Wednesday, July 18, 2012

National Stuttering Conference 2012

I had intended to write posts while Nate & I were in St. Petersburg for the National Stuttering Conference, but we were so busy and there were new things to absorb, so I didn't write while I was there.

We've been back for a couple weeks now, and thoughts have been bouncing around in my head!

This was our second conference.  Last year, I wrote about what a wonderful experience we had at the conference.  This year, it was wonderful once again, but in different ways.

Last year, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the people, all the workshops and all the new ideas.  This year, I wasn't as overwhelmed and was able to spend more time meeting people, while still learning quite a bit.

One thing that helped was getting to know people through Facebook and Twitter in the year since last year's conference.  It felt great to connect again with people we met last year, to put faces to Twitter/Facebook accounts, and meet some brand new faces.  I confess I still felt a bit overwhelmed, and wish I could have spent more time / gotten to know more people better.  The good news is that next summer and I'll have another opportunity to connect with the amazing people that make up the NSA.

Nate and I presented together a workshop about Empowering Children.  Tammy Flores (Executive Director of the National Stuttering Association) let him know that he was the youngest presenter she ever had present at the conferences, which impressed Nate.  We talked about ways that Nate has become empowered over the last few years, and strategies that others could potentially use. Nate did a fantastic job -- I had him introduce us and then he spoke throughout the presentation and also fielded questions from the audience.

He & I both attended various workshops -- sometimes he went to the kid workshops and a couple times he came along with me to the adult workshops.  He had fun with the kids, and made a few fast friends.

One of the things I most enjoyed this year was sitting in an "Open Mic" workshop.  This was a workshop that encouraged people to stand up in front of a group and share their story.  It was very interesting to listen to the wide array of stories from a very diverse population -- who all had stuttering in common.  It was powerful for everyone involved.

It's hard to describe the friendliness and openness of the participants of this conference, but you feel cared about.  I also enjoy watching everyone patiently listening to each other and communicating -- disfluent or fluent.  That is something that is rare, as people usually are trying to rush those who stutter along.

Nate was asked to speak at the closing ceremonies.  It's something that made him nervous, but also extremely proud.  He took the time to plan out what he wanted to say and when it came time -- he stood up there proudly and delivered a wonderful speech about what the NSA means to him.  Did I mention there were around 700 people at the conference this year?  He spoke to a full ballroom of people, and didn't flinch.   He was happy to share his story, and was a bit surprised at all the people telling him later at how well he did.  He did enjoy the attention, however!

Next year, the conference is here in our home state of Arizona -- and I am thrilled that my entire family will be able to attend.  While traveling solo with Nate is fun, I want my husband and other children to experience the NSA Nation!

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