BOONE, N.C. — 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.
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.”
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 his 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.”
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 increasingly 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 campers 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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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: Nursing, Nutrition and Health Care Management, Public Health and Exercise Science, Recreation Management and Physical Education, Rehabilitation Sciences, 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, UNC Health Appalachian and numerous other health agencies. Learn more at https://healthsciences.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.