Prompted by research on the public’s attitude towards those who stutter, the first Stuttering Attitudes Research Symposium will take place Sept. 4-7 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Morgantown.
The symposium is the culmination of research conducted by Ken St. Louis, professor and director of post-professional graduate study in the West Virginia University College of Education and Human Services’ Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
St. Louis is himself a recovered stutterer. Speech therapy was unheard of in Steamboat Springs, Colo., where he grew up on a cattle and sheep ranch. Though he was never teased or bullied, he still felt self-conscious. He was in high school when he finally decided he wanted to address his speech, and attended a six-week clinic at the University of Wyoming.
“It was at that summer program where I learned that stuttering was not necessarily an insidious mysterious thing that would rear its ugly head at completely unpredictable moments,” said St. Louis. “For the first time in my life I learned that I could control my stuttering rather than it controlling me. I became very fluent while in Wyoming and decided then and there that I wanted to become a speech therapist.”
He began seriously researching attitudes towards stuttering in 1999. Since then, St. Louis has worked with a task force to collect data and form a prototype that will measure the public’s view of people who stutter, an initiative known throughout the world as the International Project on Attitudes Toward Human Attributes.
“Based on ongoing research by my numerous colleagues and I, we know that stutterers are stereotyped as nervous, shy, weak, and even lacking intelligence,” St. Louis said. “The ramifications of this can be very serious. It is time to get together with the leaders in this field to find out what we know and where we need to go next.”
As of this year, St. Louis has analyzed 188 studies with colleagues from 29 countries. He has found that opinions in the countries where the studies were done tend to be more similar than they are different from country to country; yet, Western societies display more compassionate views on stuttering than Eastern societies.
The Stuttering Attitudes Research Symposium is the first ever research symposium devoted to the topic. Issues discussed will include international epidemiology of public attitudes toward stuttering, the teasing and bullying of children who stutter, job discrimination, and changing attitudes towards stuttering.
Among keynote speakers will be Gordon Blood of Penn State University. Blood, professor and head of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at PSU, will speak on the stigma associated with stuttering.
Those attending the symposium will meet to discuss their research and findings, future collaborative efforts and ways to mitigate negative attitudes towards stuttering, as well as other stigmatized conditions.
Pre-registration is $250. Form and payment are due Aug. 30. On-site registration is $300. One-day and/or student registration is $100. Students that choose to volunteer will be admitted for a discounted rate of $50.
Registration forms can be found: http://bit.ly/1dzTcjm
For more information, contact Ken St. Louis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONTACT: Christie Zachary, College of Education and Human Services
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.