GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Even when he was one of the best collegiate basketball players in the nation, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said, he was still self-conscious about his stutter.
“There were days that I didn’t want to talk at all,” he said.
Kidd-Gilchrist visited Stockton University on Friday to talk about his experiences as someone with a stutter and his nonprofit, the Change and Impact Initiative.
The initiative was created to improve access to health care and expand resources to those who stutter.
“We don’t want kids avoiding interactions with other people because they are scared or embarrassed to talk due to their stutter,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.
Originally from Somerdale, Camden County, Kidd-Gilchrist was selected No. 2 overall in the 2012 NBA draft by the Charlotte Bobcats. He won an NCAA championship with Kentucky University and was named Mr. Basketball USA in 2011 while attending St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth.
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He is currently a free agent, so the 27-year-old is spending his time traveling the country to talk about his organization.
“I feel that right now is the perfect time to act and help get the word about our organization out there. Even the president of the United States is someone with a stutter, and he’s on the biggest platform of our entire country,” said Kidd-Gilchrist. “I’ve been stuttering since I was a kid. I know how it feels to be doubted, but I’m doing this today so that I can pass along my message that you are not alone.”
He cited President Joe Biden, Marilyn Monroe and Tiger Woods as examples that show that just because you have a stutter, you can still achieve your goals.
“The strength behind Change and Impact is that, when Michael talks, people will listen. That’s not something you can often say about someone who stutters. It’s an amazing thing. We’re trying to show these kids that anything is possible,” said Joe Donaher, academic and research program director at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Donaher works as a speech language pathologist for children and teens. He said Change and Impact has given them an immense amount of access to reach out to people who need help with their stutter.
Kidd-Gilchrist credited his college speech language pathologist because she actually cared and wasn’t just there to try to teach him techniques that could potentially fix his stutter.
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“Having someone that was passionate about helping me and really wanted to see me succeed, it gave me the confidence I have today to speak with a stutter,” he said.
Maria Turner, of Tuckerton, said she saw herself in Kidd-Gilchrist’s story.
“I am a person who stutters. I have been in speech therapy all of my life, since I was a young kid. I have also had a speech therapist who listened with their heart, and she helped me realize that it is OK to stutter,” Turner said. “And because of my speech language pathologist, I have accepted that I am just as good as my peers who don’t stutter.”