$12.25 million grant from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation brings innovative treatment to Atlanta
ATLANTA – Dec. 14, 2021 – The Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research (the Blank Center), first established in 2020 at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) Moody College of Communication, has opened its first satellite location in Atlanta, funded by a $12.25 million grant from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. The Blank Center, founded and led by Dr. Courtney Byrd, who has been building a stuttering program at UT since 2003, advances understanding about the nature and effective treatment of stuttering, globally scales evidence-based programming to treat children, teenagers and adults at no cost, and creates a pipeline of expert clinicians and researchers to make quality, effective treatment accessible to all people.
The Atlanta satellite will scale the work of the Blank Center, which was established in 2020 with an initial $20 million legacy grant from the Blank Family Foundation. The Atlanta location is currently open at 1605 Chantilly Drive NE and will be permanently housed at the new Arthur M. Blank Hospital at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, scheduled to open in 2025.
Stuttering has genetically been part of Blank’s family for several generations. He, too, is a person who stutters who previously attempted treatment to improve fluency.
“Partnering with Dr. Byrd and The University of Texas’ Moody College is truly a gift to me. I am a stutterer, and stuttering has genetically been part of my family for as long as I can remember,” said Arthur M. Blank, chairman, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. “Stuttering has no bounds and no bias; it impacts people of all ages and from all walks of life. I’m thrilled to see this center come to life and be able to serve the people of Atlanta and this region. The partnership allows for satellite centers to be established across the United States and for Dream. Speak. Live. camps throughout the world, and we look forward to the positive impact they will have on people’s lives for many years to come.”
While traditional treatment for stuttering is focused on fluency, the Blank Center locations will apply Byrd’s pioneering scientifically-grounded, whole-person therapeutic approach that helps children, teenagers and adults grow as confident, effective communicators. During the next decade, additional satellite centers will be established nationally, and Byrd’s signature intensive treatment program, Camp Dream. Speak. Live., will be launched in several new countries, including Nigeria, South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Malta, Pakistan, Norway and Mexico. The Blank Centers will also provide education for students and clinicians so that they are equipped to serve people who stutter.
“Our approach empowers children and adults around the world to embrace their stuttering and to understand that their ability to pursue their dreams should not be defined by whether or not they stutter when they speak,” said Dr. Courtney Byrd, founding and executive director, The Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research. “We are excited to open our doors in Atlanta, and we are dedicated to changing as many lives as we can. We are beyond honored to do so with Arthur Blank, a pre-eminent philanthropist, and, importantly, someone who is also a person who stutters.”
Byrd’s treatment model targets core communication competencies, such as maintaining eye contact, particularly during moments of stuttering, using voice and gestures to emphasize meaning, and engaging listeners with positive demeanor. Also critical to the treatment is mindfulness, acceptance and self-compassion, as well as learning how to share that you are a person who stutters in a way that minimizes stereotype threat and stuttering on purpose to promote desensitization to stuttering.
Byrd, her clinical research team, and undergraduate and graduate level researchers have served thousands of children, teenagers and adults who stutter, and their families. Their quantitative and qualitative outcomes indicate: increased communication competence and confidence across general speaking situations and situations unique to their everyday life, increased positive perception in their ability to establish peer-to-peer relationships, increased ability to understand, educate and advocate for themselves and others who stutter, increased societal insight and acceptance of stuttering, increased mindfulness, resilience, self-compassion, and hope for their future, and increased quality of life.
About The Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research
Stuttering is a disruption in the forward flow of speech that has been proven to be neurophysiological, and to have a genetic predisposition. Yet, most people incorrectly assume that stuttering is psychological in nature, and that people can learn to talk without stuttering when they speak, if they try harder to be fluent. This pervasive misunderstanding contributes to the social isolation, bullying, stigmatization, and discrimination that children, teens, and adults who stutter encounter every day, with many experiencing social anxiety, depression, fear, and even suicidal ideation.
Furthermore, for those who seek help for their stuttering, there are signficant roadblocks. First, due to substandard academic and clinical training, the vast majority of speech-language pathologists report that they do not feel competent to serve people who stutter. There are also a distressing number of expensive and ineffective treatments that exploit the vulnerabilities of stuttering by making false promises for persons to become stutter-free. And, in the rare circumstances where quality care can be secured, most insurance companies do not cover the expense of treatment, forcing many to forgo therapy.
The Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research, comprised of the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute, the Dealey Family Foundation Stuttering Clinic, and Dr. Jennifer and Emanuel Bodner Developmental Stuttering Laboratory is changing the world for people who stutter by 1) providing access to quality care at no cost to children, teens, and adults who stutter worldwide, 2) fostering a global pipeline of speech-language pathologists and researchers who specialize in stuttering through our extensive training of undergraduate students, graduate students, and practicing clinicians, and 3) generating new knowledge about the nature and best practices for stuttering. Stuttering is considered to be universal as it exists across cultures, languages, and geographical locations. Through over two decades of research, Dr. Byrd has demonstrated that the life-changing outcomes of her distinct approach to treatment are also universal. In the years ahead, the Blank Centers will continue to help children, teens, and adults around the world who stutter to speak confidently, communicate effectively, and advocate meaningfully so that stuttering never stops them from living their lives to the fullest. Hence, the Blank Center’s slogan, Dream. Speak. Live.
About The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
After 25 years and more than $800 million in giving, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has committed to significantly accelerating the impact of its philanthropy over the next 10+ years.
The Board is embarking on a journey of deeper learning and strategy setting for its new collective areas of giving, which include: Youth Development, with a focus on workforce development and economic mobility; Democracy, with a focus on key areas of Voting Rights, and Journalism; and Environment, with a focus on key areas of Conservation and Climate Resiliency. Across these portfolios, the Foundation will look for opportunities to address the growing crisis of disconnection in our nation. Geographically, much of the work will continue to prioritize Georgia (with a focus on Atlanta) and Montana, while also considering the potential for greater national impact and influence.
In addition to the collective areas of giving, the Foundation will continue to oversee a large portfolio of Founder-led initiatives, including investment in the transformation of Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods, mental health and wellbeing, veterans and the military, and stuttering, among others. The Foundation will also continue to guide the seven Associate-led giving committees operating across the Blank Family of Businesses.
Mr. Blank, chairman of the Foundation, co-founded The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, in 1978 and retired from the company as co-chairman in 2001.
For more information and to stay up to date, visit www.blankfoundation.org.