Our Time is an award winning non-profit that provides a fun, creative, and nurturing space where kids who stutter come together to develop empowering self-confidence and communications skills. This October, after much demand from around the country, Our Time will undergo the first major expansion of its 12-year history, launching after-school programs in Northern New Jersey, Westchester, and Long Island. These programs will offer Our Time’s trademark programming that has been praised by leading speech-language professionals for helping youth manage their physical, social, and emotional challenges from stuttering.
It is estimated that over 70 million people in the world stutter, including 5% of all children. There is no cure for this common communication disorder, though speech therapy and support can help people manage their stuttering. While the Academy Award-winning film The Kings Speech and the recent success of American Idol contestant Lazaro Arbos have raised national awareness of stuttering, stuttering remains largely misunderstood.
Youth who stutter struggle not only with verbal communication, but also with bullying, discrimination, and social isolation that can cause feelings of shame, fear, and low self-esteem. Such feelings can impede a child’s everyday activities such as participating in class, speaking on the phone, ordering in restaurants, and making friends. To shield themselves from teasing and rejection, many kids who stutter withdraw from social contacts. Some abandon career aspirations that they are taught to believe are incompatible with stuttering. Children who exhibit the disorder are often stigmatized as unintelligent, mentally challenged, and incompetent. The psychological implications of stuttering can be extreme: some youth suffer from debilitating anxiety, depression, and even suicidal tendencies. Many have found their greatest source of hope in Our Time.
Our Time’s Founder & Director Taro Alexander is himself a person who stutters who understands firsthand stuttering’s devastating effects and the need for accessible services that can help young people overcome their challenges. Alexander found his own voice through the performing arts and achieved success in spite of having struggled with stuttering since the age of 5. After years of professionally acting, he founded Our Time in 2001. His goal was to provide a safe community where kids who stutter could express themselves through the healing outlet of the performing arts in an environment that is free of judgment and ridicule.
Our Time’s programming has evolved to include speech therapy services in NYC and a national summer camp – Camp Our Time – that takes place over two weeks in August in Hendersonville, NC. Participants travel as far as three hours by car to attend Our Time’s local NYC programs, and from around the world to attend camp. Over the years, families and speech professionals have expressed a need for Our Time programming in their immediate communities. Our Time’s introduction of weekday after-school programs in Northern New Jersey, Westchester, and Long Island will begin to address this need. In New Jersey, Our Time will be partnering with Montclair State University’s Center of Audiology and Speech Pathology which will host activities at its facilities.
Our Time is dedicated to providing its cutting-edge services to youth from all socioeconomic backgrounds, offering financial aid to families in need. To learn more or enroll a young person who stutters, age 8-18, please visit www.ourtimestutter.org, or call Amber Horvath, Director of Programming, at (212) 414-9696, ext. 203.
OUR TIME in NJ
Montclair State University Center of Audiology and Speech Pathology
1515 Broad St, Bloomfield, NJ 07003
October 8th 2013 – December 10th 2013
January 7th 2014 – February 18th 2014
October 8th 2013 – December 10th 2013
January 7th 2014 – February 18th 2014
For more information about Our Time please visit http://www.ourtimestutter.org
Our Time History
Actor, director, and teacher Taro Alexander founded Our Time in 2001 under the auspices of the theatre ensemble Naked Angels of which he is a member. Based on his own experiences with stuttering and the healing outlet of the theatre-arts, Alexander created a performing arts program designed to give access to and meet the special needs of children who stutter. In Spring 2003, Our Time gained non-profit status and became its own entity. The company has performed in Off-Broadway theatres all over NYC, and at stuttering conferences and arts festivals around the country and abroad. Since its inception, Our Time has produced over 100 original plays/musicals, and has delivered over 70 performances of its young participants’ work in NYC program alone. Our Time serves 3,000-7,000 people annually through its programs, performances, and outreach.
Our Time’s local arts program in NYC has developed considerably over the past 12 years, resulting in various opportunities year-round for young people who stutter from the New York metro area. In its first season in 2001, Our Time served a teen ensemble exclusively, providing them with an opportunity to write and perform their own plays and music, and then opened up this programming to pre-teens in 2004. A one-act play opportunity was also launched in 2004 to offer an additional learning experience in writing, directing, and design for select senior participants. In 2009, Our Time introduced a film-making activity into its programming, enriching its programmatic year with a new artistic medium. In 2013, the program started a mentorship program through which multigenerational trios of Our Time participants consisting of a pre-teen, teen, and alum created an original short play or musical. Since its inception, Our Time's NYC arts program has produced over 90 original plays/musicals, 27 short films, and has delivered over 60 performances of its young participants’ work. Participants periodically go into a recording studio to archive songs they have written on a professionally produced album that is distributed and sold to the public. In June 2009, Our Time released Listen, a benefit album consisting of 15 original songs written by the Our Time kids and recorded by them as well alongside iconic artists from the worlds of pop, rock, R&B, Broadway, hip-hop, and more, including Carly Simon, Hall & Oates, John Forté, Duncan Sheik, and Mandy Patinkin.
In August 2008, the organization inaugurated Camp Our Time, a national summer camp program designed to open up the organization’s programming to more young people who stutter, as well as their young relatives and friends, from all over the world. This 2-week, sleep-away program infuses a traditional camp experience with the organization’s distinctive stuttering treatment, providing a fun, supportive environment for an even greater diversity of kids. Camp Our Time also teaches siblings, cousins, and friends who do not stutter how to better support their relative or friend who stutters year-round. Camp culminates with the staging of short plays, poems, and musicals that are created during the program, to which family and friends are invited. Approximately 100 youth attend Camp Our Time each year.
In 2011, Our Time launched its own Speech Therapy program to provide comprehensive stuttering treatment that incorporates physical strategies to make talking easier through education, reducing fears, counseling, and parent/family involvement. This program is led by Our Time’s resident speech-language pathologist, Caryn Herring, MS CCC-SLP, who provides individual and group therapy sessions to approximately 25 children, ages 2-18, at Our Time’s administrative office in NYC.
To spread awareness of the organization and issues that relate to people who stutter, the company periodically tours, attending and presenting at speech-language conferences and arts festivals. The organization has formed partnerships with stuttering/disability organizations such as The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, The Stuttering Foundation of America, the National Stuttering Association, the International Fluency Association, Friends, VSA Arts, and Artists in Transition.
Our Time participants and Founder/Director Taro Alexander also present at K-12 speech pathologist meetings throughout NYC, and at university speech language programs including those associated with Columbia University and New York University. Each year, Our Time informs an estimated 400 speech professionals about stuttering and the organization’s services.