Speech and Hearing Science students hear importance of their field from NBA player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
As an 18-year-old basketball star at the University of Kentucky, and for a decade afterward in the professional ranks, NBA player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist tried to mask his stutter. With reporters’ microphones and cameras in front of him nearly every day, hiding was extremely difficult.
But in 2020, while quarantined in the NBA “bubble” in Florida, Kidd-Gilchrist decided he had enough. It was time to open up about his speech disorder and make a difference in the lives of other people who stutter.
During a presentation at the Ohio Union in early February, Kidd-Gilchrist shared his journey before and since that moment with students, staff and faculty from the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences (SHS).
“We always feel isolated,” Kidd-Gilchrist said of people who stutter. “Sitting in my room one day, it all just came together. I wanted to do a lot more than I was already doing.”
Kidd-Gilchrist’s message, part of a series of engagements around the country, touched on stuttering’s impact on his upbringing as well as the importance of his relationship with speech language pathologists. The event served as a way for SHS students to truly see the importance of their chosen field and put their Ohio State degree to use.
Bridget Chapman, a clinical assistant professor in SHS who organized the event, noted the importance of her students hearing Kidd-Gilchrist’s point of view and his much-needed advocacy on behalf of people who stutter.
“Michael is a trailblazer in that arena,” Chapman said. “He’s one of the first people to key in on that federal legislation. Moving forward with changing the medical model and insurance reimbursement can truly make a huge impact for families and people who stutter.”
Kidd-Gilchrist also discussed his new organization, Change and Impact, which hopes to use federal legislation to improve access to healthcare and to expand services and resources for those who stutter.
In the early stages of Change and Impact, Kidd-Gilchrist realized that speech therapy was not covered or under-covered by insurance. Costs for a therapy session in central Ohio start at $75 per half hour outside of insurance, Chapman said. Since “weeks and weeks” of therapy are required to even begin fully diagnosing a disorder, costs add up quickly. For those with insurance that covers portions of speech therapy, deductibles in the thousands of dollars still have to be met before insurance kicks in.
Kidd-Gilchrist, who now lives in Washington, hopes to use that convenient location to meet politicians and lobby on behalf of people who stutter. But the activism starts when he tours universities and hospitals around the country to address audiences of future speech language pathologists.
The SHS students at the Ohio Union were engaged, asking Kidd-Gilchrist questions about his therapy that they could translate to their own clients one day.
“Hearing from Michael gave really incredible insight into the experiences of a person who stutters, specifically regarding treatment experience,” said Chloe LaBine, a second-year speech and hearing science major who wants to become a speech language pathologist. “I thought his story said a lot about the difference an SLP’s relationship with patients can make on not only the motivation to participate in treatment, but to enjoy it and see its benefits.
Chapman thinks his message really hit home.
“I love that his message is authentic. It’s true to him,” Chapman said. “Through our curriculum, our classes and our clinic, our students get exposed to a wide variety of communication disorders including stuttering. Offering events like this allows them to get out of the classroom and interact with the material in a different way.”