A "Building Project" and Personal Vision in Newfoundland

Bob Kroll and GregGreg O'Grady (right) and the late Dr. Bob Kroll

Many of you are aware of my personal vision for a treatment centre for individuals with dysfluency communication challenges to be established in Newfoundland and Labrador. This centre would provide access to specialized and subsidized clinical treatment programs, services and supports for preschool, school age children, adolescents, adults, seniors who stutter and support families.

The recent heart wrenching situation brought to my attention, of an grandmother reaching out to the Newfoundland and Labrador Stuttering Association requesting treatment information and supports available for her four year old granddaughter, who has developed a stutter and who will be starting kindergarten in September when she turns five, only reinforces my vision of the need for such a Centre for Stuttering and Speech NL.

I can only imagine how challenging and overwhelming it must be for any lay person, the general public and health professionals to maneuver the Educational, Health, public and private bureaucratic maze attempting to obtain information about treatment services, supports, eligibility, wait list, costs, insurance, etc.

The History behind my Vision; its time to continue the conversation...

On March 30, 2019, The NLSA Vice Chair and I met with Dr. Robert (Bob) Kroll at the Blue Water Restaurant on Water Street in St. John's for breakfast, the morning after Bob's Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) Workshop in St. John's, to discuss plans for the SLP Educational Day and The NLSA PWS Conference planned for November of 2019. During our discussion we asked Bob's advice and suggestions on future steps for The NLSA. During our discussion, I shared with Bob my personal vision of a Centre similar to The Speech and stuttering Institute in Toronto to be established in our province. Bob suggested that The NLSA consider the following three prong structure:

  1. To provide a safe and helpful support for those individuals who stutter and their families.
  2. To serve as a clearing house and resource centre for those wishing to be educated about stuttering. This prong would necessarily include a public awareness campaign and events that are held on a periodic basis and would include decisions of how to disperse future fundraising proceeds from the 'a million I need to say' NL Walk and Run starting 2020.
  3. To support and eventually to provide clinical services to people who stutter

(To ensure that I captured Bob's suggestions for a NLSA visionary structure, I asked him to email me this information, which he did that afternoon at the St. John's airport while waiting for his flight home)

At our following NLSA Board meeting, the Board agreed on prongs #1 and # 2 which are now incorporated into The NLSA Constitution and By-Laws. The NLSA decided not to pursue prong # 3; providing of clinical treatment services. The NLSA is similar to the Canadian Stuttering Association.

Working with a Great Team

As a person who stutters (PWS), I feel fortunate that we have a passionate group of volunteers, stakeholders, and allies involved in The NLSA, and The NLSA Solidarity Collaborative Project advocating for the PWS community and our families in our province. The NLSA's Solidarity Project research data once collected will be used as evidence to show levels of government that deficits exist in Education and Health programs and services areas and will show the need for additional PWS services and supports to be incorporated into existing Education and Health programs. This data will also support the need for a Centre for Stuttering and Speech NL. I feel that the lack of a Centre for Stuttering and Speech NL is a significant missing piece in our province PWS services and supports delivery puzzle. I also feel that the establishment of a Centre for Stuttering and Speech is a natural next step.

For me, its time to continue this conversation about establishing a Centre for Stuttering and Speech in our province. The Centre for Stuttering and Speech NL will be independent from The NLSA, similar to The Canadian Stuttering Association and The Speech and Stuttering Institute Toronto.

I realized that this is a long term vision Building Project, which may or may not come to fruition, however, continuing this conversation is a next step. I never envisioned the development of The NLSA until a group of like minded passionate individuals came together for a meeting on November 27, 2018. When referencing prong # 3, Bob did stress that there would be much work involved; with obtaining levels of government, and corporate support and financial funding for operating, overhead expenses and staffing, etc. The Centre for Stuttering and Speech NL may start off as a small one room stand alone office or a shared office space located either in Mount Pearl or St. John's. it was suggested at a NLSA Solidarity Collaborative Project meeting, that a space at Memorial University may be worth investigating. Depending on government and corporate funding support, as a start up, The Centre for Stuttering and Speech NL will house an Executive Director, Administrative Assistant, 2-3 Speech Language pathologists, and will have its own Board of Directors.

As stated earlier, its time to continue this conversation. I will be canvassing expression of interest, and hopefully be able to recruit a few like minded passionate individuals who will be interested in continuing this conversation with me and to see where it leads.

Making a Dream a Reality

As a clinician, researcher and administrator who helped countless people who stutter over his decades-long career, to honor Dr. Robert (Bob) Kroll's memory, pending on family's approval, I propose that the name for this Centre be, The Bob Kroll Centre for Stuttering and Speech NL. With the many individuals inside and outside our province, who have benefited personally and professionally from knowing and working with Dr. Robert (Bob) Kroll, I anticipate that much support will be offered to help bring this Building Project to fruition in Newfoundland and Labrador.

While preparing this document, the film "Field of Dreams" came to mind. Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella is inspired by a voice he can't ignore to pursue a dream, "If you build it, he will come." Supported by his wife, Ray begins the quest by turning his ordinary cornfield into a place where dreams can come true.

Greg O'Grady is the founder of the Annual Walk for Stuttering Awareness.