Helping stutterers thrive: Eastern Washington University program builds confidence

For a couple of weeks in July, a group of people from across the country who stutter came to Eastern Washington University for an intensive speech-therapy program. In this “stuttering boot camp,” the oldest was 31, and the youngest 13.

Kunal Mahajan, an investment banker who works in New York City, has tried many times to perfect his speech.

But when he’s working in a high-stress environment — with tight deadlines, rapid transactions and a full slate of presentations and meetings — the words don’t always come out right.

“All of those things are not conducive to someone who stutters,” Mahajan said.

For a couple of weeks this month, he and seven other stutterers from across the country participated in an intensive speech-therapy program at Eastern Washington University. At 31, he’s the oldest of the group. The youngest is 13.

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The annual “stuttering boot camp” is led by EWU instructors and clinicians, most of whom are graduate students in speech pathology. With a price tag of $3,000, it’s a significant investment for people who are serious about learning to live with their stutters. Many said they have faced self-doubt and ridicule because of the way they talk, not to mention everyday challenges like making phone calls and placing drive-thru orders.

Unlike other programs, this one does not aim to get rid of participants’ stutters or make them “fluent.” Instead, the goal is to help them accept and manage their stuttering over the long term, while boosting confidence through individual and group exercises.

“It’s kind of like going to the gym,” said Mahajan, a fitness enthusiast. “You have to keep working at it in order to make gains. You’re never going to have a perfect body, just like you’re never going to permanently get rid of your stutter.”

As Kim Krieger, the director of the program, put it, “We don’t believe…

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