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Freedom of Speech at the Beach

danandsam Dan Rossi and Sam Dunsiger

CSA members Daniele Rossi and Samuel Dunsiger share what they got out of attending the 2012 National Stuttering Association conference in St. Petersburg, Florida.

By Daniele Rossi

This year marked my third time attending the NSA conference. It was great to hang out with my friends again and have good times together.
But spending only four days with my friends just was not enough. By the fourth day of the conference, I had realized that for me, it is now all about spending time with old friends rather than attending workshops (it’s no wonder I was so depressed when it was over).
Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the workshops and learn a great deal from them. However, I find my excitement focused on mostly spending good times with my friends when a conference is upon us.

I made new friends during my first year attending the NSA conference. I caught up with them in my second year and made more new friends (like Samuel Dunsiger who accompanied me this year). My friendships were further solidified this third year– and with the bonus of meeting "old friends" in person for the first time from Stutter Social, a group video chat for people who stutter which I co-founded.

Many Stutter Social regulars attended this year's conference. In fact, it's thanks to social media tools like this, that I was able to make friends before attending the conference!

Friendships aside, this third year also marked the year where I got out of my comfort zone and tried my hand at producing a video series throughout the conference. I recruited Sam to be my co-host in shooting spontaneous video of  the areas around the hotel and interviewing fellow attendees. You can view the videos at http://bit.ly/nsavideos.

I also gave a workshop for the first time. Two of them, actually!

In the first workshop, Sam and I participated on a panel discussion announcing Stutter Social. Later that day and pumped up from our positive experience, the two of us then facilitated a conversation about the pros and cons of disclosing during a job interview.

It was both nerve wracking and thrilling to witness ourselves learning and growing from presenting these two workshops. Certainly a few new useful skills we took back home with us.

By Samuel Dunsiger

On the second day of this year’s National Stuttering Association conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, I was sitting on the couches in the hotel lobby with three other NSAers, two of whom I had just met, and already, we were talking like we were close friends.

Daniele Rossi says that, for him, the appeal of attending the conference year after year is less about the workshops (although, he’s quite right when he says they’re enjoyable and educational) and more about building and solidifying friendships gained. And I can tell you right now that he’s absolutely right. This was my second consecutive conference I attended. In fact, the previous one in Fort Worth, Texas marked the first time I’ve met other people who stutter.

It was a tremendous feeling. Not only was it inspirational to meet others with whom I share this common trait, but the fact that I was in a hotel where stuttering was the norm was an interesting reversal to my daily life.

This year, I was able to encounter that reversal once again. I met new friends and solidified friendships with those I had met a year earlier and online (through Stutter Social). And for me, the conference is about support – meeting and getting to know other people who stutter, and exchanging stories and experiences with them.

Some of those people were even fellow Canadians! The Canadian crew included those from Calgary, London, Toronto, Kingston, Montreal and Quebec City.

Additionally, I was able to challenge myself more, venturing out of my comfort zone in such a safe and supportive environment. In addition to appearing in several of Daniele’s videos, I introduced myself to more and more people (one of whom I had simply bumped into in the hotel corridor); I spoke at an open microphone workshop, and, for the first time, Daniele and I presented a workshop (and we were part of a panel of another).

Whether it was meeting people in between workshops, out to eat or sitting in the hotel lobby, the conference offers truly a great opportunity to meet others with whom you share an unbreakable bond!

I hope to see you next year in Scottsdale, Arizona!

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