National Stuttering Association Conference 2019: A Short Recap & Video.

This time last week I was on a plane flying home to Vancouver from The National Stuttering Association's annual conference in Fort Lauderdale. My head was spinning after just giving my first "official" workshop on stuttering with my Dad (he flew in from Dublin to be part of the action).

I had experienced speech therapy and self-development conferences in the past, but had no idea what to expect from the NSA and it was a total eye opener. People were free to speak and stutter openly and a lot of the attendees were families. I had to give up my own sensitivity and bias towards being a person who stutters over the five days and it wasn't always easy. A lot was squeezed into the few days, so the best I can do here is to mention my own personal highlights.

I don't even know where to begin. Let's see...

  1. On the first day, the power was off in the hotel and it was HOT. I was waiting for Dad to fly in that night and knew I had a workshop to prepare, so I could prepare him when he arrived. I was worried no one would come to the workshop or that we would fall flat on our faces. I was also triggered by people stuttering openly. I had learnt in the past that stuttering was bad and you had to fix and/or hide it. I had to go down to the lobby as it was the only place with working lights and I grabbed some free pizza as we couldn't cook either. I sought out the quietest space I could find and sat down. To my surprise, there was a little kid just sitting on the chair beside me. He immediately said "Hi" and began chatting to me. My initial reactions was to recoil as this was a strange little human. My second thought was to ask where his parents were and after I got over myself, I actually listened to him. He was stuttering a little but was totally at ease with his speech. I told him I was waiting for my Dad and we were giving a workshop. His mother arrived, flustered and after she calmed down, the little boy asked if he could come to the workshop. I was moved to tears. This little kid could have been me all those years ago and he was so at ease in his own skin. He ended up going to the talent show on the day of our workshop but still. This was a defining moment for me and made the whole trip worthwhile.
  2. Listening to people who stutter talk about jobs and being a success in life. Various NSA members talked about self-advocacy and being a stand for themselves and their professions. This is an area for me to work on. The keynote speaker on Saturday; Sharon Steed, was amazing and very inspiring talking about being an "Empathy Consultant". I loved it when she encouraged everyone in the audience to be a "boss" and make requests, be strong and never settle for less. This message was reinforced all weekend. Stuttering is not a handicap and if we feed into that mindset, then we might not achieve all we could in life.
  3. Meeting a huge number of amazing people from the NSA in the flesh was another reason to jump on a plane. There are too many for me to mention here, but as an organization, I was blown away by the acceptance, love and support on display. I can see a huge opportunity to connect with similar groups globally such as the McGuire Programme and National Stuttering organizations globally as the message is universal. We are in this together and by finding a tribe, no one needs to struggle alone.
  4. Finally, being able to hang out with my Dad, share past experiences and get really complete with them. Seeing there is and was never anything wrong and that we both did our best under challenging circumstances. I was so proud to see him talk to the other parents about his fears and concerns. Coming halfway across the planet to support (and feed me) really shows his love. A huge Thank You Dad!

There is probably more, but they are the moments that stick out in my head.

As I said, words are not enough. So here is a video summarizing our "Father and Son Journey". Tags: