How CAPS celebrates International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD)

The Canadian Association for People who Stutter (CAPS) is a non-profit volunteer national organization that provides resources and support for people who stutter and their families. We do this by sending out newsletters, hosting major national conferences, maintaining an award winning web site and responding to people¹s enquiries via our toll-free line or email. We also host a one-day workshop to celebrate ISAD ­ and we have been doing this since 1996.

It all started when Annie Bradberry (Executive Director of the National Stuttering Association) and Mary Wood (a previous CAPS board member) were talking on the phone a few months before the ISAD date (October 22nd). They had the idea of hosting a joint workshop (between the NSA and CAPS) to celebrate our day. Well, it didn¹t take them long to come up with a whole schedule and outline of what the day would be like. It was decided that it would be in Toronto Ontario and would take place in the building owned by the Barbershoppers of Ontario. The Barbershoppers, through their Harmonize for Speech fund, raise and give out substantial amount of money for many organizations including CAPS. We have been and still are very fortunate to have a great organization like the Barbershoppers as our supporter and friend.

Since that first workshop, we try to stick to same type of agenda. The day starts off with registrations and muffins at 8:30 or 9 am. There is a small introduction of the purpose of CAPS and what ISAD is for. Following that there is an icebreaker activity to get people moving around and talking. There are usually three main activities that occur simultaneously. The first one is a talk given by either a professional in the field of stuttering or a person who stutter. This talk is aimed at adults who stutter and it is always informative and thought provoking. Speakers in the past have included the likes of Phil Schneider - an SLP (speech language pathologist) from NY, Lee Reeves ­ former chairman of the board of the NSA and a person who stutters from Texas, Gary Rentschler ­ an SLP from Buffalo, and many others. The second activity in a different room is a talk given for parents (or families) of children who stutter. The third activity is something fun for the children to do (coloring, games, scavenger hunt). There is a coffee break in the morning and at lunch we order pizza and pop. These activities continue after lunch when there are usually more interactive sessions. People get a chance to sit and discuss the topics or issues with others. Before ending the day we always an open mike. This is a great chance for people to come up to the microphone and say whatever is on their minds. It is not obligatory for people to speak, but the chance for public speaking is always encouraged in this safe, comfortable environment. After the day is over many of us go out to eat dinner at a nice restaurant ­ a great way to end the day. The full day workshop is usually between $20 and $30.

In 1999, we tried a new and exciting approach that was very successful. We called it the ³Team Approach² where we had a researcher in stuttering (Luc De Nil), an SLP (Marlene Green) and a person who stutters (Mary Wood) all give lectures at points throughout the day. After each lecture of about 10 or 20 minutes, the participants were put into Œnetworking¹ groups where they discussed five topics: Self-Help, Therapy, Parents, Education and Employment. This worked out very well and people gave us very positive feedback.

For 2003 (as of this writing) we are planning a less ambitious workshop. After our major conference a couple of months ago and then an international conference in Montreal (the IFA congress), we found it too hard to summon up the energy of our people to host a full workshop. We are planning to show some of the major movies about stuttering and have a discussion about it afterwards. CAPS has never done this before, so I am very anxious to hear the feedback from it.

For CAPS, the ISAD workshops are an opportunity to get together and share, celebrate and acknowledge our stuttering. ISAD is also a day of recognition. People who stutter can recognize that it is okay to stutter and, even if in a small way, be proud of it. This is who we are, we are aware of it and for some of us we can even accept it. Personally, accepting it was a big step forward towards the person I am today. So whether you accept it or do not, it is okay to be who you are. This is true every day, but on October 22nd every year we can celebrate it.

added September 19, 2003