Former client leaves $100,000 in her will to the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research

Jackie and her son hope to raise awareness in for International Stuttering Awareness Day on Oct. 22

Laurie Wang - 21 October 2015

(Edmonton) At 44 years old, leaving a planned gift isn't usually the first thing on your mind. But for Jackie Schoenberger, a former client of the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR) at the University of Alberta, it was a priority.

"ISTAR has played a huge role in my life and my son Pearse's life as well," says Schoenberger. "They helped change my life. I had a career in PR but decided to quit because of my stuttering and the stress it caused me."

Schoenberger and her husband have bequeathed $100,000 in their will to ISTAR, an institute of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. As October 22 is International Stuttering Awareness Day, she hopes the announcement of this gift will bring more education and awareness to stuttering.

"People make fun of stuttering a lot. I was always worried people would think I wasn't intelligent if they heard me stutter. It was important to me to make sure people knew I was smart," Schoenberger explains. "You wouldn't make fun of someone with cerebral palsy - stuttering is an actual disorder and people who stutter are trying their best to function in a world that's all about talking."

Family started to notice her stuttering when Schoenberger was five years old, but it wasn't until she was an adult that she decided to seek help.

"It affected me the most emotionally. I held myself back. I was afraid to talk."

After trying various treatments, Schoenberger found ISTAR and completed a special eight-month treatment program, learning skills and exercises to help with the stuttering.

"It literally changed my life. Communication is fundamental. ISTAR gave me the ability to communicate again and start the process of recovery. We are so blessed to have this world-renowned facility here in Edmonton," says Schoenberger. In addition to being a mom and yoga instructor, Schoenberger is also the co-founder of Sunco, a local full-service telecom company.

ISTAR also helped Schoenberger's son, Pearse, overcome stuttering. As a former stutterer, Schoenberger was able to see the signs early on.

"Pearse was diagnosed with childhood Apraxia at 19 months old. At five years old, I noticed he started stuttering," explains Schoenberger. "He was enrolled in a 10-month treatment program at ISTAR."

Today, Pearse is your everyday 14-year-old, playing basketball, volleyball and video games. He is also not afraid to speak in front of a crowd.

"Parents are the experts for their own children," says Holly Lomheim, acting executive director of ISTAR. "If they feel that they have a concern about their child's speech or language, it's best to consult a speech-language pathologist as soon as possible.

"If a parent suspects that their child is stuttering, they can contact ISTAR. We then interview the parents and determine if they require an assessment. It is never too early to contact ISTAR," Lomheim continues. "Stuttering therapy is at its most effective when we can do early intervention."

Schoenberger is grateful for this early intervention for her son. "The treatment at ISTAR is second to none. The clinicians at ISTAR are some of the best in the world. ISTAR's research program is making huge strides for further understanding and treatments in stuttering."

"Jackie's gift means the world to us," says Lomheim. "With Jackie's help, ISTAR can continue the legacy and dream that our founders (Deborah Kully and Einer Boberg) had to have a world-class institute that treats clients who stutter, trains speech-language pathologists, educates the public about stuttering and contributes to research."


The Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta

As the only free-standing faculty of rehabilitation medicine in North America, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine's vision is to be at the forefront of knowledge generation and scholarship in rehabilitation. Through excellent teaching, research and service to the community, the Faculty is committed to enhancing quality of life, promoting participation and autonomy, and improving function for citizens in Alberta and beyond.

A research leader in musculoskeletal health, spinal cord injuries, common spinal disorders (back pain), seniors and dementia and speech-language disorders, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine aims to inspire the realization of the full potential of individuals, families and communities. The three departments, Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT) and Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) offer professional entry programs. The Faculty offers thesis-based MSc and PhD programs in Rehabilitation Science, attracting students from a variety of disciplines including OT, PT, SLP, psychology, physical education, medicine and engineering.