An annual summer camp at the University of Iowa is helping children deal more effectively with stuttering.

An annual summer camp at the University of Iowa is helping children deal more effectively with stuttering.


There isn't a cure for stuttering, but experts at the UI's Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic said there are strategies to help people become more fluent in their speech. Stuttering can be devastating if left untreated.


Kristi Cooley, of Clinton, told the Iowa City Press-Citizen she noticed her son, Drew struggling with his speech in preschool. The situation worsened as he grew older.


He began enrolling in speech therapy twice a week for 20 minutes and made progress, but nothing has helped like the intensive one-on-one treatment he gets at the nine-day camp offered by the UI clinic. Therapists work with children for five hours daily — far more treatment than they would receive at school.


It has built up his confidence and helped him realize other children have similar difficulties. It's helped his mother feel less alone, too.


"It was good for me, and it was good for him," Kristi Cooley said.


Children from Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri are taking part in the camp.


Toni Cilek, clinical associate professor of the UI's department of communication sciences and disorders, said children practice strategies to improve their fluency and then try out their new tactics in the community. They order food at restaurants, make phone calls and ask questions of unfamiliar people.


All those tasks are difficult for children who stutter, and they often avoid them.


"The driving force behind the camps is to provide services to the children while they are out of school so they can maintain their skills or jump to a new level," Cilek said. "It also gives them some social interaction with other kids who have the same problem and are dealing with the same issues."


Sara Dryer, who traveled with her 11-year-old son, Alex, from St. Joseph, Missouri, to attend the camp, said she's seen marked improvement.


Alex Dryer said the best part of the camp has been meeting other children who stutter. He and Drew Cooley have become friends and enjoy sharing their love of baseball.


"Usually, other kids make fun by mimicking the way I talk," Alex said. "I try to walk away."


Cilek said such interaction between the children is essential to the camp's success.


"It's great to see how the kids reinforce each other and to see how patient they are with each other," Cilek said. "There is something they can give each other that we can't give."