FRIENDS, The National Association of Young People Who Stutter, is an organization that provides a network of support and education for children and teenagers who stutter, their families and the professionals who work with them.
FRIENDS is a nonprofit, volunteer organization directed by Lee Caggiano, a mother of a son who stutters and a speech-language pathologist specializing in stuttering. FRIENDS was founded in 1997 by John Ahlbach, an adult who stutters, and Lee Caggiano to address the lack of services and support available to young people who stutter and their families.
To provide education and support, FRIENDS publishes a newsletter that includes information and reflections on the stuttering experience. The organization holds an annual three-day convention and several regional one-day conferences that provide opportunities for experiences that can change negative feelings about stuttering into positive ones.
The FRIENDS Stepping Up Mentoring Program allows teens who stutter to mentor children who stutter. Participants talk to each other about issues surrounding their stuttering and about other life experiences.
The organization has also developed a graduate student training program to help graduate students in speech pathology learn more about stuttering and its effect on children and their families, and it sponsors a PhD student convention scholarship program
The 17th Annual FRIENDS Convention was held this year in Chicago from July 17-19. Kids, teens and adults who stutter, parents and siblings of children who stutter, and speech-language pathologists gathered to participate in educational workshops and social events.
The keynote speaker was Michael Turner, a person who stutters and the creator of The Way We Talk, a personal documentary about stuttering. Matt Slauson, a person who stutters and Chicago Bears guard, also spoke at the convention to the delight of football fans.
Most of the attendees come back year after year. Why? Because the convention empowers kids and teens who stutter, they become more confident speakers and, of course, they make friends!
For more information, visit the FRIENDS website at www.friendswhostutter.org.