Community Speaker Series

Let us come together every month to reflect, laugh, and inspire.

Everyone is welcome!

September 2020

What can 2030 look like for a teen who stutters?

Keynote talk-back with Barry Yeoman

Saturday, September 26 @ 11 am to 1 pm ET

Barry Yeoman’s keynote at the FRIENDS Virtual Convention, “Meeting a plague with stuttering community,” was received enthusiastically. Through personal stories, Barry made clear the benefit of community-building, and shared his vision for how a teenager who stutters growing up in 2030 could benefit from our community’s actions today. Let’s come together ready to brainstorm how to build a stuttering community for our current and future teens. If you have not watched the keynote, please do so, and come with questions and ideas. Relatives and SLPs are also invited to listen, learn, and explore how to show up as allies.

Barry Yeoman

Barry Yeoman is an award-winning freelance journalist in Durham, North Carolina. He works in both print and audio, putting human faces on complex social and political issues. He also teaches journalism at Wake Forest University and Duke University. He has been involved in the stuttering self-help movement since 1992.


August 2020

Back to School Panel: Challenges & Opportunities for 2020

Saturday, August 29 @ 11 am to 1 pm ET

Let us use this opportunity to grow through challenges of showing up at school (online or in-person), building and making new friendships, and learning & studying in new circumstances. A mixed-age panel (tween, teen, college age, parent) will share followed by a facilitated community circle discussion. Relatives and SLPs are also invited to listen, learn, and explore how to show up as allies.

Recorded live on Saturday, August 29 with an audience of 86 people on Zoom.

Highlights from the event

Nuggets of wisdom from the panelists:

Ava: “For me, I get anxious when I have to disclose to someone about (my stuttering). But on the other hand, if someone interrupts you like that, you could use that opportunity to disclose about your stuttering and then they might be more understanding. Now that you told them, they might not interrupt you again because they understand what happened.”

Brayden: “In class I get really anxious… sometimes I just go right through it like drive through the moment. That is how I usually deal with it… To always persevere through moments like these, through moments that you have. Never let that ruin the mental side of yourself, and to always think up not down.”

Jonathan: “I would recommend talking to your professor and teachers, and letting them know – ‘look I have a stutter.. these are things I’m comfortable with.. these are my limitations’. You’ll be surprised, a lot of them will respect that.”

Grant: “What I did when I was in high school, I would send all my teachers a mass email before school started, and disclose to them that I just wanted to let them know that I’m a person who stutters. If you hear me stutter in class, don’t be surprised, type of thing. That really helped me a lot.”

Owen: “Knowing the fine balance of trying to support but not over support, and infuse ourselves into his educational career too much. He needs to make some of his own choices too, but he also needs to know his parents have his back.”

Rick: “For me, overcoming would be something like – it plays no role at all in the choices and the things that I do. I still get nervous and scared, but I feel like most of the time, I do and say whatever it is that I want.”

Back to School Panelists 

Akaiya image

Ava Towvim is a person who stutters who is going into 8th grade. She has attended FRIENDS conferences for the last 6 years and it’s always something she looks forward to. FRIENDS gave her the opportunity to meet new people who stutter who encourage her to be her best self, and constantly inspire her to not let anything get in the way of what she wants. Ava is looking forward to the next time when she can see everyone in person again. 

Grant image

Brayden Harrington was introduced to Joe Biden by his father, Owen Harrington. Brayden and the Vice President had stuttering in common and the former VP shared his strategies for managing a stutter with Brayden. Based on the positivity of the interaction, Brayden was invited to share his experience at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. The result of Brayden’s speech was an overwhelming sense of positivity throughout the country and opening the doors of normalizing stuttering by a normal kid.

Grant image

Grant Smith is a current sophomore at Baldwin Wallace University majoring in neuroscience and biology, and a person who stutters. He has been coming to annual FRIENDS conferences for the past four years, and he hopes to give back to the community that he says helped him find his voice and realize he was not alone.

Jonathan image

Jonathan Williams is a young 22 year old senior Anthropology student at University of Northern Colorado, who stutters and plans on graduating this fall. While this is his first FRIENDS event, he is excited to connect with other people who stutter.

Rick Arenas I am a person who stutters and a parent of a child who stutters. I work at the University of New Mexico as an associate professor where I teach and conduct research in the area of stuttering. I’m honored to be able to be part of FRIENDS. The organization does an amazing job supporting young people who stutter and their families.

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FRIENDS: The National Association of Young People Who Stutter is a non-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization under section 501(c)3.

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