AUSTIN, Texas — Rudy Coronado has stuttered all his life.
He said that growing up, it never bothered him until other kids at school began to tease him about it.
"At first I didn't think it was a big deal, but as I grew older, the kids would start making fun of me and teasing me," Coronado said. "I don't like to talk a lot. All throughout your life you're trying to hide that you stutter"
Today, Coronado is a mechanical engineer and a proud father of a daughter and son. His son, little Rudy, inherited his father's stutter as well. Coronado said he hoped his son would never have to endure the teasing he went through when he was a child.
However, thanks to therapy and support from groups such as the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute, it's not as much of a concern. The two attended this year's Camp Dream. Speak. Live. put on by the institute.
"This is the first time that I'm aware that anything like this exists and we're fortunate enough that it's here," Coronado said. "They get to see other kids that stutter, too. That it's not only them. For example -- me, I'm 42 -- and all my life I've only seen two or three other people that stutter. It was eye-opening to see that there's a lot of us out there and we just hide it so we don't know that we exist."
Camp Dream. Speak. Live is an annual evidence-based intensive therapy program for children who stutter.
Increasing fluency is not the focus, but rather, the focus is this: increasing their positive perception of their ability to establish peer-to-peer relationships, increase their communication competence, improve their self-confidence, enhance their leadership skills and alleviate any and all stress that their stutter has had on their life.
Daily activities at camp include improv theater training, an open mic challenge, interactive art and other self-esteem building exercises.
"Here at our camp, we not only talk about stuttering, we educate them about stuttering and we rehearse their perspectives, so they feel empowered by it rather than feeling frustrated, angry and depressed about the fact that they stutter," said Courtney Byrd, founding director of the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute. "We teach them tangible skills as well as an understanding of what stuttering is that helps them to really transcend it."
Coronado shared he wished there was a camp like this when he was younger, but is glad his son can experience it alongside others who also stutter.
He was asked what advice he would give to his younger self.
"[Stuttering] can sometimes be hard, or difficult on you, but I think it has also given me that extra motivation to do things despite that I stutter. I still say, 'Oh yes, I'm gonna do it.' I don't care if I stutter. If you laugh at me, that's your problem, it's not my problem. I would say it's gonna be alright."
In order to get involved in the camp, children must first sign up for a waitlist. After that, the camp is free for children to attend.
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