Gateway Gazette

Institute for Stuttering Research and Treatment receives $500K from Alberta Elks Foundation to be a ‘home’ to children who stutter

It was that eureka moment that changed her understanding of how her daughter was suffering.

A light bulb went off for Michelle Bjarnason when her friend told her about the intensive stuttering program at the University of Alberta’sInstitute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR).

By Laurie Wang

A light bulb went off for Michelle Bjarnason when her friend told her about the intensive stuttering program at the University of Alberta’s Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR).

Oh my God! Jaiden stutters!

After years of seeing her little girl avoid communication with anyone but her family, ISTAR was the hope Bjarnason needed for her 14-year-old daughter.

“Stuttering stole her childhood but it will not take her adolescence and adulthood,” said Bjarnason. “ISTAR has given that time back to Jaiden to be the best she can be.”

But Jaiden is only one of about 300 children each year who benefit from ISTAR programs like the three-week, intensive teen workshop. To help those clients, and to support the more than 3000 patients ISTAR has treated to date, the Alberta Elks Foundation is donating $500,000 to ISTAR. An organization dedicated to the benefit and welfare of others, the Elks have been supporting ISTAR for 30 years.

“We’ve helped a lot of children over the years through ISTAR, and ISTAR also helps adults, which is really nice to see,” said Roland Gagnon, director of the Alberta Elks Foundation.

ISTAR, an academic institute of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, offers specialized treatment to children, teens and adults who stutter. ISTAR also conducts research into stuttering, offers advanced professional training for speech-language pathology students and clinicians, and promotes public awareness of stuttering and its treatment.

“It is only through gifts like these that we are able to provide specialized, world-class treatment to children, teen and adults who stutter. We are very grateful to the Elks for their gift to ISTAR,” said Holly Lomheim, acting executive director, ISTAR.

The gift will be used to expand clinical service delivery in Calgary, support clinical services offered in Edmonton and help families in financial need.

“The Elks made a significant commitment to the work of the ISTAR by becoming the founding donor in 1986,” said Bob Haennel, interim dean of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. “Since then, the Elks and Royal Purple have donated more than $3.76 million in support of ISTAR’s work with those who struggle with stuttering.”

“This important gift positively impacts hundreds of lives and demonstrates to these children and teens that ‘every voice matters,’” said Lomheim.

Bjarnason agrees. “Thank you to the Alberta Elks Foundation for giving to ISTAR, and giving Jaiden’s life back to her again,” said Bjarnason. “She is now your typical lively teenager. She loves the ISTAR family because they understand what she’s going through. She has found her home.”

Source University of Alberta

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