking through the hotel and overhearing countless conversations, all of which are stuttered, was comforting. Knowing that everyone in the hotel either stutters or is extremely accepting of stuttering was a unique experience. For one week, if you aren’t stuttering, you are considered weird. The NSA conference shows people who stutter that they are not alone. Other people are struggling with similar situations and can relate to both daily frustrations and successes. After a short conversation with someone at the conference, you feel as if you have known him or her all your life. Even if you come from different backgrounds, have different interests, and different jobs, you share an underlying similarity. You both stutter. This one connection makes you able to relate on such a high level and become instantly empathetic.
While in everyday life initiating a conversation with a stranger and stating your name may cause anxiety, at the NSA conference people who stutter have the opportunity to be the outgoing person they want to be. People at the conference are patient, understanding, and accepting. You can block on your name for thirty minutes and no one will flinch. This feeling of unconditional acceptance is priceless and a sensation that every person who stutters deserves to experience.