Camp Shout Out Let’s Get Virtual- Helping Youth Who Stutter During the Pandemic – Kristin Chmela, Scott Palisak and Lynne Shields

About the Authors:

Kristin Chmela, M.A. CCC-SLP BCS-F spends the majority of her time working with individuals of all ages with fluency disorders at the Chmela Fluency Center in the suburban Chicago area. She is co-founder and co-director of Camp Shout Out, a therapeutic program for school-age children who stutter and a hands-on training opportunity for professionals and graduate students.   Kristin was former Chair of the American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders, has supervised graduate students and provided training workshops across the globe, and collaborated extensively with the Stuttering Foundation on training videos, conferences, and publications.  She is co-author of two books focused on helping school-age children who stutter and is a certified yoga instructor and mindfulness teacher.  Kristin believes all can choose to continue evolving as communicators. 

Scott Palisak is a person who can stutter. He is also an Associate Professor at the University Akron, Ohio, who teaches Stuttering, Counseling, and Voice disorders at the graduate level along with supervising future SLPs. Further, he runs the MASS Lab (Mindfulness ACT Social Cognition and Stuttering) at the University of Akron. He also is the co-host and co-creator for The Act To Live Podcast (along with Jaime Michise) and is a partner with the 3C Digital Media Network LLC. He is a novelist (under the pen name B.D. Scott) and a musician and songwriter since he was 12 years old. He practices mindfulness meditation everyday, values health, and appreciates the act of evolving as a person, speech language pathology and a fellow human in order to build a community and world of kindness and understanding.

Lynne Shields, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, BCS-F is a board-certified specialist in fluency and fluency disorders. She taught for many years at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, MO, and is currently a professor emeritus there. Courses taught included undergraduate and graduate fluency disorders, language disorders, phonetics and counseling, as well as supervision of students in the on-campus clinic. She also served as the director of graduate studies in speech-language pathology. She had a small private practice working with children and adults who stutter. She served on the American Board on Fluency and Fluency Disorders, acting in various roles including certification coordinator and board chair. She serves as an assistant faculty at Camp Shout Out.

Camp Shout Out is a unique therapeutic opportunity for youth who stutter ages 8-18 and hands-on training for speech-language pathologists and graduate students.  It is held for approximately one week in Michigan and embedded within a traditional, recreational, residential summer camp experience.  Camp Shout Out is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization co-founded and co-directed by Kristin Chmela, M.A. CCC-SLP BCS-F, and Julie Raynor, M.A. CCC-SLP.  The program strives to help participants choose and continue to evolve strong communication skills, defined across Five Areas of Focus (Byrd, Chmela, et. al, 2016) and experienced throughout camp in multiple ways. 

In the late spring of 2020, the difficulty accounting for the safety of our 140 registered participants became clear. A few days of frustration, disappointment, and disbelief led to the decision to move forward and provide a “virtual therapeutic-camp” experience.  After all, while quarantining, children who stutter were still communicating.  Additionally, online synchronous learning was likely imminent for many in the fall.  

Experiences related to the pandemic such as a lack of social interaction and reduction in both the frequency and manner in which communication occurred throughout the day were new challenges faced by youth.  For some of our clients who stutter, negative experiences related to stuttering over online platforms were reported.  There was no question it was essential for us to show our campers it was possible to continue to evolve as communicators during this difficult time.  We wanted to help them “grow inner strengths” by experiencing our three basic human needs (Hanson, 2018) throughout the week.  These needs, adapted to those who stutter, included providing a place where they felt:

  1. Safety (A place where they are free to communicate without fear of negative consequences) 
  2. Satisfaction (The opportunity to share ideas and say what they want to say)
  3. Connection (With those they already knew and with new faces) 

We wanted to help our campers recognize they have the inner strengths to cope with difficulties related not only to stuttering, but also to the significant changes that had occurred in their daily lives.  We wanted to grow positivity within their own wellbeing and support them in moving forward, as individuals as well as communicators.  We wanted to show them that we, too, could bounce back, move forward, and create a novel experience within the midst of our world’s difficult crisis.  

The purpose of this paper is to review the goals and structure of the program, provide several strategies and activities utilized, and share preliminary outcomes of this virtual experience.     

What were the goals?   

The goals of this program were to provide campers’ multiple opportunities for positive communication experiences, increase their confidence in talking over the virtual space, and create a place for connection, joy, and support.  Due to the nature of this program, parent discussion groups were included, with goals discussed further in this paper.  Prior to the onset of the program, campers’ current records were reviewed and each camper and parent/caregiver participated in an interview with their team facilitator or assistant.  Parents/caregivers completed a survey identifying desired topics for discussion.

Who was involved?  

Given the novelty of creating and implementing CSO online and the desire to create small group interactions for campers, we sadly chose not to include registered trainees (graduate students from various universities as well as speech-language pathologists).  Along with its’ co-directors, this program consisted of faculty, assistant faculty, small group facilitators, and assistant facilitators.  All participants were either board-certified specialists in fluency or experienced in working with youth with persistent stuttering.  In total, there were twenty-four campers and twenty-two professionals, as well as two Zoom hosts.  Eight guests interacted within both small and large groups during one of the camp dates, as well as other guests on the last day of camp.  

How was it structured?  

This program was implemented across six days, ninety minutes each day.  The staff met for thirty minutes before and after each session.  Our structure included starting each day with a large group interaction, followed by small breakout groups and ending with the large group.  Small teams were created based upon age, consisting of two to four campers and two speech-language pathologists.  Parents/caregivers were included during the initial large group interaction on the first day of camp and had the opportunity to join four different topic-driven discussion groups led by professionals during the same time as the small speech team groups.  On the last day of camp, parents participated in a discussion with their camper’s team leaders. 

Several activities were routinely implemented to create positive energy and engagement.  These included but were not limited to, energetic music accompanied by dancing during all transitions into, within, and out of camp each day.  A camp song led by a guest (former camp counselors) was followed by a short mindfulness practice, followed by a choreographed dance practiced each day as a large group.  At the end of each session all engaged in a “Virtual Shout Out” whereby multiple opportunities for large group communication were provided.  Finally, to minimize delays across the virtual space and stay connected as communicators, three different hand signals were utilized:

  1. One hand up in front of the face for “I would like to share something” 
  2. One index finger up for “I need more time”
  3. Two hands up with fingers moving for “I agree-awesome idea-that is great-thanks for sharing-way to go”             

A box was sent to all participants and opened together during the first small group team time.  Campers received items such as a t-shirt, colored team scarf, dry erase paddleboard with markers and eraser, cue cards for targeted general communication skills, and a tactile fidget.  All items were selected to provide team unity and assist campers in maintaining attention throughout the small group team time.  

What happened during the breakout groups?

During the small team breakouts, various strategies such as pausing, holding on to one person’s face on the screen when talking, moving forward, and answering oral questions by rephrasing the question at the start were reinforced.  Visual reinforcement was consistently utilized to provide positive feedback without interrupting or “slowing the energy” of the interactions.  Activities were planned carefully to provide multiple opportunities to talk spontaneously while having fun within the group interaction.  Meaningful topics were discussed, such as how campers’ lives (and communication) had been impacted by the pandemic.   “Comebacks” were also practiced related to starting school and experiencing unpleasant peer reactions to campers’ difficulty communicating. 

While campers met with facilitators and assistants, parents were provided the opportunity to participate in a series of four relevant topic discussions, facilitated by three camp staff members.  Overall, participation varied from 11 to 16 parents across the four sessions and they learned about the Five Areas of Focus of communication competence (the various ways one can strengthen their communication skills) typically focused upon at Camp Shout Out.  Additional discussion topics included: 

  1. Parents/caregivers own feelings around their child’s communication difficulties.
  2. Changes in their child’s communication since the beginning of the pandemic.
  3. Talking with the child about speech/communication.
  4. Their child as a communicator in daily routines and/or navigating life transitions.

What do our preliminary outcomes look like?

Campers and parents participated in post-camp virtual interviews with their team facilitator/assistant.  

Positive themes reported by campers included seeing friends, small groups, activities, guest speakers, and receiving the camp box.  Campers expressed learning the importance of “being myself” and how to talk in an online setting.  One camper stated, “I think instead of getting down on myself and talking less, I should keep on speaking up because I think that will help more than not talking at all.”  Campers expressed making eye contact with one person when talking was helpful.  One camper stated, “One of the biggest things I took away from this year was for (talking on-added for clarity) Zoom. So eye contact, I know it’s weird but before online, I was always looking all over the screen. But now I feel like it helps to hold onto eye contact with one or two people.”  Another theme shared by campers was the importance of moving forward if talking becomes difficult. One camper statedI learned to just go for it during speaking opportunities and to put myself out there” while another shared, “I feel a lot more comfortable with talking online and sharing ideas.”  Themes for improvement included adding more campers in the groups, mixing up the groups, and having time to be together without adults, as well as more frequent meetings throughout the year.  When asked what this program should include if repeated, one camper stated, “There is not a lot I would change. It met all of my expectations. It was pretty perfect. “ 

Feedback about the parent discussion sessions obtained during parent post-camp interviews included that parents overwhelmingly believed the sessions were extremely beneficial, with one parent viewing them as more beneficial to those new to camp.  Themes included the importance of connecting with other parents, sharing struggles and perspectives about stuttering, and feeling a common bond.  Being able to hear from other parents was seen as helpful, and one parent stated, “It is helpful to hear other parents triumphs and challenges that we share.”  The discussions provided support and new ideas about parenting a child who stutters and gaining ideas about how to have more holistic and supportive conversations with their child. One parent stated it was helpful to learn “It is very normal to have lots of different emotions around your child who stutters (you are not alone).” 

Post interviews with parents/caregivers reported themes such as observations of increased confidence in their campers.  One parent shared, “The confidence alone is worth it and sense of comfort with himself and ease due to being with the other kids, the camaraderie. Confidence is what I want the most for him.  Confident enough to speak up.”  Another parent shared their son “has been more confident in general and happier. He got his spark back.”  Parents shared that the program met their camper’s expectations as well as their own, liked the convenience of being online, and hoped that future sessions might be scheduled in the evenings for greater access.  In addition to the in-person camp, a parent shared “I think it would be a great “boost” during the offseason.” For campers graduating high school, one parent noted, “I think it would be great for graduates as they step into a new chapter-maybe to address challenges they come across in college/adult life.”

One parent said, “I hope next year we are able to do this in person.”   We could not agree more.  In the meantime, perhaps this is another way that we can do more to help children who stutter, wherever they are.  

Byrd, Courtney & Chmela, Kristin & Coleman, Craig & Weidner, Mary & Kelly, Ellen & Reichhardt, Robert & Irani, Farzan. (2016). An Introduction to Camps for Children Who Stutter: What They Are and How They Can Help. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups. 1. 55. 10.1044/persp1.SIG4.55.

Hanson, Rick with Forrest Hanson (2018).  Resilient:  How to grow an unshakable core of calm, strength, and happiness.  Harmony Books:  New York.

The author wishes to thank Lynne Shields and Scott Palasik for their contributions to this paper.

This program would not have been possible without the support of those involved.  Many thanks to Julie Raynor, Faculty June Campbell, Assistant Faculty Lynne Shields and Scott Palasik, Facilitators Derek Daniels, Sarah Penzell, Diane Morean, Natasha Gigliotti, Jaime Michise, Laura Johnson, Steven Moates, Robert Reichhardt, and Erik Raj, as well as Assistant Facilitators Kyle Pelkey, Nick Caruso, Laura Shepperd, Annick Tumolo, Cherish Thomas, and Caitlin Shanley.  

Finally, thanks to Erich Reiter and Lukas Latacz (sayitlabs.com) for being our Zoom hosts.

 

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Comments

Camp Shout Out Let’s Get Virtual- Helping Youth Who Stutter During the Pandemic – Kristin Chmela, Scott Palisak and Lynne Shields — 52 Comments

    • Some of my best memories growing up were from the Jewish sleep-away camp I attended for 9 years. Being with like-minded individuals who share similar experiences to you creates a sense of safety and comfort. The post-interviews with parents and caregivers displayed a theme of increased confidence in the children who attend this camp and for this reason I believe going through with Camp Shout Out and making it virtual was a brilliant idea because these children deserve to be able to “attend” this camp that helps give them confidence, self-acceptance and security in their communication. It is stated in the paper,“for some of our clients who stutter, negative experiences related to stuttering over online platforms were reported”. Because of the negative experiences and challenges that this pandemic has created, Camp Shout Out is even more important for these children to attend. It is a light in this dark time.

      -Ariana Arakelian

  1. Hello Kristin, Scott, and Lynn,

    Phenomenal paper! You and your virtual campers embody the quality of resilience that serves as our theme for this year. I love the idea of helping campers to “grow inner strengths” and continue to evolve as capable overall communicators, despite a global pandemic and the new challenges of reduced opportunities for social interaction, reduced frequency of communication, and changes in the manner of communication. I also love the ideas of creating spaces for positive communicative experiences, building confidence, and creating places for connection, joy, and support to thrive. This sounds like precisely the kind of place I would have wanted to be as a young person who stutters! The notion of a “comeback” would have particularly appealed to me – and still does. I do have a question. I wholeheartedly endorse the strategies of holding on to a person’s face when talking, moving forward with communication, and answering questions by rephrasing the question at the start (aka, Turn the Question Around). Over the years, I have “creatively borrowed” these kinds of strategies from Kristin, and I use them in my own practice. I sometimes use pausing, too, and I am wondering about how this strategy is discussed and applied in a large group setting. I understand how important it can be to learn to nurture a sense of ease in the pause. It is something I sometimes pay attention to and cultivate in my own speech. Some of my students work on this, too. However, for some of my students over the years, “pausing” has triggered the fight/flight/freeze reaction, as stopping voicing and movement can provide yet another opportunity to block as speech is initiated. To me, pausing seems like a strategy that would require a distinctly individual approach. I am very curious and would love to hear your thoughts on this. Again, thank you for the inspiration and the great paper!

    Rob Dellinger

  2. Thank you Rob for your feedback. In this virtual program as well as in my own therapy with clients, pausing is discussed as it is something all communicators do naturally. As with any way of modifying communication, it is presented with the idea that it can be “flexible…” and it is something you (as the camper or client) are choosing to do, whether it is at the beginning of an utterance or within an utterance.
    One of the things we know is that ALL communicators pause, so that more oxygen can naturally enter the body. We allow clients to pause and we hold space for them so that they can if they choose to do so. We may teach a client how to hold space for him or herself. Our approach to therapy with persistent stuttering is mindfulness based, so clients also learn to take a “pause” and anchor their attention on something. We often talk about “feeling confidence in the pause…” Learning to pause within ideas and speak in phrases is one of the most highly effective speaking skills anyone can possess. Rob, I am always impressed with your willingness to explore ideas further.

    • Kristin, thank you for your clear and vivid explanation of pausing. I feel that I have a brand-new understanding of and appreciation for it. It resonates with me that pausing is something that we all do naturally, and that we can become more aware of it and be flexible in the way that we choose to use it mindfully. Holding space for oneself, and others, is a lovely idea. I appreciate the way that you often pull in other disciplines, such as neuroscience and psychology, to support what we do as speech-language pathologists. Pausing with ease as a way to allow more oxygen into the body and brain and to focus our attention in the moment is an important insight. “Feeling confidence in the pause” … I will be borrowing this language to add to my usual “feeling ease in the pause.” Best to you,
      Rob

  3. Thank you for sharing about “Camp Shout Out”. This should be replicated in other countries! Congratulations for all your efforts!

    Greetings from Peru!

    • Camp Shout Out is a special place! I wish we could help children in every country! Thanks for reading.
      Kristin

  4. Thank you for describing the Camp Shout Out experience, and the specifics of how it was implemented this year. I wish we could implement CSO in Israel. Perhaps one day we will find a way to do so.

    Regarding the goal of helping “our campers recognize they have the inner strengths to cope with difficulties related not only to stuttering, but also to the significant changes that had occurred in their daily lives”: I am curious as to how you measure this both after the Camp and perhaps durinig the year. Is there a way to measure increased resilience in the campers?

    Thanks so much
    Hanan

    • Hanan,
      HI! Thank you for reading this submission and your great question. Camp Shout Out is a magical place for all who attend (kids and adults alike).

      Your question is great, “how you measure this both after the Camp and perhaps during the year. Is there a way to measure increased resilience in the campers?” There are many ways to measure resilience during the year:
      1. Would be to generate likert scale questions (e.g., 1-10, 1=Not at all, 10=All the time) addressing concepts of resilience. Example, On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being NOT AT ALL and 10 being ALWAYS. When you have entered in speaking situations this month that were hard, and you stuttered, how often did you not say what you truly want to say.” These series of questions could be sent in a digital online survey everyone month to see if we see trends of change.
      2. We could do a qualitatively based assessment of resilience where we ask more open ended question using some of the resilience variables described by Hanson and Hanson (2018) to get an idea of how children evolve and/or create their one strategies of resilience. Then code those qualitative answers looking for themes, and turn those themes into quantitative data.

      Those are just two ideas. Does that make sense?
      Stay healthy Hanan!
      With compassion and kindness,
      Scott

    • Thank you Hanan for your comment. I know Scott responded, but I wanted to share one story about a girl who comes to camp and who we also see privately at my fluency center. Last year she started middle school and was certain she was going to have a negative peer consequence if she stuttered in class, so she stopped talking in school in her classes. We created space for her to acknowledge her fear and to take the time to move forward when she was ready. She did come to our virtual camp and I think meeting some of our young women guests who stuttered made a big impression on her. School started this year, and she was one of the first to do the announcements virtually for her class. That is one way I would define evolving resilience.
      Thanks so much.
      Kristin

  5. Rob and Hanan,

    Thank you both for reading our paper and for your good questions. I believe that building resilience is one of the most important ways to help people grow as communicators. Camp Shout Out helps campers to gain resilience, in part, by providing a safe place where they have the freedom to give communicating a go in ways that may have felt too tricky outside of camp. The staff pay attention and notice when they see a camper step up and take a challenge of any type, and then take the further step of putting that observation into words. For example, telling a camper, “I noticed that you used a powerful voice when you took your turn”, or, “Way to let the group know that you needed a bit more time to talk”.

    One way to document growth in resilience is noting when a person is able to verbalize his or her own successes in managing situations that has been difficult for them. Hearing the client identify the success and explain the steps they took to make that happen rather than focusing on trying not to let others hear them stutter is important in a number of ways, one of which is that is is a sign of growing resilience. In the wonderful example Kristin gave above, I suspect that this girl felt so pleased to report to Kristin that she had taken this important step of making her voice heard, of being present, in her class. Documenting her avoidant behavior (not talking in class) and the approach behavior (giving the announcements) is a measure of positive growth.

    Helping clients view themselves as having the resources to make desired changes is how we support resilience. Following a series of steps so the client can understand the problem, brainstorm solutions, choose the solution that is just right for them at the moment (it is “do-able” now), and then specifying the steps they will take to make this happen will, over time, allow the person to approach situations from their strength rather than focusing on failure.

    I am so pleased that the theme of this year’s conference is resilience.

    Best wishes to you both,

    Lynne

  6. Hi Krisitn, Scott, and Lynne
    I really enjoyed reading this article. With Covid, so many of us have experienced frustration and disappointment with important events being cancelled. I am sure it was a very hard decision to move online with this camp as it seems to be very successful and a great way to bring the stuttering community together. But, like mentioned, you were all so resilient and found a way to overcome the challenge and make the best of the situation. You all adapted so well to the new platform and it is evident that much thought and consideration went into planning this virtual event. I think it was so important that you found a way to continue this camp as this time has been very isolating for so many. This camp provided a way for individuals to not only interact with others, but also to connect with individuals who have the same experiences as them.

    Thank you for sharing about your camp!
    Karissa O’Cain

  7. Karissa,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. We appreciate you taking the time to read our article. So many people contributed to making virtual camp work and we are very thankful for this. And, we were delighted that we made the decision to offer this alternative format when it became clear that in-person camp could not go forward.

    All the best,

    Lynne

  8. Thank you Karissa for reading our article. One of the messages we truly believe and try to execute as a program is the importance of “continuing to evolve” no matter what…even if we have a bad experience, or if something did not go the way we planned. This mindset helped us move forward and “do the next thing” on behalf of the children. At this time and during this pandemic, we all need to do the “next thing” whatever that means.
    Namaste.
    Kristin

  9. Hi Kristin, Scott, and Lynne
    Thank you for posting this article! I feel as though the lack of social opportunities for young children due to COVID-19 have not be as apparent as they should be. The deficits take a whole new level when you add in children with disabilities. I admire your awareness to the problem and your ability to take action! I bet this camp was something these children look forward to all year and they were probably crushed when they thought it would not occur. I am currently a second year graduate student taking a stuttering class. In it we have learned the importance of safety and confidence. I like how you guys made these qualities a huge theme of the camp. From the parent perspective it seems as though your goals were successful; amazing!!
    By finding a way to put this camp on you showed the children they should not let one thing stop them or hinder them from being successful! You are all world changers, making a difference in these family’s lives!
    – Lauryn Mellberg

    • Dear Lauryn,

      Thanks for reading our paper. I am pleased that safety and confidence-building are aspects of stuttering treatment that you have been learning about. Challenging talking situations become much more approachable when the speaker feels safe and has confidence in themselves.

      Best wishes to you as you complete your education and join our profession!

      Lynne

    • Dear Lauryn,
      Thank you for taking the time to read our paper! We hope you are soaking in all you can about helping people who stutter in your class.
      Best of luck!
      Kristin

  10. Hello Kristin, Scott, and Lynne,

    I loved hearing about how you were able to transform such a special camp experience into an equally fun and engaging virtual camp! You did not let the uncertainty of COVID stop you all from putting on an incredible, highly-anticipated event. One thing I really appreciated reading about in this paper was the level of parental involvement in the virtual camp. Stuttering does not exist in a vacuum, and I think it is extremely valuable to hear the perspectives of family members of people who stutter. I can also appreciate the immense amount of work you all put into morphing the format of this camp. From the looks of your outcome measure section, it seems like this event was well-received by the camp participants. I loved the strategies you implemented to make sure everyone felt that same sense of camaraderie and connection that make in-person experiences so great (and we all love receiving swag boxes!). I hope that you all are able to hold your next camp in person but, if not, it seems like you have a great plan to move forward virtually and still accomplish the same critical objectives that make the camp so special.

    Best,
    Alexa Abadee

    • Dear Alexa,

      I am glad that you found our paper beneficial. When we began entertaining the idea of holding our camp virtually this year, it soon became clear that, while it was unfortunate that we could not meet in person, we had an opportunity to hold parent discussion sessions. This has not been possible at our on-site camp. It was wonderful to hear from parents and to facilitate discussions about their children, the challenges of living with stuttering, and ways that they can support them in positive ways. After having the privilege of participating in these discussions, I have to say that this was a group of supportive parents who are real allies to their children!

      Regards,

      Lynne

    • Dear Alexa,
      Thank you for taking the time to read our paper. We were thrilled to be able to include this parent component. While we spend time talking with the parents on the first and last day of camp, these discussions throughout the week allowed more opportunities for discussions about a variety of topics.
      We are already considering how to use the virtual space (while in-person camp is being held) to connect with the parents of our campers.

      Kindly,
      Kristin

  11. Dear Kristen, Scott, and Lynne,
    I absolutely love how you adapted your camp to be online due to COVID-19. Although it may have not been the same experience, I am sure the quality of the experience was still appreciated by those who attended. I believe it was essential how you created and emphasized that it was still a space that was safe, open to sharing ideas, and build connections with others to your campers. I believe that this virtual camp that you outlined in your paper provides others with new ideas on how to proceed in this ongoing pandemic and even post pandemic for children who cannot afford to travel to the camp and want to still attend. For example, the way you utilized large and small groups may benefit those who have a stutter to communicate in the space that they feel comfortable. In addition, your feedback will help your camp and future camps that want to utilize this online model, become that much better. It was a fantastic idea to provide parents the opportunity to get involved since it was virtual and they could also attend. Not only are you impacting the life of the child, but also his or her loved ones. Thank you again for sharing the ideas of your camp and giving those who need a space that is safe to share and connect with others during this pandemic.

    Kind Regards,

    Bailey Deason

    • Hi Bailey,
      Thanks so much for the feedback. I do feel this is a model that could continue, perhaps mid-year in addition to our in-person camp. I hope this paper inspires others to find ways to provide opportunities for children who stutter to communicate virtually, feel connected, and also have some fun.

      Kindly,
      Kristin

  12. a. Hi Kristin, Scott, and Lynne,
    I enjoyed reading the article and how you three came up with a creative solution for your summer camp during these times. Being able to help children not only grow their inner strengths while also assisting the children in preparing to communicate through online learning is no easy task. I liked how in your camp you had activities that were forums or breakout rooms to encourage communication but also had activities designs to increase movement and energy during each day at camp as well. Your hand signals for making communication continue as smoothly as possible is a great idea and should be adopted in online learning in general in order to minimize any breakdowns! As a scout leader myself, I understand how important it is to find creative solutions in order to maintain connections and camaraderie between groups of people during this time as well, and your solutions can definitely provide me with some ideas to do so for however much longer we are in the pandemic.
    Thank you!
    Chris Truong

    • Hi Chris,
      Thanks so much for your feedback. I do wish hand signals would be used by teachers, because it gives the child who stutters a way to nonverbally say, “I am not done talking.” Many of our clients are expressing the feeling that they need to “go quickly” when talking in the virtual space.
      There were many involved in making this virtual camp happen, and all were willing to show enthusiasm and be a bit “over the top” which I think helped motivate the kids. During this time, any experiences that bring children (and adults) joy are essential. It sounds like as a scout leader you are providing these opportunities as well.

  13. Hello Kristin, Scott and Lynne,

    I really enjoyed reading your article about virtual Camp Shout Out! I love that you all still found a way for this camp to happen, if it was virtual. Initially, you all explained that it was essential to show your campers that we can continue to move forward and evolve as communicators during this tough time; what a great example of resilience! I also LOVED this statement you made, “We wanted to show them that we, too, could bounce back, move forward, and create a novel experience within the midst of our world’s difficult crisis”. This honestly left me speechless. I have never experienced this camp but i can only imagine the lives that are changed there. This statement says so much about you as individuals, professionals and the stuttering community to have leaders such as yourself. Throughout the virtual camp, I thought it was great to see that “comebacks” were being addressed as it is still necessary as difficult peer interactions are still prevalent in online school. This virtual camp was well thought out and provided these campers the opportunity to interact with one another in a safe space. I hope next year this camp can be held in person with some sense of normalcy. Thank you for providing us insights into your camp!

    – Casey Edwards

    • Dear Casey,
      Thank you for your comments. We firmly believe as an organization that there is only one way to go and that is forward. We certainly hope we can be in person next year, and (we try and never say “but”), we will continue to be present and do what we need to do.
      Namaste.
      Kristin

  14. Dear Kristin, Scott, and Lynne,
    What a wonderful paper! With the rise of Covid-19 taking place during the late spring of 2020, it is so wonderful that Camp Shout Out was still able to take place. While the pandemic may have pushed the camp to be on an online platform, I believe that it provided the participants with fundamental skills for their new school year (e.g., how to participate in class and interact with classmates over Zoom). Due to Covid-19 restricting daily interactions and socialization, it is terrific that the participants were provided with the opportunity to make new friends with individuals that they can relate with, and that the parents of participants were given the opportunity to meet and learn from each other, all from the saftey of their home. Hopefully next year Camp Shout Out will be in person, but it was so wonderful to read about the positive experiences participants and parents had, despite the trickiness of Covid-19!
    Kind regards,
    Sofia

    • Dear Sofia,
      Thanks so much for reading our paper! We were thrilled to be able to move forward and provide this program. Aside from the benefits I believe the campers and parents gleaned from the experience, I have to say that all of us adults (24 of us!) I think also felt such a sense of joy and meaning throughout the experience.
      Kindly,
      Kristin

  15. Dear Sofia,
    Thanks so much for reading our paper! We were thrilled to be able to move forward and provide this program. Aside from the benefits I believe the campers and parents gleaned from the experience, I have to say that all of us adults (24 of us!) I think also felt such a sense of joy and meaning throughout the experience.
    Kindly,
    Kristin

  16. Hi Kristin and Colleagues,

    I enjoyed very much reading your paper. I attended Camp Shout Out as a speech therapist in 2013, and it was a transformational experience for me. Your approach to treating people who stutter was instrumental in understanding that the an ultimate goal of treatment is to empower our clients and give them the key to be successful communicators. I am glad that you were able to adapt the program to an online format. I would love to have the opportunity again to participate in such an excellent camp.
    Best regards,

    Sandra

    • Dear Sandra,
      Thank you for your positive reflections about Camp Shout Out! 2013 was a long time ago, and we would love to see you again at camp. Many things have changed!
      Warmly,
      Kristin

  17. Hi Kristin, Scott and Lynne,

    This is the first time I am hearing about Camp Shout Out and it sounds amazing! What a cool opportunity these young kids and adolescence get to experience at Camp Shout Out. With the global pandemic, I can imagine how stressful it must be for students as well as people who stutter because essentially it felt as if all of our social life was ripped away from us. I am so happy you guys were able to use the virtual platform to provide these children with opportunities that felt as if they were back socializing with their friends. While reading your paper, I kept thinking about how quarantine could have been a person who stutters dream as well as nightmare. As we know, many people who stutter dread or fear communication so not being aloud to socialize or go to school could have felt like a weight lifted from their shoulders. On the other hand, clinicians teach children fluency strategies that they practice each and every day in order to generalize their skills however with quarantine it has probably made practicing strategies more difficult thus children could be reverting back to hold habits. With Camp Shout Out, children who stutter had the opportunity to communicate with peers and engage in activities that help them tackle their stutter head on. Thank you for sharing your experience with switching the virtual this year and I hope next year Camp Shout Out will get to be in person!

    -Rochelle Draper

    • Rochelle,

      HI1 Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts We greatly appreciate you taking the time to write.

      You bring up a wonderful point about, “I kept thinking about how quarantine could have been a person who stutters dream as well as nightmare.” I can see what you mean. The quarantine might appear to be a dream for some kids who stutter because they don’t have to go to school, talk in class, do presentations, and it might be easier to hide from speaking situations. And, what is really important is we as humans (all humans) are social beings. So, as much as some might want to hide from speaking, our innate desire to communicate and connect can overwhelm us. It is to this point that having kids who stutter engage in communication during this time of pandemic in a variety of ways is so VITAL to their future as effective communicators in order to evolve in to effective adults.

      The nightmare is that we (adults who care about kids and in this case kids who stutter) do NOT create these camps and experiences for these kids. Kristin, Julie, Lynne, June, Tom and all of the wonderful adults who contribute to Camp Shout Out made this Virtual Experience another environment to develop confidence with communication skills to be life long communicators. A responsibility that we all take serious, as we should.

      Thank you again, Rochelle!
      With compassion and kindness,
      Scott

  18. Camp Shout out sounds like an incredible program that many children who stutter were lucky enough to participate in, whether that have been in the live camp in the past, or virtual. I give so much appreciation for your team for making the decision to make the camp a “virtual therapeutic-camp” during the difficult time of covid. From the feedback section, it seems like it was a win for both campers and parents! I love how the goals of the camp were to increase the confidence of these children and give them a safe, joyful, and supportive place to communicate. Too often children who stutter find going to therapy as a “punishment” or something they have to do to “fix” their stutter, but I love how this camp truly teaches the children their inner strengths and makes communicating a positive experience. I also love how parents were involved in the camp experience because I have learned that many parents of children who stutter also deal with negative feels and anxiety around stuttering and feel guilty when not being able to help. Creating a space where the children and parents can openly discuss stuttering together, can create a positive environment in the home that can overall promote a supportive and/or fluency friendly environment. Moreover, creating a space where parents can openly connect with other parents of children who stutter can help them feel like they are not alone and create bonds within the community. In addition, something that I really liked about the discussions targeted in camp were that they were meaningful to the present crisis and this gave the campers the opportunity to have a safe place to share their concerns and build resilience during this uncertain time. I loved hearing about this camp, and I am so happy for all the families that got to participate. Thank you for sharing!

  19. Dear Cierra,

    Thank you for reading the paper we wrote and for your kind comments. On the Camp Shout Out website, right under the camp name is the phrase, “building communicators for life”. That sums up what camp is about. It is such a privilege to watch campers grow in confidence and willingness to take on new communication challenges over the years.

    Best regards,

    Lynne

  20. Hi Kristin, Scott, and Lynee
    I am a graduate student at Chapman University studying communication sciences and disorders. The title of this article caught my eye because the pandemic has been such a difficult and isolating time. I am extremely happy with your choice to continue with the camp virtually because I am sure that many of the attendees look forward to this camp all year. I want to applaud you for your ability to adapt and make things work despite all of the challenges that we face. The camp served as a way for individuals who stutter to speak to one another, relate to each other and learn. Excellent job with this camp!
    Thank you,
    Melissa Francis

    • Thank you, Melissa! You are attending the university where I did my undergraduate work, so greetings to a fellow Illini! it was a new experience for all of us to set up a virtual camp, but it was absolutely the best decision we could have made under the circumstances.

      I wish you all the best as you complete your education and begin your professional life.

      Regards,

      Lynne

  21. Thank you, to all of you, for sharing your thoughts within this paper! Covid has definitely been a difficult time for all, and an isolating one as well. However, as mentioned within the paper, quarantine does not mean that all lines of communication must be stopped! I think it was a wonderful initiative to bring Camp Shout Out online, and to provide the campgoers with a different, but equally wonderful, experience this year. As a graduate student in Speech Pathology who is currently taking a fluency course, I have spent time this semester learning about the importance of counseling a client who stutters. Along with counseling goes providing the individual with a safe space, and a sense of community. Camp Shout Out sounds like it provides a safe and open space, a sense of community, and a place where one just simply feels understood. More places like this should exist – virtually or in person! Thank you for your paper!

  22. Thanks for your comments. The camp staff work hard to create a safe community where campers have multiple opportunities to explore ways to solve problems in their day-to-day lives. I’m pleased that you have been learning about the importance of counseling (and, I’d say this applies to any clients with whom you work, not only stuttering). We see counseling as an integral part of working with the campers and their families.

    Best regards,

    Lynne

  23. Wow! Camp Shout Out sounds like an amazing opportunity for children to take part in. I thought it was wonderful that although, we are living in COVID times, there was still a camp session the kids could participate in. Also, I really liked how you made the goals of the camp fit the current situation we are in because not only were the kids able to get together with their peers for camp, they were also able to start preparing for the new online school platform, which may have been daunting for some. I think Camp Shout Out is unique because it brings children who stutter together and creates a positive space, but it also incorporates the parents in the process which is just as important. My favorite part of the article was reading all the comments the children made about their experience “going to camp”. The team really made the week special and even though you were not together in person, for that time online, you were all present with one another and still had that summer camp feeling, that I think every kid looks forward too, and never forgets. Thanks!

    • Dear Christi,

      We were so pleased to be able to offer the camp virtually this summer, and, as you wrote, the campers appeared to have enjoyed and benefited from the experience. While we certainly hope to host in-person camp again soon, having an experience for the campers was very important to us. Thanks for reading our article!

      Regards,

      Lynne

  24. Hello Kristin, Scott, and Lynn,

    I am so happy to read that despite difficulties with COVID-19 professionals are showing resilience and creativity by continuing to provide the best services they possibly can. As a graduate student studying speech-language pathology, this camp sounds like a wonderful experience for not only the kids, but for the clinicians as well. I believe that many other professionals can benefit from this paper and recreate similar virtual programs for kids in their area. Your process of using the different hand signals over virtual communication seems very effective. As a student in online Zoom courses, it can often feel very awkward to just jump in and often interrupt others to be heard. CWS can often show a reluctance to participate in classroom activities in person, but have any of your noticed an even bigger decrease in participation for CWS over online academic interactions?

    • Dear Masobroo,

      HI! Thank you for taking your valuable time to read our paper and share your thoughts.

      The camp is an amazing place, and you correct, it is not only a wonderful experience for the kids, but ALL of the adults are changed in some way for many reasons. Countless, I believe.

      Your question about have we noticed an bigger decrease in participation for CWS over online academic interactions. There was an article in the New York times on 10/15:
      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/15/well/family/children-speech-stuttering.html?referringSource=articleShare

      This might give you some insight to your question. I think the answer might be as variety as stuttering is. For some CWS it might be a bit easier to engage because of the mindset they have toward working at home (comfort) and talking to a screen and not physically being in front of others. For other CWS it might be more lonely and isolating, thus more challenging. So there might not be one or a few simple answers, but many versions of answers.

      Thanks for asking questions and learning! We all can learn more and more each day!
      With compassion and kindeness,
      Scott

  25. Hello Kristin Scott and Lynne,

    This was such an awesome post. I am currently in a speech pathology graduate program and I’ve had the pleasure of having a phenomenal fluency professor. She has given us opportunities to learn about Camp Shout Out. As well as having the pleasure to have Scott be a guest speaker for our class this semester. It truly made me smile that you all persevered and provided a meaningful experience for the attendees! COVID has put a damper on many things, and has taken a toll on all of but this truly “opened my eyes”, to be more aware of the impact this is having on persons with a stutter. The parent involvement feedback was so refreshing and backed the truth that parents benefit from interacting with other parents of children with a stutter. The resilience that you all displayed with carrying on with providing a virtual camp, unmistakably reminds me of the resilience shown by people that stutter.

    • Thanks so much for posting your thoughts on our paper. I am so pleased to know that you have a strong professor for your fluency course, and that you were able to meet and learn from Scott!

      Best,

      Lynne

  26. Some of my best memories growing up were from the Jewish sleep-away camp I attended for 9 years. Being with like-minded individuals who share similar experiences to you creates a sense of safety and comfort. The post-interviews with parents and caregivers displayed a theme of increased confidence in the children who attend this camp and for this reason I believe going through with Camp Shout Out and making it virtual was a brilliant idea because these children deserve to be able to “attend” this camp that helps give them confidence, self-acceptance and security in their communication. It is stated in the paper,“for some of our clients who stutter, negative experiences related to stuttering over online platforms were reported”. Because of the negative experiences and challenges that this pandemic has created, Camp Shout Out is even more important for these children to attend. It is a light in this dark time.

    -Ariana Arakelian

    • Ariana,

      I’m glad that you have experienced the benefits of camp yourself, which allowed you to connect with the camp experience for children who stutter. As you say, it was important to organize a virtual camp this past summer in order to provide a way for campers to be together, as well as to help them figure out how to more effectively manage their virtual school experiences.

      Wishing you all the best,

      Lynne

  27. Hello Kristen, Scott and Lynne,

    Wow! What a great impact during a pandemic. I am a graduate student and I graduate in May with a Master’s in Speech language pathology and I wish I was involved in something so great like this. I have learned so much by reading what you have done with Camp Shout Out. I have felt as if during the pandemic that children who stutter, or any other kind of communication deficit missed a lot of quality learning opportunities. I loved the idea behind the camp and the premise of the idea is inspiring as a new young clinician.

  28. Dear Tessa,

    Thanks so much for checking out our paper. What an exciting time for you to be completing your program and becoming a member of the profession! I hope that you will use some of the ideas that you’ve gained from our paper and the other wonderful papers on this year’s conference. Happy International Stuttering Awareness Day!

    All the best,

    Lynne

  29. Hello Kristin, Scott, and Lynne! I loved hearing about Camp Shout Out. Kudos to you all for developing and providing a support group despite the obstacles brought forth by the current pandemic. As a graduate SLP student, I understand how difficult virtual sessions can be, but it sounds like you all developed a program that was very engaging and interactive. I think that having a support group during these stressful times is an extremely meaningful contribution, and definitely shows the strength of connection within the stuttering community. I liked that the program emphasized objectives and messages of building a sense of self-confidence, coupled with a feeling of support from members of the community.

    • Dear Coleen,

      HI! We are so excited and pleased your took your valuable time to read the above submission. Camp Shout OUt (and this year’s virtual experience) is a wonderful event for all who attend (campers, SLPs, graduate students, all adults). When the world is able to return to a post COVID normalcy, feel free to reach out to the Camp and see how you might get involved.

      You bring up a great point, “I think that having a support group during these stressful times is an extremely meaningful contribution, and definitely shows the strength of connection within the stuttering community.” Support groups are vital for anyone at this time. I think most people are struggling with life in so many ways during this tense time. WE (this use of a pronoun is important) are here to support each other. WE are a community of humans. Without each other, WE do not exist.

      So adjusting to life as we currently know it is what the Camp did through the wonderfully creative minds of Kristin, Julie, Lynne, June and Tom. They are the definition of “evolving.”

      Thank you again! Stay safe!
      With compassion and kindness,
      Scott

  30. Having been an organiser and leader of children and youth stutter camps for 20+ years, I know first hand the life changing effect you guys have on CWS. To create a space for YPWS, where they can feel free to stutter and to share their stories, while giving them the tools to build themselves up and to manage life situations, is the most amazing gift we can give them, and where SLPs and PWS go hand in hand to make the camp the start of beautiful growth. I’m so happy and grateful what you do for these kids.

    Stay safe and keep them talking

    Anita