Former NBA star with stuttering condition, kids’ advocate visits Dayton Children’s

Foundation advocates more insurance coverage for speech therapy.

Former NBA player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist knows about the taunting children who stutter face.

“I’ve stuttered my entire life,” said Kidd-Gilchrist, who won a national championship with the University of Kentucky basketball team and played for the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets and Dallas Mavericks from 2012 to 2020.

Kidd-Gilchrist made at stop at Dayton Children’s on Thursday, meeting with local patients and their doctors, during his stuttering advocacy tour through Ohio.

Kidd-Gilchrist met with patient ambassador Carah Brown, 17, of Springfield, as well as toured inpatient areas of the hospital, and talked with hospital executives about his nonprofit Change & Impact and its mission to advocate for the stuttering community.

Kidd-Gilchrist was born in Philadelphia and grew up in New Jersey, but Dayton has had its own former NBA stars face similar obstacles with stuttering. Dayton native Ron Harper, who won NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, had a severe stuttering problem into his college years.

“It has a big impact on me,” Kidd-Gilchrist said about his own stutter. “I have hopes and I have dreams of making change.”

Speech therapy for children who stutter isn’t always covered by health insurance, or some providers only cover a certain number of visits that may be less than what children need, according to the nonprofit Change & Impact.

“I was hurt,” Kidd-Gilchrist said when he learned the health coverage limitations some kids face. “I was hurt, because there are people out there that need it.”

Choosing between paying for more speech therapy sessions out of pocket or sticking to caps set by health insurance companies puts both families and providers in an awkward situation, one provider said.

“You run the risk of either losing progress or getting worse,” Sarah Strother, a Dayton Children’s speech therapist, said about when kids don’t get enough speech therapy visits.

Change & Impact is advocating for legislators to pass a health care bill that supports stuttering intervention research and improves speech therapy insurance coverage as early speech therapy intervention leads to higher rates of recovery, the nonprofit said.

“The overall goal is to make them effective communicators,” Strother said.

Part of Kidd-Gilchrist’s advocacy is to help reduce stigma kids with stuttering problems may face.

“I just want to help people, I want to help kids, I want to help those that think they are lost,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Kids who have a stuttering condition face a lot of bullying and a higher emotional toll, Strother said. There is also the stigma that stuttering is due to nervousness, but it’s a disorder, she said.

“I have struggled with bullying a ton,” said Brown, who said other kids may not understand her condition. She started a program at her school, Shawnee High School, to help spread awareness about stuttering and speech conditions.

“She’s changed kids’ lives,” said Lexi Kopilchack, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals foundation manager.

There a number of obstacles in health care that kids who stutter also face, Brown said, including financial obstacles, the need for more health care workers, and the distance some patients have to travel in order to access the right treatment options for them.

Brown also tried going to a few speech therapists before she found the right fit with Strother, she said. By age 12 or 13, Brown felt like she probably wouldn’t grow out of her stutter, but her previous speech therapists will still trying to focus on her getting rid of her stutter. Instead, Brown wanted help managing her condition, which she found with Strother.

“I’m just so thankful for her,” Brown said.

Nick Blizzard contributed to this story.

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