I was very pleased that I had the opportunity to attend the celebration of the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR's) 25th anniversary and Deborah Kully's retirement as executive director of the institute, in Edmonton on March 3, 2012.
Over 140 people attended the event at the University of Alberta Faculty Club, which was also the site of ISTAR’s inauguration celebration in December 1986.
Michael Niven of Calgary did a great job as master of ceremonies at this event.
Speakers included University of Alberta president, Indira Samaraskara; dean of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, Martin Ferguson-Pell; and Julia Boberg, who has in the past served as ISTAR's office manager and who is a former board member.
Marilyn Langevin, the acting executive director, and Deborah Kully spoke as well.
Other speakers included colleagues and former clients, as well as, Deborah Kully's husband, Terry Martens, and her children Katrina and Kristov.
Representatives from the Elks and Royal Purple organizations, which have contributed more than a million dollars to ISTAR over the years, spoke as well of their many years of productive collaboration with the institute. Martin Ferguson-Pell spoke of how challenging it is to keep not-for-profit organizations viable and in good shape and spoke highly of ISTAR’s success in achieving this goal for 25 years.
Evidence-Based Approach to Stuttering Treatment
Deborah spoke of co-founding the Institute with Einer Boberg and of the challenges faced by the institute in the early years.
Marilyn Langevin spoke of Deborah Kully's achievements include teaching and training more than 700 students, authoring or co-authoring 27 book chapters and articles, and delivering more than 64 presentations on stuttering in Canada and around the world.
My own remarks, as a former client, are in many ways typical of the speeches by clients whose quality of life has vastly improved as a result of a visit to the Edmonton clinic -- in my case 25 years ago.
I began to stutter at the age of 6. In my teens and early twenties, I stuttered severely. Sometimes I could not get out any words at all. I had some treatment over the years, but I did almost no public speaking until I attended ISTAR in July 1987.
At the ISTAR clinic, I relearned how to speak. I like to say I learned Fluency as a Second Language. I received expert, individualized instruction regarding the application, in everyday situations, of a set of five clearly defined fluency skills.
A year after the clinic, in 1988, I formed a self-help group for people who stutter, in Toronto. In 1989, Einer Boberg contacted several self-help groups across Canada, and suggested we organize a national conference. That conference took place in Banff, Alberta in 1991 and led to the founding of the Canadian Stuttering Association.
Einer Boberg, Deborah Kully, Marilyn Langevin, and many others at ISTAR have provided effective treatment for large numbers of people who stutter over the years.
ISTAR practises a data-driven, evidence-based approach to stuttering treatment. The program is continuously updated. I find these ways of doing things tremendously inspiring.
I was delighted that I had the opportunity to attend ISTAR's 25th anniversary and the celebration of Deborah Kully's retirement, 25 years after I had attended a three-week clinic at ISTAR, an event that changed the trajectory of my life.