In late September, the University of Texas at Austin announced a $3 million gift to establish the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute, the only specialized research center in the nation to provide treatment services free of charge to children and adults who stutter. The center will also serve as the first nonprofit institute within a university setting devoted to stuttering intervention and research.
Currently, individuals who stutter face a number of barriers to receiving treatment. Most insurers do not cover the cost of treatments, leaving people who stutter and their families to pay out of pocket or forgo speech therapy entirely. Additionally, there is a nationwide shortage of clinicians qualified to treat stuttering, with speech-language pathologists continually reporting that they feel unprepared to competently serve this population.
“It is our hope that the Lang Institute will further promote our understanding and the public’s awareness of the complex nature of stuttering,” said Courtney Byrd, Lang Institute executive director and associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
There are approximately 15 million children and 3 million adults in the U.S. who stutter. However, there are as few as 1,250 clinicians — less than 1 percent of the total number of speech-language pathologists in the U.S. — willing and able to treat stuttering.
“To me, it’s a crime that there are children and adults who stutter, but cannot find or pay for effective treatment,” Michael Lang said. “In supporting the work of the institute, Tami and I dream that within 20 years, there won’t be anyone in the U.S. who cannot get free, competent help for stuttering.”