Stuttering Kids, Teens Find Relief Through 'Our Time'

PHOTO: Alina Davis, center, sings a song she co-wrote with her friends at Camp Our Time.
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Alina Davis of Leesport, Pa. was bullied so badly her sophomore year that she left and finished high school at home. The bullies' motivation? Alina's stuttering.

The smart and outgoing girl recounted to ABC News the abuse she endured simply because of her speech impediment.

"I was mocked in the hallways. I found things about me on the bathroom wall. And one day after school I went onto Facebook and I found a page all about me and how I speak, and it was, it was tough. It was really tough. That whole year I lost who I was," she said.

Alina's high school experience is all too common, causing many kids who stutter to withdraw into silence.

The 2011 Oscar award-winning film, "The King's Speech," showcased King George VI of Great Britain's struggle with stuttering. Alina recalled the scene she most relates to: "When he was emotional and crying about it because stuttering has that effect on me."

At age 16, Alina's stuttering, and the way people reacted to it, drove her into depression. But then a speech pathologist suggested she look into a New York-based program for kids who stutter called Our Time.

Alina liked the idea, but New York is two and half hours from her Pennsylvania home. Despite the distance, she and her mother made the commute to the Big Apple, where she says she found her lifeline.

Our Time was created by Taro Alexander, a New York City actor who also stutters. Alexander uses his theater experience to teach kids to write about their feelings and to turn their words into songs and plays. Most people who stutter are perfectly fluent when they sing and some also lose their stutter when they act so Our Time finds success building self-esteem, confidence and communication skills on stage.

The kids' lyrics range from heartbreaking to triumphant, and Alexander said he sees their performances bring transformation.

"You see a kid standing onstage, looking at hundreds of people, cheering for them. And you see that pride in the way that they walk, you see that pride in their smile, you see that pride in a twinkle in their eye," he said.

The most important thing for these kids to know, Alexander said, is that they're not alone.

"I was 26 before I met anyone else who stutters so that feeling, day in and day out, 'I'm the only one' -- I thought, wouldn't it be great if there was a place where young people who stutter could come and know that it's okay to be themselves."

Nowhere is it more "okay" for them to be themselves than at Camp Our Time, a summer camp run by Our Time in North Carolina. Kids who stutter (and their family or friends) aged 8 to 18 from all around the country gather at the camp for 10 days of summer fun and an escape from the real world.

Camp rule no. 1? No one is allowed to finish anyone's sentences. Campers' stutters range from mild to severe, some coupled with other disorders.

Speech pathologist Joe Klein of Appalachian State University, who participarted in a round table discussion held at the camp, cleared up some common misconceptions on stuttering.

"People don't stutter because they are 'nervous.' People don't stutter because 'they don't know what they are saying.' Some people will say they know more words, because they are always word changing, so they have to know all the synonyms, you know, for all the words they can't say," he said.

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