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University of Kentucky basketball star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is now a stuttering champion

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

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

That’s because Kidd-Gilchrist never received services for his stutter as a child in New Jersey. The taunts about his speech struggles have stayed with him.

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

The difficult memories helped Kidd-Gilchrist transform from a basketball champion to a self-described stuttering champion who wants to make sure kids who stutter get services much sooner than he did.

Earlier this year, he traveled to Frankfort to ask state lawmakers to pass 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 had my first therapy session in Kentucky, so it was very special for me,” said Kidd-Gilchrist, who went on to play in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets and Dallas Mavericks.

Under a new law, starting next year, most health insurance companies in Kentucky will be required to provide speech therapy services to children and teens diagnosed with stuttering. Insurance companies 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 wonderful feeling, and sometimes it’s overwhelming to know that I’m helping change the law in a state that I truly love and care about,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. She was impressed that Kentucky lawmakers from both sides were willing to listen to her explain her experiences and the need for the bill.

Kidd-Gilchrist’s advocacy for the more than 3 million Americans who stutter won’t be limited to the Bluegrass, which she considers a second home. She wants 49 other states to adopt bills like Kentucky’s. A similar bill in Pennsylvania has won approval in the state House of Representatives and will now be considered by the Senate.

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

“Because I am considered a champion of stuttering, I want children and adults everywhere to know that stuttering is okay,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Reach Rebecca Grapevine at [email protected] or follow him on X, formerly on Twitter at @RebGrapevine.