Youth Day for Kids Who Stutter Feb. 26

Third Annual “Speech Party” offers fun and information to children who stutter, parents and role models.

 

By Barbara Melendez

USF News

 

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 25, 2011) – Never heard of a speech party, before? That’s what one child calls the Annual Youth Day for Children Who Stutter now in its third year at the University of South Florida. And it’s one party he can’t wait to attend. The people involved say it’s always emotional, as well as supportive and uplifting and not to be missed.

 

The Feb. 26 event at USF’s Marshall Student Center will provide what people who stutter often say affects them most, the knowledge that they are not alone. That goes for their family members and caregivers who also have a chance to participate. It all happens through fun activities and basic education about stuttering and modern-day speech therapy.  Lunch, cake and ice cream and a chance to hang out with USF’s Rocky the Bull add to the festivities. The fee for professionals and students can be waived, but parents should RSVP as soon as possible to Nathan Maxfield at nmaxfield@usf.edu or call (813) 974-6190.

 

Stuttering is gaining more widespread positive awareness lately with the attention The King’s Speech – now competing for Oscars after impressive Golden Globe and Directors Guild award wins – is bringing to the subject, Maxfield has witnessed the affects.  He was part of a panel discussion about stuttering at a screening of the film when it opened at the Tampa Theatre.

 

“People don't understand what it's like for a child not to be able to say his own name confidently in a classroom on the first day of school, never mind read aloud in class or raise his hand and ask a question about a difficult homework assignment. As this condition progresses into later childhood, the teen years, and adulthood, the impact on educational, social and vocational achievement can be significant and hard to overcome, as shown in The King's Speech,” said the USF assistant professor and speech-language pathologist, who is personally acquainted with the condition. 

 

With Youth Day, Maxfield hopes to build on that growing knowledge in the community of people who stutter.

 

“Even though we’ve come a long way from King George’s day, and though stuttering research is going on around the world, getting the proper treatment for young people who stutter is not as routine as you might imagine it would be in modern times,” he said.  “We are doing our best to get the word out but not everyone who needs to know is aware of all there is to know.”

 

Youth Day features age-specific activities that work to build self-confidence. Groups are broken down by age range, 3- to 5-year-olds, 6- to 9-year-olds, 10- to 12-year-olds and teenagers. Promoted as a statewide event, participants have come from as far away as Ohio and Connecticut. 

 

“Children who stutter may feel isolated due to their stuttering,” Maxfield said.  “A very positive experience for them is to meet other peers who stutter. We show that stuttering is something that can be downplayed in importance in one’s life while showing the importance of building on their strengths.”

 

The children at Youth Day will have plenty of positive role models to inspire them.  In addition to Maxfield, there will be a USF graduate student in engineering serving as a group leader, a manager from the Mosaic Company, an employee of the Orlando Magic running a morning session, and other adults who stutter from the National Stuttering Association’s Tampa chapter.  Volunteers for the day are drawn from the ranks of USF’s undergraduate and graduate students studying speech pathology.  Experienced speech/language pathologists who work with some of the children in attendance will also be on hand to share their insights and learn what’s new in their field.

 

“Last year parents who were new to Youth Day were mentored by parents who had been with us the year before for the first one,” Maxfield said. “That’s inspiring along with the feedback we get about children who attended Youth Day and pretty much immediately started showing greater confidence in their lives in the days following.”

 

Joseph Constantine, a clinical instructor in USF's speech-language pathology program, was present at last year's event and also saw a positive impact on parents of children who stutter.

 

“The whole experience is as transformative as it is informative.  Parents walk away with a new sense of what it means to be part of a powerful support network for children who stutter," he said.

 

With or without a popular new film, progress will continue to be made in this area.

 

“The National Stuttering Association is now represented in all 50 states as of last year,” said Tammy Flores, executive director of the National Stuttering Association.  “Our local support groups, website, Facebook, email groups and newsletters are some of the ways that people can share and learn.  People who stutter and professionals in the field benefit from the programs and resources offered by the NSA and then turn around and find ways to give back.  There is an honest and compassionate feeling paired with information and resources which make our organization thrive.”

 

Youth Day is being hosted by the USF Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and the College of Behavioral and Community Science and sponsored by the National Stuttering Association and the USF chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association.  For more information visit http://www.nsastutter.org/opencms/export/sites/default/nsa/pdfs/Tampa_2011_CEU.pdf, or call (800) 937-8888.