The 2013 National Stuttering Association Conference

conference gang

I had the pleasure of attending the National Stuttering Association's annual conference for the fourth consecutive time this year. Taking place in Scottsdale, Arizona, the conference was four days of workshops, keynote speeches, research talks and my favourite —socializing. Our country was well represented with Canadian attendees arriving from across Canada - everywhere from British Columbia to Quebec - and even giving a few workshops.

I've made so many new friends at the conference over the last four years that it makes the event more like a family reunion for me.

My highlights include:

1. Meeting friends who I've known over social media or Stutter Social for the first time in person. It is always fun to see and hang out with the person behind the computer screen. A number of my online-turned-in-person friends make an appearance in the video I produced chronicling the conference. I also met Kim Block, the president of the British Columbia Association of People who Stutter, and her husband David for the first time from BC.

2. Inspiring and really moving keynote speeches. British author Katherine Preston spoke about her experiences in traveling around the U.S. to come to terms with her stuttering. It was also a treat to hear a lot of stuttering from professional football player Trumaine McBride. He's one of us! But most of all, the very moving speech from a mother of a stuttering nine-year-old boy who reached rock bottom with his stuttering and wanted to go home.

3. If it wasn't for the conference, that kid mentioned in #2 wouldn't have bounced back and gained much needed confidence. In fact, this year marked a new perspective for me towards the NSA conference. Any stuttering conference around the world, actually. New NSA chairman of the board of directors, Kenny Koroll, said it best during his speech at the closing ceremony that us older folk have accepted our stuttering and are able to cope and move one with the challenges of stuttering. For the children, well, a stuttering conference is vital as they are struggling with the social challenges us older folk have overcome. To paraphrase, "The conference is for the children."

There is a lot we can pass on to the children that we never had growing up. I don't know who but someone at the conference described it as not being about stuttering but being about life.

4. Participating in the "Speed Talking" workshop. This has always been a delight for me. It is just like speed dating, where you have a short set of time to get to know someone before moving on to getting to know the next person. Except speed talking isn't it for dating reasons. I decided to use this opportunity to practice my eye contact.

5. The super friendly organizers who did an awesome job at organizing a fantastic conference above and beyond. And the super friendly staff of the spectacular Westin Kierland Resort and Spa where the conference was held.

And finally, another personal highlight for me was going on a road trip with a few of my friends who arrived a few days before the conference began. We took a day trip to beautiful Sedona and the Grand Canyon — via an intense but brief hailstorm. There is nothing like experiencing the joys of a few (mis)adventures with your buddies who also share the unique bond of stuttering. Below is a video of part of our trip!

Next year's location will be held in U.S.A.'s capital, Washington D.C.


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