Reclaiming Voices

Kids who stutter reach their potential through the arts.

It is estimated that more than 60 million people in the world stutter. This common yet widely misunderstood speech disorder can cause extreme emotional distress such as shame, discrimination and social isolation. Stuttering can claim a child’s desire to speak, and ultimately his ability to achieve his dreams.

I am the proud mother of two beautiful sons who have stuttered since a young age. I know all the pain, frustration and anxiety that they endure due to their speech impediment. The sense of helplessness I have experienced as a mother watching my sons struggle to speak has been, at times, overwhelming.

The simple act of saying their name, something we all take for granted, could cause my children great difficulty and distress. They’ll say “never mind” when they are simply too exhausted to talk. They may be too frustrated to raise their hands in class to respond to a question, despite knowing the answer. They may be too embarrassed to order food in a restaurant. They might be tired from having someone interrupt them while they’re trying to talk, or have someone finish their sentences before they do. Worst of all is when my sons get teased by someone at school, merely because they stutter.

Fortunately my sons also have some wonderful support. My oldest son Joseph Jr., age 13, has been involved with Our Time Theatre Company since 2006. Based in New York City, the nonprofit organization uses the performing arts to improve the lives of kids ages 8 to 18 who stutter. Through the help of Taro Alexander, the organization’s founder and director, along with his wonderful staff, Joe has learned to embrace his stuttering and has gained confidence in his speaking skills. Our Time gives Joe and all of its members unconditional love and support, and the freedom to express themselves in wonderful and creative ways. The environment is free of all the stress that children who stutter experience daily.

For the past two years, Joe has been able to attend Camp Our Time with his younger brother Brendan, age 11. At this one-week program, children who stutter and their young family members and friends gather from all over the country to delight in the joy of summer camp in a safe environment where all campers are respected and validated. Joe has called Camp Our Time the best week of his life.

Joe has benefited from interacting with other Our Time kids in his age group, as well as with older teen participants who have been outstanding role models and mentors for him. This year, Joe has become a member of Our Time’s teen group. I look forward to seeing how he will continue to grow during this new stage.
Our Time has been a godsend for Joe, and I am grateful our family discovered this ground-breaking organization that has made such a profound impact on my son’s development.

Participants of Our Time develop vital communication skills, gain enriching friendships and experience momentous success, giving them the confidence to overcome the challenges presented by stuttering. The organization is committed to offering its NYC programming free of charge and providing financial aid for Camp Our Time.

Effective communication is at the core of the performing arts, and Our Time is the first organization to use this exceptional tool to help kids who stutter overcome their fear of speech. Participants learn how to communicate clearly and powerfully, regardless of their fluency, giving them the confidence to speak in any situation. Through live performances, short films, music recordings, TV appearances, presentations, Q-and-A sessions and more, Our Time shines a spotlight on the vast talents and abilities of youth who stutter. Leading speech professionals agree that Our Time’s programming coupled with speech therapy is a winning combination that can help youth reclaim their voices and reach their fullest potential.

“This is the most powerful tool I’ve seen arrive for people who stutter in 34 years,” says speech therapist Dr. Phillip Schneider. “Our Time Theatre Company is the finest example of how the arts can be used to bring light into dark places in the lives of young people.”

For more information or to enroll your child in Our Time NYC or Camp Our Time, call (212)414-9696, e-mail moreinfo@ourtimetheatre.org or visit www.ourtimetheatre.org and www.campourtime.blogspot.com.