Almost 1,000 folks worldwide – including people who stutter (PWS), their loved ones and speech-language pathologists – gathered at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown D.C., making it the NSA’s largest conference.
For me, it was my fourth consecutive conference. What brings me back? Simple. Every year, I continue to be inspired by the enlightening workshops and courageous people who attend; I build meaningful friendships and connections with them; it feels like a dream – if you walked into Renaissance last week, you would’ve walked into a world where stuttering was the norm, while fluent speech was a rare find. It’s an interesting reversal as only one per cent of the global population stutters – but in this case, PWS were the majority.
However, this year’s conference was different. Here are my top five highlights:
- For the first time, as part of a workshop on advertising my stuttering, I approached complete strangers, told them about the conference and educated them about stuttering. To my surprise, one of them even told me his sister stutters.
- I met even more amazing people, especially first timers (which actually made up a third of the attendees this year), hearing their stories and what brought them to the conference.
- I led a workshop on the struggles PWS often face on the phone and how we can master it instead of avoid it. After the workshop, a woman in the audience even approached me to tell me I inspired her to overcome her fear of the phone. I was so happy to help!
- I visited a range of beautiful landmarks and museums, such as the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. We even went on a private tour of Capitol Hill organized by a friend!
- Last but not least, I can’t forget being in the heart of D.C. for the Fourth of July. The Washington Monument lit up with fireworks, and, as expected, the National Mall was filled with millions and millions of people.
While stuttering has certainly been a challenge for me, it comes with its fair share of benefits too – something I’ve embraced after attending these conferences. I feel like it makes me more compassionate and unique, and it motivates me to become the best possible of version of myself.
And yes, without stuttering, I wouldn’t be able to attend the NSA conference year after year and connect with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever known.
See you next year in Chicago!