Based on your personal experience, why do you think the work of the Blank Center is so fundamental?
Bezuidenhout: Seriously, what the Center is doing here is life changing for these kids. I know from my own experience that stuttering can affect your confidence and hold you back, it can affect your ability to mix with other kids; it can be very isolating and that’s sad. The wonderful thing about this partnership is together we can educate people about stuttering and teach them how to handle certain situations better.
Byrd: We have had that goal for 25 years, and it’s only recently that people are beginning to see that what we’re saying is saving lives. We have substantial data to show that there are devastating effects if children and adults spend years in therapy with the target of being fluent and not being able to achieve that. The impact it has on them psychologically is significant. They feel repeated failure because that goal of speaking fluently is not attainable. They’re trying and failing to achieve it over and over again.
The other critical part is with young children at school. If they stutter, teachers are hesitant to call on them, or to ask them to give presentations. What does that do with them? It teaches the child that the only way they are allowed to communicate in the classroom, is if they can do so fluently. Once they get to college, they are years behind their peers in terms of practice. This is why we see so many teens and adults contemplating suicide. What we need to be doing is just the opposite. “Oh, Jack stutters. Guess what. You better call on him. I want you to make sure that he is always raising his hand, and that he is always presenting. He will just need more time, and he deserves that time.”