Alum’s donation paves the way for new speech therapy camp at App State

BOONE, NC — Approximately 5% to 10% of children stutter during their childhood — though most outgrow the condition. However, for about 1% of the population, the communication disorder persists, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

“Her experience was life-changing. She learned to accept herself as a person who stutters and discovered many techniques to help her more successfully navigate communication with others and manage her stuttering.”

App State alumnus Dr. Ed Rankin ’79 on his daughter’s experience at a speech therapy camp when she was a teen.

Thanks to a generous donation from Appalachian State University alumnus Dr. Ed Rankin ’79 and his wife, Thuy Le, support is on the way for adolescents who stutter — through a planned speech therapy camp to be held annually on the App State campus, beginning in summer 2023. It will be North Carolina’s only residential, intensive summer camp of its kind.

Rankin’s two children, now in their 30s, both exhibited some disfluency in their early speech. He shared, “For most children, this speech problem seems to go away on its own. For others, like my children, it can become a very troubling social development and communication challenge.”

While Rankin sought help for his children from speech therapists near their home in Dallas, Texas, he said the breakthrough for their daughter came when she was a teenager, after she attended a five-day stutter management program at Eastern Washington University in Spokane.

“Her experience was life-changing,” Rankin said. “She learned to accept herself as a person who stutters and discovered many techniques to help her more successfully navigate communication with others and manage her stuttering.”

“Nothing is more satisfying than being able to match donors with their passion for making a difference. This initiative will elevate the health and the quality of life in our region while also training new health practitioners.”

Dr. Marie Huff, dean of App State’s Beaver College of Health Sciences

A couple of years ago, Rankin — who is the president of the App State alumni chapter in Dallas — met Carey Fissel, development director for the College of Arts and Sciences, when she visited an alumni event in Dallas. He shared with her daughter’s experience with the speech therapy camp, and said he thought App State would be a perfect place to implement a similar program.

Fissel connected Rankin with App State’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and “all the pieces fell together,” Rankin said.

“I could not be more grateful to Ed Rankin and Thuy Le, who are choosing to pay it forward by providing a supportive and fun experience for children and teens who stutter,” said Dr. Marie Huff, dean of App State’s Beaver College of Health Sciences. “Having a stuttering disorder can be an isolating experience, and this camp can help participants to feel less alone while they gain additional coping skills.”

She added, “Nothing is more satisfying than being able to match donors with their passion for making a difference. This initiative will elevate the health and the quality of life in our region while also training new health practitioners.”

Dr. Joe Klein, licensed speech pathologist and associate professor in App State’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, right, is pictured with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a professional athlete who has played in the NBA since 2012. Kidd-Gilchrist, a person who stutters and an advocate for the stuttering community, visited Klein’s Disorders of Fluency class on March 28 to speak to graduate students studying to become speech-language pathologists. Photo by Chase Reynolds

Plans for camp

App State’s planned summer camp for people who stutter will be designed for adolescents ages 11–16 and will incorporate both individual and group sessions, said Dr. Joe Klein, licensed speech pathologist and associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

“Stuttering can become challenging during the teen years,” Klein said. The condition may lead to feelings of embarrassment, anxiety and fear of speaking — and can have a negative impact on the individual’s personal life, academic performance and occupational achievement, he added.

The camp, staffed by App State graduate student clinicians in the university’s speech-language pathology program, faculty and licensed speech-language pathologists, is designed to work on managing moments of stuttering, increasing fluency and decreasing negative attitudes about stuttering.

Initially, the camp will accommodate 10 camps for the one-week session, with the opportunity to expand in future years.

“It will provide campers a positive experience with communicating,” Klein said. “The children will meet peers who stutter, and together they will work with therapists to lessen the possible negative impacts of stuttering.”

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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, second from left, answered questions from App State speech-language pathology graduate students about his experience with stuttering. Kidd-Gilchrist, an NBA player and a person who stutters, founded Change & Impact Inc. — an initiative to improve access to health care and expand services for those who stutter. Photo by Chase Reynolds

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist visits App State students in the speech-language pathology program

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, an NBA player and a person who stutters, visited students in the App State’s speech-language pathology graduate program on March 28 to speak about the importance of the client–clinician relationship and the mission of Change & Impact Inc. — an initiative he founded in 2021 to improve access to health care and expand services for those who stutter.

Kidd-Gilchrist regularly appears as a guest speaker at camps and health care associations focused on stuttering, as well as at colleges and universities offering communication sciences and disorders programs.

Dr. Joe Klein, associate professor in App State’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, invited Kidd-Gilchrist to speak in his graduate-level Disorders of Fluency class — filled with students studying to be licensed speech-language pathologists (SLPs).

“Not everyone understands what it is like to stutter,” Kidd-Gilchrist told the class. “The relationship I formed with my SLP gave me the freedom to just be myself, with no judgment. She told me ‘We’re in this together.’ It was the best thing, ever.”

Kidd-Gilchrist’s words resonated with Daniel Pittman ’21, one of the students in the class. “Michael pointed out that we all have our challenges. We need to recognize that in one another and accept ourselves for who we are. He said the bond between the SLP and client is really special, and I look forward to building those bonds in my future,” Pittman said.

Kidd-Gilchrist also shared with the class his work through Change & Impact Inc. He is working with US senators on a proposed health care bill to support stuttering intervention research and improve insurance coverage for speech therapy. He is also championing efforts to provide additional resources and education about stuttering to insurance providers, health care professionals, communication disorder students and other stakeholders.

“My path wasn’t the average path,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I want every kid and adult who stutters to have access to the quality of therapy I had.”

His advocacy impressed graduate student Hannah Porter ’20, she said. “It means a lot for someone of Michael’s position and status to try and make positive changes — not only with politicians in Washington, DC, but with future speech-language pathologists here at App State and other universities. His work will make a difference.”

Kidd-Gilchrist, who grew up in Somerdale, New Jersey, attended the University of Kentucky, where he played basketball and won a national title under coach John Calipari. He was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Charlotte Hornets) as the second overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

Speech-Language Pathology: Master of Science (MS)

Appalachian’s Master of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology is devoted to the study of human communication and associated disorders and prepares clinicians for work in a variety of settings – schools, hospitals, nursing homes, community clinics, home health and private practice.

Appalachian's Communication Disorders Clinic

The Charles E. and Geneva S. Scott Scottish Rite Communication Disorders Clinic at Appalachian State University, established in 1968, operates as a nonprofit unit housed within the Beaver College of Health Sciences’ Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. The clinic serves as a training facility for graduate students in Appalachian’s speech-language pathology degree program, providing hands-on clinical learning experiences. It also offers prevention, assessment and treatment services in the areas of speech, language, swallowing and hearing disorders for children, adolescents and adults with communication disorders in the region.

About the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences is devoted to the study of human communication and associated disorders. The department offers the Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders and the Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology. The undergraduate program provides students with the academic preparation and clinical exposure needed to enter professional graduate programs in speech pathology or audiology, or to pursue entry-level work in related areas. The master’s program prepares students to work as licensed speech-language pathologists in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, nursing homes and private clinics. Learn more at https://comdis.appstate.edu.

About the Beaver College of Health Sciences

Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS), opened in 2010, is transforming the health and quality of life for the communities it serves through interprofessional collaboration and innovation in teaching, scholarship, service and clinical outreach. BCHS offers nine undergraduate degree programs and seven graduate degree programs, which are organized into six departments: Communication Sciences and Disorders; Health and Exercise Science; Nursing; Nutrition and Health Care Management; Recreation Management and Physical Education; and Social Work. The college’s academic programs are located in the Holmes Convocation Center on App State’s main campus and the Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences, a state-of-the-art, 203,000-square-foot facility that is the cornerstone of the Wellness District. In addition, the college supports the Blue Cross NC Institute for Health and Human Services and has collaborative partnerships with the Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program, the Appalachian Regional Health System and numerous other health agencies. Learn more at https://healthsciences.appstate.edu.

About Appalachian State University

As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.

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