Studies Show... Conferences are Awesome!

Lisa Wilder

It's no secret that peer support, and opportunities to meet and interact with one another, in both social and educational environments, are beneficial for people who stutter. Worldwide, tens of thousands of people who stutter attend support groups and conferences. What is shown empirically, through research and study, about the nature of these encounters and their advantages?

The Value of Peer Support

A research journal entitled Seminars in Speech and Language features a 2002 paper entitled "Stuttering Therapy in Partnership with Support Groups: The Best of Both Worlds," that studies the benefits of attending a support group in conjunction with speech therapy. The study shows that such a group enhanced the positive impact of the treatment. Indeed, a partnership with a support group can complement an overall treatment strategy. This corroborates findings documenting the benefits of peer support, and the resource of support groups, in other studies.

But what about the conference format, as opposed to the support group? In a 2011 paper published in the Journal of Fluency Disorders, "Self-help conferences for people who stutter: A qualitative investigation," researchers Mitchell Trichon and John Tetnowski examined the utility of conferences for stuttering management and quality of life. They conducted interviews with PWS at intervals of four and eighteen months after attending a conference. Attendees reported enjoying the socializing opportunity with others, and that they were able to "redefine themselves" after the experience and were more comfortable with disclosing their stuttering to others in the course of regular life. 

The study concluded that the experience of a conference "helped to minimize negative impact that stuttering can have on daily functioning." The “stutter-friendly” environment promoted social interaction, relationship building, and community building through both structured events (workshops, speeches) and informal social events. Participants reported more “openness” about stuttering in their daily lives going forward, and a greater ease in communication in general.

Young People Who Stutter

In a 2019 paper published in the Journal of Fluency Disorders, entitled "The utility of stuttering support organization conventions for young people who stutter," researchers examined the benefits of support organizations and conferences specifically for young people who stutter. 

Twenty-two young people who stutter, ages 10 to 18, who attended the 2016 FRIENDS annual convention participated in this study.  The Overall Assessment of the Speaker's Experience with Stuttering (OASES) was used as well as informal interviews.

The researches found that the negative impact of stuttering was significantly decreased for the participants after the conference. Through both analysis of the OASES scores and the interviews, they identified five themes related to community building, collaborative learning, cognitive and communicative changes, self-acceptance, and normalizing stuttering.

This is just a small sample of the research that shows the benefits for people who stutter when they take advantage of opportunities to encounter and participate with others, who share the same life challenges in a safe and supportive setting. It's not too late to join our event this weekend in Ottawa! Hope to see you there!


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