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Newsmaker: From basketball champion to stuttering champion



Newsmaker: From basketball champion to stuttering champion

Basketball star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist learned to speak for himself in the Bluegrass state, and now he’s speaking up for kids in Kentucky.

Gilchrist came here to play basketball for the University of Kentucky, helping lead the team to a 2012 NCAA championship. Though he excelled on the court, everyday interactions like saying his name or ordering food were difficult for him.

That’s because as a kid in New Jersey, Kidd-Gilchrist never received services for stuttering. The teasing about his struggles to speak have stayed with him.  

“Words have power on people … those things don’t go away,” Kidd-Gilchrist told The Courier Journal. 

The tough memories fueled Kidd-Gilchrist’s transformation from a basketball champion into a self-described stuttering champion. He wants to make sure kids who stutter get services much earlier than he did.

Earlier this year, he went to Frankfort to ask state lawmakers to adopt a bill to expand stuttering services. Senate Bill 111 passed nearly unanimously and is believed to be the first law of its kind in the country. 

“I first got my first therapy session at Kentucky, you know, so that’s why it was so special (to) me,” said Kidd-Gilchrist, who went on to a career in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets and Dallas Mavericks

Under the new law, starting next year, most health insurers in Kentucky will be required to provide speech therapy services to children and youth with a stuttering diagnosis. Insurers will not be able to limit the number of therapy sessions a patient can receive and will have to cover services provided via telehealth. 

“It’s a great feeling and also it’s an overwhelming feeling at times knowing that I helped change law … in the state that I truly love and care about,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. He was impressed with the willingness of Kentucky lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to listen to him describe his experiences and the need for the bill. 

Kidd-Gilchrist’s advocacy for the over 3 million Americans who stutter will not be confined to the Bluegrass, which he considers a second home. He wants to see the other 49 states adopt bills like Kentucky’s. A similar bill in Pennsylvania has already obtained approval from the state House of Representatives there and will now be considered by the Senate. 

Kidd-Gilchrist’s nonprofit Change & Impact also helps people who stutter in other ways.  The organization pushes for hospitals and research to improve services for people who stutter. For example, Kidd-Gilchrist is a frequent speaker at programs for speech therapists. He also hosts community events for people who stutter. 

“As I’m looked at a … champion that stuttered, I also want people to know, kids and adults everywhere, that it is okay to stutter,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. 

Reach Rebecca Grapevine at or follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @RebGrapevine.

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