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How to Survive Your First Conference

The Canadian Stuttering Association is having a one-day conference this month in Toronto. It will feature a number of speakers giving short presentations on stuttering, from personal stories to scientific research on the causes and treatments for stuttering. For more information, check out the website. Alexandra, a CSA board member, offers advice here for people who have never attended a conference for people who stutter.

Imagine you walk into a big conference room full of people. You suddenly start feeling anxious, excited, and a tiny bit scared all at the same time. You start contemplating turning around on your heels and heading back home, when all of a sudden you hear someone experiencing a block. But now what do you do as you stand there listening to everyone else’s conversations? Do you go up and talk to someone, or randomly join a group of people already chatting? What if you stutter on your name or experience an awfully long block?

You then remember something pretty amazing, everyone else here stutters just like you do! There is no need to worry about stuttering, or being self conscious about it because you are surrounded by people who are exactly like you and who share the same thoughts you are currently having.

When you meet someone else who stutters you form an instant connection.

When you meet someone else who stutters, especially if it’s the first time, you form an instant connection. Despite only talking to this person for 5 minutes, you feel like you have known them your entire life because you share this deep significant bond that is hard to develop with someone else who doesn’t stutter.

The National Stuttering Association Conference

When I attended my first stuttering conference with the National Stuttering Association in 2011, I was a nervous wreck. I did not know what to expect, and I was concerned that by being around other people who stuttered my speech problem would get worse. I stepped through the doors of the conference centre, and I was instantly whisked off by another conference attendee to be introduced to at least 50 other people who stuttered. The people I met were of all ages, from young children to senior citizens, and they were from all across North America, but they all had one thing in common. They stuttered, and they didn’t even blink an eye when they experienced a block. These people were confident in their stutters, and I found that astounding. I always tried to hide, or “avoid” my stutter when I spoke, even when it was with my parents, but attending the conference taught me that I did not need to worry about stuttering. This is something that is going to be with me my entire life, and I couldn’t let it control me.

Confidence found!

From attending the conference I developed a type of confidence in my stutter and in myself, that I would have never gained otherwise. Now being confident in my speech, my stutter began to ease up and I was more fluent than I had been in quite a few years. I blocked occasionally, but when I did I just let it roll off my back and I kept on talking instead of stopping to acknowledge it. I also developed many friendships solely from my first conference. Despite not knowing these people for long, they feel like family to me because we share a connection that is personal and special.

Attending a stuttering conference changed my life, and now you have the opportunity on October 25th to have one change your life as well. Until my conference, I had only met a few select people who stuttered, and they were all covert stutterers. I wanted to meet people who stuttered openly, whom I could look up to and hopefully aspire to be like them. Whether you are new to the stuttering community here in Canada, or you are a well experienced pro, you will benefit greatly from attending this one day event with the Canadian Stuttering Association.

Make the most of it

Here are the steps to making the most out of your first conference experience!

  1. Be yourself, you can stutter openly in this safe environment.
  2. Be open to meeting new people (young and old!)
  3. Keep something close to you to make notes, you will want to take down people’s names and phone numbers!
  4. Enjoy the day full of new, life changing experiences!



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