About the presenter: Daniele Rossi is Chief Digital Strategist & Co-Founder of Stutter Social. A digital media professional, prolific content creator and cartoonist from Toronto, Canada, Daniele took to social media like a fish to water. He's particularly drawn to it as a powerful tool for connecting people around the world who share a common interest or not-so-common experience like stuttering. Daniele also produces the Stuttering is Cool podcast and a number of web comics. A member of the board of directors for the Canadian Stuttering association and blocks on plosives and stutters with too many secondaries.
About the presenter:David Resnick is Chief Evangelist & Co-Founder of Stutter Social. Currently, living in Los Angeles, he is an entrepreneur, new media strategist, artist, and biofield energy worker who who uses creativity and technology to facilitate fun and flow. David is absolutely psyched about how Stutter Social has grown from being something he started because he missed his PWS friends to being an international virtual support group. David finds it very interesting that his blocks shift over time...presently it is on W's and Y's.
About the presenter: Mitchell Trichon, PhD, is Self-Help Specialist & Co-Founder of Stutter Social. Dr. Trichon is Assistant Professor in Communication Sciences & Disorders Department at St. John's University and has published and presented stuttering research about self-help at national and international conferences. Dr. Trichon directs the National Stuttering Association's adult support network . He has hosted national and regional conferences and advocates for people who stutter in the media. He will be presenting his work on self-help for people who stutter and Stutter Social at an upcoming conference in Brno, Czech Republic and at the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.
About the presenter: Samuel Dunsiger is Communications Director of Stutter Social. A freelance journalist, communications specialist and person who stutters from Toronto Canada, Sam enjoys writing about health and lifestyle issues. He's on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Stuttering Association and a regular attendee of the National Stuttering Association's annual conference. He enjoys meeting other PWS and being involved in the stuttering community!

You can post Questions/comments about the following paper to the author before October 22, 2012.

Stutter Social: Building Stuttering Support and Community Worldwide

by Danielle Rossi, Samuel Dunsiger, Mitchell Trichon, and David Resnick
from Canada; Canada; New York, and California

NOTE: All names in this paper were used with permission.

Stutter Social is an online stuttering support group. In particular, we use Google+ Hangouts, the video conferencing feature of Google Plus (Google+), Google's social network, because its features are perfect for our needs. And it's free!

Currently, we host four Hangouts every week. They typically last around two hours, and people can come and go as they please. We have participants from different walks of life all over the world. Some of our regulars live in Croatia, Australia, India, Pakistan, Ireland, the U.K., Ghana, Canada and the United States. We usually have seven to 10 people in every meeting.

Discussion often revolves around stuttering related topics such as managing fears, avoidance possible speech goals. Sometime chat can be simply about our day or the latest movies. Stutter Social Hangouts are likened to sitting at a table at a bar or restaurant; however, instead of it being in person, it's all on screen.

Additionally, we occasionally have question and answer hangouts with special guests. In the past, we hosted discussions with stuttering specialists, comedians who stutter and two women who appeared on a segment of ABC's What Would You Do? program about stuttering and bullying (if you'd like to know more about these stories, please visit our blog at blog.stuttersocial.com).

The Origins of Stutter Social

The origins of Stutter Social can be traced back to the 2011 National Stuttering Association conference in Fort Worth, Texas. That was where co-founders, David Resnick, Daniele Rossi and Mitchell Trichon met. After the conference ended, Resnick and Rossi reminisced about the conference and how they could maintain the momentum. Trichon had been researching the role of self-help activities in stuttering management and believed that talking to other PWS should be made easier online. This led him to explore the next frontier in self-help -- webcam chat.

Trichon began hosting video-based support meetings on Skype, with Resnick and Rossi initially as participants. Due to ease and accessibility, they switched to Google+ Hangouts and hosted Hangouts more frequently.

In several months, word spread and the number of participants worldwide grew. What began as a few friends wanting to keep in touch became an international virtual support group. Stutter Social was born.

The Impact of Stutter Social

Nenad Rendic is a regular participant from Croatia. He sets his alarm clock for 2am so he'll wake up on time and join Stutter Social Hangouts. For him, the appeal is the opportunity to meet other people who stutter, while improving his speech. "I've never talked to fellow stutterers as much before," he notes.

Another participant, Matt Schreifels in the U.S., found his self-image changing within a month of regularly hanging out with stutterers who had confidence in themselves. "My attitude went from caring how people saw me to letting it roll off my back," he says.

These kinds of benefits are common. Recent research has shown that self-help activities are beneficial in stuttering management. (Trichon & Tetnowski, 2011; Tetnowski & McClure, 2009; Trichon, Tetnowski, & Rentschler, 2007). In particular, surveys conducted by the National Stuttering Association revealed that such activities reduce the negative impact stuttering can have on an individual, that they help in the long-term success of traditional speech therapy and that "participants [are] less likely to avoid speaking situations and less likely to say their stuttering interferes with work or school...[and] more likely to talk about stuttering." (Tetnowski & McClure, 2009)

Trichon, who is also an Associate Professor with the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at St. John's University, lists the different kinds of self-help activities as support groups, workshops and annual conferences. He likens Stutter Social to a support group.

"The best part of [Stutter Social] is empathetically resonating with other people who stutter," notes Resnick. "It's a feeling that NSA members know about because we get that in our chapter meetings and at the conference. Now we're working on creating that experience for people all over the world and making it very convenient and accessible."

Incorporating social media tools such as Google+, Facebook, and Twitter enables us to witness the difference a support system like Stutter Social is making in the lives of our participants. From those who live in an area with no support group to everyone emphatically resonating with fellow stutterers, participants feel less alone in their stuttering, become motivated by interacting with confident stutterers and form friendships.

David Stones, from Toronto, and Jacquelyn Revere, from New York, met on Stutter Social, where they found that they share a mutual love of theatre. "I was intrigued by Jacquelyn being a stuttering actress," Stones recalls. "I thought that was really cool."

They met at a New York cafe to chat about their interests and experiences. "I learned a lot about how Toronto has a thriving theatre community," Revere says. "I also love talking to people who have been where I am right now. Hearing his stories and his successes and difficulties, it's always nice to know that you are not the only person who has ever gone through something, and even though, in the back of my mind I know that, the reassurance is always nice."

The Impact On Our Hosts

Stutter Social participants aren't the only ones who benefit from engagement. Our hosts also get something in return.

After leaving his native Syracuse and moving to an area with no local NSA chapter, Evan Sherman, was searching for another way to become involved in the stuttering community. "I decided to become a host for Stutter Social, because unlike a chapter group which has a local meeting, this allows me to connect with people who stutter from around the globe!"

Samuel Dunsiger, Communications Director of Stutter Social, enjoys learning from the experiences of others who stutter around the world. "You're building friendships with people who know exactly what you're going through and vice-versa. You're helping them and they're helping you. It's a really powerful thing to have."

For Krishna Srinivasan, one of our international hosts, hosting gives him "the chance to reflect on my own stammering and understand how others deal with their speech."

While Kenyatta Butler enjoys "seeing people positively react to our global, virtual support group that have never been to any kind of support group previously", Rossi enjoys the mentorship culture. "It's rewarding to witness your new friends grow out of their shells and then begin to mentor first timers."

Participating is easy!

Don't worry if you aren't the technical type. Google+ is very easy to use!

The first step is creating a Google+ account. You don't have to display any personal information, and you don't necessarily need to use the social network. You only need to use the 'hangout' feature.

Once you have an account, you can join a Stutter Social hangouts during any of the scheduled times. In fact, once the Hangout starts, we post the link on our website, our Facebook group, Twitter page and email notification service which you can sign up. Simply click the link and you'll automatically join the hangout.

You can also add the Stutter Social Google+ page to your "circles" in Google+ enabling you to join Stutter Social hangouts right from within the social network.

Please note that you also need the Google voice and video plug-in, which if you don't have, Google will prompt you to install before putting you in the Hangout. Getting started with Stutter Social takes around five minutes.

If you run into any difficulty, feel free to contact us and we can help you.

More information about Stutter Social including our hangout schedule is available at stuttersocial.com.

Sources: Tetnowski, J. A., & McClure, J. A. (2009). Executive summary of 2009 survey. Seminar presented at the annual conference of the National Stuttering Association, Phoenix, AZ. Retrieved August 26, 2012.

Trichon, M., & Tetnowski, J. (2011). Self-help conferences for people who stutter: A qualitative investigation. Journal of Fluency Disorders. doi:10.1016/j.jfludis.2011.06.001. Retrieved August 26, 2012.

Trichon, M., Tetnowski, J., & Rentschler, G. (2007). Perspective of participants of self-help groups for people who stutter. In J. Au-Yeung, & M. M. Leahy (Eds.), Research, treatment, and self-help in fluency disorders: New horizons. Proceedings of the fifth world congress on fluency disorders 25--28 July, 2006, Dublin, Ireland, (pp. 171-176). The International Fluency Association. Retrieved August 26, 2012.

You can post Questions/comments about the above paper to the author before October 22, 2012.

SUBMITTED: August 28, 2012
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