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Former UK player gives Louisville student assist in educating class about her stutter

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stands behind Finnegan Taylor in a classroom. He has his hands on Taylor's shoulders.
Breya Jones
/
LPM
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is using his platform to advocate for better resources for people with stutters. His outreach includes connecting with young people with stutters like fifth-grader Finnegan Taylor.

Former University of Kentucky and NBA player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has had a stutter since he was a child. Now, he’s using his platform to try and expand speech therapy resources for Kentucky kids.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist advocates for stuttering awareness through his nonprofit organization, Change & Impact.

In December, Kidd-Gilchrist met Zachary Taylor Elementary school student Finnegan Taylor at a Change & Impact event.

Taylor, a fifth-grader, also has a stutter.

She told him about the bullies she’d been dealing with. Taylor worked with her school’s speech therapist to put together a presentation to help her classmates understand stuttering better.

“The main thing I want them to know and remember is please don't make fun of my stuttering,” Taylor said. “Let me try to finish my own sentences and just don't talk for me because I could do my stuff. I'm still a normal person, and I'm still a human being. And you know, stuttering is just my superpower.”

Taylor included a section of the presentation that showcased famous people with stutters. That’s where Kidd-Gilchrist came in.

After hearing about Taylor’s experience, he committed to attending her presentation in-person. He spoke about his own journey with stuttering.

“I love being a role model to those that I look up to me in a lot of different ways either as to basketball or as to you know, all my successes and stuff like that but I like to remind people that I am also human, and that has challenges,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Kidd-Gilchrist said he couldn’t imagine doing anything like Taylor’s peer presentation and that she’s well on her way to doing big things.

Taylor said she was proud of herself for doing the presentation despite her nerves and that praise from Kidd-Gilchrist made her feel even more special.

She hoped to share that enthusiasm with her peers.

“Keep trying, don't give up. And whatever the kids say, don't believe in them,” she said. “All you have to do is just listen to yourself and keep trying to get into a speech class and, you know, practice your tools and just do what you feel is best. So don't listen to the other kids that may be bullying you.”

In addition to his guest appearance, Kidd-Gilchrist is also offering his support for Kentucky State Senate Bill 111.

The bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield, of Fruit Hill, would mandate health insurers to provide speech therapy for people with stutters.

Currently, not all insurers cover the cost of speech therapy and those that do often enforce strict limits on the number of sessions that are eligible under insurance. an individual can receive.

“It is very hard to pay for therapy sessions as an individual who stutters,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Some estimates put the percentage of people who stutter at around 1% of the adult population.

Kidd-Gilchrist said the lack of resources is directly linked to the lack of awareness.

“When I have the opportunity to meet a person or an adult, you know, I love to tell them my story and all my challenges,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

SB 111 is currently making its way through Senate committees.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.