Austin and the University of Texas will soon have the largest center for research and education on stuttering.
On Monday, UT announced a $20 million legacy grant given to the Moody College of Communication to establish the Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research.
The grant will be paid over 10 years and is from the family foundation of Atlanta Falcons owner and Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, a fellow stutterer.
The center will house the university’s current clinics and research centers: the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute, the Dr. Jennifer and Emanuel Bodner Developmental Stuttering Laboratory, and the Dealey Family Foundation Stuttering Clinic.
Currently, the center serves 500 people ages 3 years to adult, but it will be able to scale up to helping 3,000 people a year. Additional funding will add four satellite centers, the first one in Atlanta. Director Courtney Byrd has not determined the location for the other three centers.
Another goal in the next 10 years is to serve 10 countries, mainly through summer camps. Byrd said those are like boot camps on overall communication, plus they provide social interaction and peer relationships with fellow stutterers. Often it is the first time a camper has been with another stutterer.
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation is investing its money in UT because its stuttering and research program takes a different approach from traditional interventions for stuttering.
“I think those things are OK, but they don’t really get at the freedom, the freeing of the inner person, the inner soul, the inner spirit, the inner mind, the intellect of what each person has to say and feel,” Blank said in a news release.
Instead of trying to “fix” the stutter, the Lang institute works with people to improve their communication skills. Students learn to make eye contact, practice public speaking, use breathing techniques and disclose that they stutter.
Stuttering is a neurophysiological disorder that causes people to process speech and language differently. Stuttering is often genetic.
What is happening inside the brain and the rest of head is not the same for every person who stutters, but some describe it as feeling like the muscles in their neck tighten.
The center also is trying to change the stigma around stuttering and better educate stutterers and the