The original idea for National Stuttering Awareness Week came from Dan Weiss who helped organize the Philadelphis chapter of the National Stuttering Project (now the National Stuttering Association). In October 1986, Mr. Weiss wrote a piece for "Speaking Out" suggesting that there be a week named to bring stuttering to awareness of the American public. The thought was well received. Paul Castellano, with the tireless help Barbara Hubbard, now Barbara Koval, both from Delaware were instrumental in bringing the idea to fruition. Despite having a relatively severe stutter, Paul had the courage and determination to testify before several US Congressional subcommittees in tireless efforts to raise the public's awareness of stuttering. NSP members contacted their representatives.
Then in early April of 1988, Paul and Barb appeared at the US Capitol for a ceremony that established NSAW. Many dignitaries were on hand including Senator John Glenn whose wife Annie is a PWS and is known and loved by many who have met her at several NSP national conventions. Jane Fraser, President of the Stuttering Foundation of America made a speech at the NSAW dedication ceremony on Capitolhill.
In a letter from Paul, he related some of the story.
In 1985 I ran for state representative in Delaware, after having involved in my community for many years. During my door to door campaign, I became painfully aware of peoples' uneasiness with stuttering. Where I could speak to large groups of people, talking one on one terrified me. At the time I was already involved with the National Stuttering Project in Delaware with Barbara Hubbard Koval's Chapter. I determined what was needed was a broader understanding of stuttering, by the general public.
We begin in November of 1986 by recruiting our congressperson and senator to sponsor a Joint resolution to have a week proclaimed National Stuttering Awareness Week in conjnction with Better Speech and Hearing Month. It could not have been done without the help of the NSP membership. It took almost 2 years, but Barbara and I were determined to succeed. We wrote to every member of the Congress 4 times during 1987. Finally, the second week of May 1988 became the first National Stuttering Awareness Week in the United States. We had a feature article in USA Today on May 10, 1988 the day we went to Washington to commemorate the start of National Stuttering Awareness Week.
On April 13, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the first proclamation for the period of May 9th through May 15 of 1988 as National Stuttering Awareness Week by Public Law 100-263. Here are some excerpts:
"The uniquely human ability to communicate thoughts through speech allows us to share our ideas almost as quickly as they occur, with little conscious effort. But for the more than three million Americans who stutter, speech is associated with struggle. Rapid-fire repetitions of sounds, prolonged vowels, and verbal blocks disrupt the smooth and easy flow of speech and limit the spontaneous exchange of ideas and feelings. Many stutterers suffer frustration and embarrassment that can lead to harmful emotion stress.
Stuttering has a tendency to be inherited, and it affects four times as many males as females. Children usually outgrow stuttering before reaching adulthood. When the disorder continues or begins in adults, it is considered chronic and very difficult to control.
(Then the proclamation discussed National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders (NINCDS) research into using toxin injections into the larynx muscles which has proven not to be an effective treatment for stuttering)
The NINCDS leads the Federal Government's research effort on stuttering, funding projects around the country in addition to conducting studies in its own laboratories. Research supported by private voluntary health agencies adds to the growing pool of knowledge. These private organizations also provide invaluable counseling and other services to stutterers and their families. Together, Federal and private groups call attention to simple ways the public can help; for example, many stutterers improve their speech when listeners know to be patient and supportive.
To enhance public awareness of stuttering, the Congress, by Public Law 100-263, has designated the period of May 9 though May 15, 1988 as "National Stuttering Awareness Week" and authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of that event. NOW, THEREFORE, I RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the period of May 9 thought May 15, 1988 as National Stuttering Awareness Week, and I call upon the people of the United States to observe that week with appropriate ceremonies and activities."
Signed Ronald Reagan
There were approximately 100 copies made of this historic document. It has a blue border with a Gold embossed Presidential seal at the top and President Reagan's signature at the bottom. Both Ira Zimmerman and Russ Hicks who provided the above information, have a copy of the proclamation.
In 2012, Dan Weiss sent a copy of the original proclamation which is below
NSAW was at first intended to be a one time event. But as time passed, both the NSA and the SFA picked up the ball and the second week in May each year has become known as National Stuttering Awareness Week. The NSA through their newsletter "Letting Go" publicizes NSAW each year and sponsors events during this week. The SFA runs announcements in many national magazines and other publications celebrating this special week.
edited October 7, 2012