Camp More: A Haven for Children Who Stutter
Glenn Weybright is a speech pathologist who works with children and teens at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest (PANW). Weybright’s 32-year relationship with PANW has brought him many children with communication challenges, including children who deal with stuttering. Though stuttering affects just one percent of the population, children and teens who stutter currently make up more than 30 percent of Weybright’s patients. As someone who deals with stuttering himself, Weybright has a heart for children who navigate this particular challenge. He is well-versed in strategies and proven techniques that help patients manage his or her stuttering, and to become more “fluent,” as well as less anxious about their speech issue. Weybright knows the plight of the stutterer all too well.
That’s why when he was asked to participate in the inaugural week of Camp More, a summer camp designed exclusively for teens who stutter, Weybright’s response was an enthusiastic “yes!” He knew he could be of help to the campers who attended Camp More, but most importantly, he knew that a camp for those who stutter would be an invaluable resource. “The camp is truly one of a kind in the Pacific Northwest,” says Weybright. “It’s not designed to teach speech tools or to reduce stuttering. The purpose of the camp is primarily to let the child know – you’re not alone! We wanted to produce an environment of acceptance and complete understanding of the stuttering -an environment where kids can monitor themselves less. Just being able to do that, to reduce self-monitoring, reduces anxiety and increases confidence in communication. The result is a renewed desire to communicate, which usually means more talking and quick development of friendships between people who truly understand.” To that end, Camp More focuses on goals which include the word “More.” More talking. More relationships. Even more stuttering.
The Iceberg Model of Stuttering, developed by Dr. Joseph Sheehan, describes that the tip of the iceberg is the stuttering – the prolongations, the repetitions, and the blocks that the person navigates. This is what others can observe. But what’s under the water, the much larger part of that iceberg, represents the attitudes and feelings that develop as a result of the stuttering: shame, embarrassment, isolation, anxiety, loneliness, and fear. It is this part that Camp More focused on in the beautiful setting of the coastal Camp Magruder, designated for the week as Camp More.
Weybright described the week at Camp More as a week of “goosebumps on top of goosebumps.” There’s an immediate bonding, he says, among those who stutter. Some had never even met another person who stutters. Just the sense of realizing you’re not the only one is incredibly empowering. The sense of isolation melts away, and “many instant, hearty friendships” are forged. From the first day, Weybright says, “Hearts were opened. The children’s hearts. The counselors’ hearts. The adult staff’s hearts. All of us.” One teenage boy who attended wrote to his mom, “Mom, I’ve found my people.”
Camp More’s focus on changing the campers’ attitudes toward their own stuttering, and the encouragement to talk freely, did exactly that. Campers who were quiet at the beginning of the week were freely talking with one another by the end.
The revolutionary camp owes its success to the creative and persistent efforts of two determined speech therapists: Kristin Mangan from Oregon Health and Science University, and Sarah Herr Davies, from Portland Public Schools. Mangan and Davies understand the deeper issues that have such a profound impact on those who stutter, and so they created the ideal setting in which to address those issues: Camp More.
Speakers who came to the camp included Michael Turner, Director of the documentary about stuttering, The Way We Talk. Two engineers, an attorney, a high school art teacher and a recent college graduate—all of whom stutter—also spoke to the campers. The message: Stuttering is a challenge. No question. But it need not hold you back from what you want to do in life.
Glenn Weybright was so moved and impressed by the work accomplished at Camp More and the amazing stories he saw take shape before his eyes that he intends to continue working with the camp. Based on Glenn’s involvement, PANW has also offered to sponsor two scholarships for students who may want to attend Camp More.
Weybright looks forward to participating at Camp More again next year, and is grateful for PANW’s support and affirmation of his dedication by funding the scholarships. Clearly, a place like Camp More is an asset to the community – a much needed additional support for teens, allowing them to see that they’re not alone, and that they can achieve their goals and dreams….one word at a time.