Our Time's NYC Program Expands To Serve a Younger Group of Children Who Stutter
Regional television and print outlets have chronicled the journeys of children who have traveled across the country to attend Camp Our Time: a sleepaway camp, where kids who stutter can feel like part of the crowd, instead of alone within it. Interviews with youngsters from California, South Carolina, Ohio and elsewhere make it clear that Camp Our Time offers a compassionate and joyful option for these children and their families. Watch the ABC/FOX-TV segment on a local Ohio boy, here:
A Transforming Experience at Camp Our Time By Bob Kendrick, 8/10
A 14-year old girl in San Rafael tells respected writer Jesse Hamlin, "You know what you want to say, but you can't get it out..." See her full San Rafael Patch interview, below. A 12-year old boy from South Carolina told his local newspaper, "before I went to camp I would hardly talk to anyone. I was afraid of stuttering. Now I feel all right to talk . . . it's okay to stutter." See his story, below.
In other news, Our Time's free NYC program has expanded and now offers a Saturday afternoon session for 5-7 year old children who stutter. This is the youngest age group yet to become a part of Our Time's free weekly program. Our Time's Founder, Taro Alexander, has stuttered since he was five years old, and didn't meet another person who stuttered until he was in his twenties - he created Our Time to make certain that other children don't feel the isolation he battled for nearly two decades. With his guidance, Our Time brings sensitivity and compassion to a group of youngsters who are often consumed by shame, or, worse, ignored. It is the only such organization in America.
San Rafael PATCH
Camp Our Time Helps 14-Year-Old San Rafael Student Gain Confidence
9/6/10 by Jesse Hamlin
"You know what you want to say, but you can't get it out," says Linnea Schurig, a San Rafael High sophomore who has stuttered since she was three.
She's describing the frustration of having a "silent block" that stops the flow of her speech and often triggers an expression of bewilderment, unease or pity on the faces of people to whom she's talking.
"I used to feel a lot more frustrated than I do now," says Linnea, a smart and lively 14-year-old who has always been the only kid in her schools that stuttered. For many years, she felt isolated, ashamed and angry. But over the past few years, as the severity of her blocking has diminished and she's connected with others who stutter, she's become more confident and at ease with herself and the world.
That's due in large part to her experience at Camp Our Time, a remarkable program in New York's Catskills Mountain that brings together kids who stutter from around the country and abroad. Among other activities, they write and perform original plays, raps, skits and songs. Rather than trying to teach kids not to stutter, the camp staff encourages them to embrace who they are and gives them the confidence to communicate, however long it take to finish a sentence.
"It's very freeing," says Linnea, who recently returned from a week at Camp Our Time, her second summer there. She's been Skyping with some of her friends from camp, where she wrote and sang a song about happy endings.
"We all have some kind of block or tick," she says, sitting in the garden of her family's cozy Victorian in Gerstle Park. She's wearing a white peasant blouse and denim shorts, braces on her teeth, and a half dozen rainbow-colored friendship bracelets from Camp Our Time on her left wrist. "At camp, you know nobody is going tease you, even if it takes 10 seconds or a year to say what have to say. No one is going to say, 'Took you long enough.' I got that a lot when I was younger."
At Sun Valley Elementary School, Linnea would sometimes run away and hide when other kids laughed or teased her when she stuttered. It was painful time. Unlike 60 percent of the people who stutter - about 3 million American adults do - genetics play no part in her speech problem; nobody in her family stutters. (Researchers don't know exactly why people stutter except that people who stutter process language and speech in a different part of the brain than those who don't.)
"I thought there was something particularly wrong with me," says Linnea, whose mother, journalist Melaine Haiken, began taking her to speech therapists when the girl was three. Linnea began learning fluency techniques aimed at slowing down speech and getting it to flow more easily. Those techniques have been helpful, but Linnea's blocks and ticks increased in grade school. Her mother sought out experts, who recommended everything from medication to nutritional supplements.
"The more I tried to help, the more I was making Linnea feel like she had this horrible problem," says Haiken, who no longer believes, as she did then, that if you work hard enough with your child, you can cure her stuttering.
"I think that's what made me stop talking," says Linnea, who hit the occasionAl Block during this conversation but plugged right along. "If there was something wrong with the way I talk, why should I talk at all? That kind of makes sense, in a twisted, logical way." Things began to change when Linnea and her mom began attending the annual conference of Friends: the National Organization of Young People Who Stutter. Linnea, who was seven at the time, had never met anyone else who stuttered.
"It was a totally new experience," Linnea says. " People wouldn't lose eye contact with you when you started to block. They were truly interested in what you had to say, not how you were saying it."
The same feeling of kinship prevails at Camp Our Time, founded by New York actor Taro Alexander, who's stuttered since he was five.
"The main philosophy of the camp is to accept yourself, to know that stuttering never has to hold you back from anything you want to do," Alexander says. "As long as you have confidence in your self and know how to communicate, the sky is the limit."
He calls Linnea "one of the most remarkable young ladies I've ever met. She's smart, courageous and has a great sense of humor. She's a leader at camp. Time and time again, she's willing to reach out and offer help to a child who's really scared. She's going to be a huge success at whatever she decides to do."
These days, Linnea, a talented painter who may want to write fiction for a living, isn't as scared of stuttering as she once was. "It's a combination of growing confidence and growing up," she says with a smile.
Summerville Journal Scene
Local boy finds voice at stuttering camp
Published Saturday, August 14, 2010
When Cameron Cosby went to Camp Our Time two years ago his life changed. His confidence skyrocketed when he learned it's okay to stutter and met other kids who stutter. All summer he's been looking forward to attending the sleep-away performing arts camp for the third time.
The 12-year-old rising seventh-grader at Gregg Middle School is back in Rock Hill, N.Y. this week at Camp Our Time for stuttering students age eight to 18. He left Sunday to join 52 others from around the world at the weeklong camp. Last year Cameron met campers from as far as Scotland and Ireland.
Cameron has attended each year since Camp Our Time started in 2008 with 27 campers. In 2009 it grew to 40. This year the annual camp takes place Aug. 8 - 15.
"Camp Our Time is for people who stutter who haven't seen other people who stutter," Cameron said. "It makes stutterers feel like they're at home. They tell us don't let it bother us.
"Before I went to camp I would hardly talk to anyone. I was afraid of stuttering. Now I feel all right to talk . . . it's okay to stutter."
Activities such as sports, group singing, writing songs and plays and performing them build self-esteem and allow campers to interact in creative ways. Cameron enjoys it all: canoeing in the pond, jumping off a trampoline in the water, playing volleyball, making crafts, songs and plays.
"Every morning the staff makes songs . . . On the last day you have to do a play or song. Last year I did a song called ‘Camp Our Time Love' that me and my friend wrote. It helps me build a lot of confidence.
"This is the best summer speech group. We get to have our own groups . . . find things that inspire us to make this song or play."
Cameron's favorite part of the camp was staying in a cabin and having friends to talk to, he said. There are four cabins divided by age group and gender.
"Whenever you're in the cabin with friends it's almost like family. The girl cabins are much bigger than the boys."
Camp Our Time is an extension of Our Time Theatre Company, an acclaimed non-profit organization that has been improving the lives of kids who stutter since 2001, according to its founder Taro Alexander, an actor who stutters. Campers are not required to audition and there is no charge for the camp, which is funded by individual contributions, foundations and corporations.
"Taro was nice to me," Cameron said. "He paid for my airline and baggage."
Cameron said he likes to see sunlit trees from the canoe. "It is beautiful up there, but the gnats always get in your face. It's cooler up there. Whenever it gets hot you can jump in the water." Cameron said he's taken speech classes at Flowertown Elementary and GMS, where he'll take more speech classes this school year.
Dorchester District 2 Disabilities Director Toni Cappalletti said stuttering is a speech disorder that students work hard to overcome. There are individual plans to help each child get their education, she said. Stuttering is more common in males, she added.
Either a teacher or a parent can recommend that students take classes led by speech therapists, said Carolyn Sires, a DD2 speech therapist.
"Anything that gives kids a rhythm in their speech can help with stuttering," Sires said. "(While) acting and singing they are taking a role outside of themselves. You just try different techniques when you work with that student."
It's inspirational when kids see people in the public eye overcome their stuttering, Sires said. Cameron's mother Cati Cosby, also Sweetwater Café's head cook, said some famous people who stutter are Forest Whitaker, Carole King and Marilyn Monroe, who spoke in a soft whispery voice to avoid stuttering.
Cati said the camp has been life changing in building her son's confidence.
"It's reached out to a lot of kids. Just letting these kids know they're not alone. Just because you stutter doesn't mean you're not able to express yourself."
Cati said Cameron's favorite food she makes is her homemade pizza.
The Associated Press visited Camp Our Time in 2009, and shared its amazing story, worldwide. Watch ASSOCIATED PRESS's Television segment on Camp Our Time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftK2pd3EDnc
Read the AP Print article here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32553108
More about Camp Our Time:
Camp Our Time will move from upstate New York to Hendersonville, NC in August 2011. Our Time saw a 30% increase in Camp registration for 2010, a reflection of increased awareness for the NY-based non-profit, as more families have had the chance to learn about the extraordinary and pioneering work they do.
Camp Our Time is a sleep-away camp for kids who stutter, their young family members, and friends, ages 8-18, from around the nation and abroad. This groundbreaking program promotes improved communication skills among campers, and provides them with a safe summer destination where they gain valuable friendships, validation, and encouragement to pursue their dreams. Launched in 2008, Camp Our Time infuses a traditional camp experience including sports, swimming, crafts, and more with Our Time's distinctive arts programming, providing a fun, supportive environment for a wide diversity of kids.
Our Time campers hail from all over the United States and abroad: from California to Ohio, from Florida to Michigan, from Oklahoma to South Carolina, and even from Dublin, Ireland. Camp Our Time helps kids who stutter develop priceless self-esteem, and at the same time, provides them with a place where they can simply relax, kick back, and have fun. Additionally, siblings, cousins, and friends who attend Camp Our Time learn how to better provide year-round support for their relative or friend who stutters. Features include: Outstanding Counselor-To-Camper Ratio, Affordable All-Inclusive Tuition; Scholarships Available; More information at www.campourtime.org <http://www.campourtime.org> .
Our Time is grateful to its diverse supporters, which range from individual families who make $10 online donations to high-profile celebrities who lend their names to raising awareness for this worthy organization. Paul Rudd, an Our Time Board Member and long-time supporter, recently mentioned Our Time in a USA TODAY column about organizations deserving of further attention:
Other recent press coverage in PARENTGUIDE NEWS MAGAZINE, The NY Observer, WPIX-TV, BrainWorld Magazine, Imprint-TV, NJ Recorder and elsewhere has drawn fresh attention to Our Time. This non-profit organization, which uses the arts as an innovative and effective tool to help improve the confidence and communication skills of children who stutter, ages 5-18, is on track to generate even more support for its compassionate, one-of-a-kind efforts. Make a donation, here: