There is a misconception that stuttering occurs when a person is nervous or anxious, or that a person who stutters cannot fulfill certain jobs. But many people who stutter have had successful lives. This includes Britain’s King George VI, actors James Earl Jones and Emily Blunt, and former Vice President Joe Biden, to name a few.
“You are probably going to meet someone or work with someone who stutters,” said Kelly Woodworth, a senior speech-language pathology major. “If all you know is stereotypes and myths about that person, then your perceptions of them are already more negative than they should be.”
Woodworth is one of over 50 student researchers who work at the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute at UT Austin to change how the world sees people who stutter.
The Lang Institute is a nonprofit organization within the Moody College of Communication that provides a support system for the stuttering community through research, speech therapy clinics and hands-on programs – at no cost to the client.
Its mission is to inspire others to pursue their dreams, to speak from their hearts with no hesitation, and to live their lives to the fullest. The institute offers a variety of programs including Camp Dream. Speak. Live., an evidence-based intensive therapy summer camp. Their services are open to children from around the world and have reached participants from as far as Saudi Arabia.
The program helps participants establish relationships, develop communication skills, build confidence, enhance leadership skills and reduce stigma. The goal is to lessen the influence stuttering can have on their quality of life.
Building a community is key. The institute encourages people who stutter to learn from one another in its Pay It Forward mentorship program. It also offers training to parents through the Parent to Parent program so they can play an active role advocating on behalf of their children.
“When you are confident and competent in your ability to communicate, nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams,” said Chris Hefner, a former client at the Lang Stuttering Institute. “Now, as a practicing lawyer, I hope to be an example to other children who stutter and to encourage them to never let their stuttering define their ability to communicate.”
Visit the Lang Stuttering Institute’s Horn Raiser page for more information about the institute and how to show support.