Stuttering Camp Helps Kids Have Fun, Build Confidence

AUSTIN—Every day, more than 3 million Americans face the challenge of stuttering.

This week, a camp at UT is giving children who stutter the chance to have fun with other kids just like them.

“Whenever I try to say something when I’m super excited, I always get stuck on every words,” said Stephan Washington.

Washington, a smart 6-year-old, is skipping first grade.

“I got first place in my science fair,” he said.

But when it comes to speech, he struggles. Monday, he was one of 50 campers who stepped up to the microphone to educate others about what it's like to live with a stutter.

“I want people to know that stuttering is sometimes easy and sometimes not,” Washington said.

In its third year, Camp Dream.Speak.Live teaches kids how to navigate the day-to-day challenges of their speech impediments.

“Seeing the kids actually walk in a different way, talk in a different way, a light in their eyes that you didn’t see before,” said Courtney Byrd, Founding Director of the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute.

“My stutter was embarrassing for me, and I felt like people looked at me weird,” said 16-year-old Kaj Baker.

Baker says over the years her stutter has improved. But more importantly, she says, it's the way she views her stutter that's changed.

“People who mind don’t matter and people who matter don’t mind,” said Baker.

Now a leader at the camp, Baker says there's one piece of advice she wants the kids to take with them.

“That who they are is what’s important, and that your stutter is only a part of what makes you, you,” Baker said.

Doctors say fluency is just one aspect of communication. At the camp they work with the kids on other aspects like engaging the listener, making eye-contact, and expressing emotion through body language.