Sargent Welcomes Guest Speaker Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, NBA Veteran and NCAA Champion

Kidd-Gilchrist Spoke About Nonprofit Empowering SLPs, People Who Stutter

By Matthew Edwards
Photos by Ross Richards

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist visited Sargent College on Friday, April 5 to speak with speech-language pathology students about his stuttering journey and the recent work he has spearheaded through his nonprofit, Change & Impact, to advance access to speech therapy for people who stutter.

Reflecting on his personal experiences, the 9-year NBA veteran and 2012 Kentucky Wildcats NCAA national champion emphasized the valuable and empowering relationship between speech-language pathologists and people who stutter.

Throughout his upbringing in New Jersey, Kidd Gilchrist always knew he needed speech therapy in school.

Yet, with his school not offering speech therapy services to students and his family unable to afford consistent sessions with an SLP, Kidd-Gilchrist’s first time working with a speech therapist occurred when he arrived on campus at the University of Kentucky.

“It was me, a doctor and a student. It wasn’t just the sessions themselves that made such an impact for me but it was our bonds and our relationships,” Kidd-Gilchrist says. “It was a hard time for me as an 18-year old who stutters. It happened so fast — going to the Final Four, winning a national championship and getting drafted by MJ — Michael Jordan. At one end it was cool, but in other aspects it was frightening to me.”

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist talking to students.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist talking to students.

While spending time in the NBA ‘bubble’ in 2020, Kidd-Gilchrist reflected on his stuttering journey and how he could turn his experience into meaningful ways to help others who stutter.

In 2021, Kidd-Gilchrist launched Change and Impact, Inc. to improve access to healthcare and expand services and resources for those who stutter. He is focused on raising awareness for stuttering, bringing together stakeholders within the community to improve the quality of life for those who stutter, and improving insurance coverage for speech therapy.

Notably, he led the way in passing Kentucky State Bill 111, which provides coverage for people who stutter if they have a diagnosis of stuttering.

The bill was officially signed into law by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear one day before Kidd-Gilchrist’s visit to Sargent.

“1 down. 49 to go!” Kidd-Gilchrist exclaimed following the bill’s approval in the Kentucky State Senate.

Naturally, he is looking to keep the ball rolling.

“I have an ambition to bring it to Massachusetts. I have no ties to Massachusetts or Boston, but I’m here ready to make bonds and relationships with people who also educate me about this state and the city of Boston,” Kidd-Gilchrist says.

Students listening to Kidd-Gilchrist.
Students listening to Kidd-Gilchrist.

The biggest thing for him, he adds, is he wants to empower people, companies, families and even adults who do not stutter. He aims to help them not only understand stuttering but to also have more empathy toward people who stutter and people with disabilities.

“Over time I started to understand the impact I can have on SLPs and kids and to also make real change. The time is now to do anything about stuttering at the federal level and at the state level. I’m not sure if we and I personally will have another shot at this, given the fact President Biden stutters,” he says.

Alia Ibrahim — a graduate student clinician at the Center of Stuttering Therapy providing weekly support to adults who stutter during the fall and spring semesters — was among the students who attended Kidd-Gilchrist’s visit.

“From what I’ve learned from people who stutter, they know their challenges and how these manifest in different environments,” Ibrahim says. “But as people who don’t stutter aren’t familiar with these challenges, informing us and advocating will not only tell us what they’re going through but also how to react and how to best support members of the stuttering community as well.”

Moving forward, Kidd-Gilchrist will continue visiting universities and attending national stuttering events to spread awareness of Change & Impact and break down barriers inhibiting access to speech therapy.

“I’m not saying I’m the one who has to fix it, but I’m here to make an honest effort,” he says. “I do it for kids, adults, families and SLPs.”