The St. Cloud chapter, started in October 2012 as a student organization on campus, was honored for “going above and beyond in furthering the hope and empowerment message of the National Stuttering Association,” according to a letter from the organization presented with the award.
The group meets monthly during the school year and draws members from the student body and the community. Chapter meetings are led by students from the Communication Sciences and Disorders master’s program.
From the beginning the group has been supported and encouraged as a valuable community engagement endeavor by Monica Devers, dean of the School of Health and Human.
Involvement in the association allows these students to meet and interact with people who stutter before they go out to work with them in the field, said Sarah Smits-Bandstra, adviser and an assistant professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
The St. Cloud chapter is a support group where people who stutter and their loved ones can meet with one another. The group isn’t about therapy, it’s a place for discussion, self-help and people to help one another.
“People in the group are usually more courageous and well-adjusted then most people I know,” Smits-Bandstra said. “I think that’s something the students learn from the group. They learn how courageous people who stutter are.”
“They give them some perspective — ‘hey, you can be anything you want to be, you can dream anything you want to dream, this doesn’t have to stop you from doing anything you want to do.’”
Communication Sciences and Disorders
In addition to meeting monthly, St. Cloud Chapter members also mentor elementary students who stutter and are dealing with teasing and bullying at school.
“They give them some perspective — ‘hey, you can be anything you want to be, you can dream anything you want to dream, this doesn’t have to stop you from doing anything you want to do,’” she said.
The group also does fundraising to send student members to the national conference each year. This year’s conference was held July 2-6 in Washington, D.C., and undergraduate student Jillian Nordby attended.
“The conference was an incredible experience,” Nordby said. “Being surrounded by over 950 people who stutter for four days was amazing.”
Attendees listened to speeches given by people who stutter (PWS), including a presentation by Parker Mantell, a social media video creator who gave the commencement speech for Indiana University, and a Skype address from Vice President Joe Biden, who also stutters, she said.
“The NSA chapter here on campus is a great way to learn more about stuttering and get involved on campus,” Nordby said. “My favorite part of being a part of the NSA chapter on campus has been learning more about stuttering and connecting with other people on campus who are either interested in stuttering or are a PWS like myself.”
The organization’s goals this coming school year are to continue building the mentorship program, raise funds for next summer’s conference in Chicago and to increase community awareness about the group by building relationships with area speech pathologists, Smits-Bandstra said.
Adults in therapy may not realize St. Cloud has a chapter, and a support group is a good low-pressure situation for them to practice what they’ve learned in therapy, she added.
Students can learn about the organization by visiting the group’s booth at Mainstreet Sept. 3 at the Atwood Mall.