Stutter Center’s team reunited in the UAE for the celebration of the International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD)
ISAD, which is celebrated yearly on the 22nd of October, is a particularly important day for people who stutter (PWS). It is a moment to come together and to share experiences, but also of deepening knowledge about stuttering, a speech condition shared by 1% of the population or 71 million people. After a forced one-year break due to Covid restrictions, Farah Al Qaissieh, founder and CEO of Stutter UAE – the country’s first support community for PWS, their family, friends, and their loved ones – organised one more ISAD in Abu Dhabi, under this year’s theme “Speak the change you wish to see”.
The gathering strengthened friendships and created new ones, within a spirit of openness and trust. These are the two main ingredients of Farah’s successful recipe, which, together with persistence and commitment, transformed Stutter UAE into a remarkable example of advocacy and support for PWS.
The room was full. People came from all over the UAE, and abroad, to mingle, to share challenges and experiences, and to listen to a varied group of speakers, among which iStutter’s Clinical Director, Gonçalo Leal, who presented “Tech & Stuttering: What is Going On?”, with the state-of-the-art in this field, namely iStutter’s ongoing R&D work.
iStutter’s work is characterised by a profound linkage between research and clinical practice. Our company has some of the world’s best practitioners and actively collaborates with top-notch researchers and technologists. As Gonçalo explained, we are internally developing complementary tools to assist Speech and Language Pathologists (SLP) in their daily work: 1) a stuttering treatment platform, which allows the monitoring of the quality of treatment, while providing our team of SLP with a library of therapeutic resources (currently at Beta stage); 2) a mobile app, which collects feedback from users (with a particular focus on parents of kids who stutter) and allows a continuum of care, thus occupying the existing void between treatment sessions (operational in Q1 2022); and 3) a VR-Stuttering Diagnostic Prototype, co-developed with VideoSensing.studio and Sherlock, whose creation had the invaluable support of DIGI-B-CUBE/ Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Research and Innovation programme (currently in its testing phase).
When the presentations ended, many attendees undertook our VR-demo experience. The feedback was amazing. The prototype manages to replicate a hyper-realistic recruitment interview, thus immersing PWS in stress-induced speaking situations, which enables a more effective (and objective) stuttering diagnostic, without leaving the clinic. This is the first of a catalogue of experiences that iStutter and its partners are developing. Further experiences will also improve the therapy sessions, namely by allowing concrete training practices. Bernardo Aguiar and Rita Carneiro, from iStutter, oversaw the experience and collected feedback from users.
On the 22nd, Gonçalo Leal and Cátia Catita, undertook the workshop “Early Intervention : Advanced Methods and Techniques for Preschool Children Who Stutter”, which was enthusiastically attended by a group of SLP from across the UAE. Gonçalo and Cátia promised to return very soon for more workshops.
Thank you Farah for organising these incredible events. It was an immense pleasure to be back to the UAE! The good news is that we will be back very soon! We will keep you posted. Happy ISAD 2021, everyone!