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A Stuttering Conference in Newfoundland!

NLSA

On November 2, I had the pleasure of attending the very first conference of the Newfoundland and Labrador Stuttering Association (NLSA), in Mount Pearl, near the city of St-John’s, Newfoundland. The NLSA is a new stuttering association, founded in 2018. It is a nonprofit organisation for supporting and informing people who stutter (children, teenagers and adults) as well as their families and stuttering professionals in the area of Newfoundland and Labrador.

A Journey East

Enriched by 5 years as a member of the board of directors of the Association Bégaiement Communication (ABC), a stuttering association based in Montreal, as well as participating in other stuttering conferences in Ontario and United States, I was immediately intrigued when I found the NLSA on social media. Plus, I never traveled in Newfoundland before! So, I was put in touch, in the beginning of the year 2019, with Greg O’Grady, member of the board of directors of the NLSA. I decided to participate in the conference, and present a workshop about stuttering.

The Conference

The NLSA conference unfolded over 2 entire days. The first day was a training for SLPs. The second day was for people who stutter, similar to the CSA one-day conference.

The second day started with a presentation by Dr. Robert Kroll, SLP, board chairman and former executive director at the Speech and Stuttering Institute in Toronto. His workshop, an Overview of Stuttering, covered risks factors, myths and facts, as well as therapy options, among other topics. A relevant presentation, especially as many myths and inaccuracies about stuttering are floating around. I was particularly interested by the history of stuttering research. Genetics now has an important place in the research, but from 1960 to 1990, scientists explained stuttering by a timing disorder, or an issue in the coordination of the right hemisphere of the brain. In the years 1940 to 1960, stuttering research focused on psychoanalysis and learning theories. This shows us that research and knowledge about stuttering are still always in evolution, so it’s important for us to keep well informed, for example, with the help of stuttering associations.

Giving a Workshop

I facilitated a workshop about stuttering at school. I talked about my school journey with stuttering, from elementary school to obtaining my Master degree. I gave some advice about ways to interact with a student who stutters. Stuttering may cause many challenges for students, school mates and teachers. Oral presentations, participation in the classroom, evaluations or career choices may be impacted by stuttering. How can we react as a person who stutters or as a member of the school staff?

Fascinating Presentations

The afternoon started with a workshop facilitated by Jonathan Garcin, a young man that stutters, who currently works as a SLP in the school network in the Newfoundland. His presentation « Anxious and Afraid » talked about his personal journey with stuttering, from childhood, adolescence, and insertion in the workplace. He mentioned many obstacles that he faced because of stuttering, such as bullying at school, job searching, as well as anxiety related to stuttering.

The fourth workshop of the day was facilitated by Kate Lannon-Samson (Compass Health Centre) and Maryanne Tucker (Mind Matters Psychological Services). They talked about mindfulness, as well as the unhelpful thoughts that we may have in a stuttering moment. Sometimes it’s easy to have negative thoughts about our stuttering, such as Overgeneralization (People are always embarrassed while they hear me stutter!), Mental filter (I had a great conversation but I had a silent block on a word and I felt embarrassed) , or "Shoulding" and "Musting" (I should practice my speech techniques every single day!). How can we identify these unhelpful thoughts, that can bring us guilt, and how can we reframe them?

A Successful Conference

The day ended with a panel with parents, people who stutter and specialists, that answered many questions about stuttering. Thank you to the NSLA for the warm welcoming and the openness! Definitely an association to check it out in the next months and years, and the stuttering community is alive through Canada. For more information about NLSA, you can visit their website, nlstuttering.ca, or follow the association on social media.

Audrey Bigras is a member of the board of directors of Association Bégaiement Communication (ABC), Montreal

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