close   X

patient story

Carah Brown

patient name: Carah Brown

age: 16

condition: stuttering

seen in: speech / language pathology


Many young kids go through a stage between the ages of two and five when they begin to stutter. This might make them:

  • repeat certain syllables, words, or phrases
  • prolong them
  • or “block,” making no sound for certain sounds and syllables

Stuttering is a form of dysfluency, an interruption in the flow of speech. In many cases, stuttering goes away on its own by age five. However, in some kids like Carah Brown, it goes on for longer.

what causes stuttering?

Doctors and scientists aren't completely sure why some kids stutter. But most believe that a few things contribute to it, such as a disconnect with the way the brain's messages interact with the muscles and body parts needed for speaking.

Many believe that stuttering may be genetic. Kids who stutter are three times more likely to have a close family member who also stutters or did stutter. And for Carah and her family, this is true. Carah’s mom and sisters all stuttered at a young age but quickly grew out of it. However, Carah struggled well beyond the age her mom and sisters stopped stuttering.

perfectly made

Stuttering is difficult for many children mentally and emotionally. Many kids are bullied and made fun of because of their speech, often making the condition worse. Even though Carah started speech therapy around the age of three, her stutter continued throughout school. Carah was often made fun of and even bullied by a teacher. Her mom, Susan, would tell Carah every day that she was perfectly made… just the way she was.

 “I would tell her how perfect she was, that there was nothing wrong with her, she wasn’t broken and didn’t need “fixed” but nothing I said made an impact,” said Susan.

Carah’s self-esteem and confidence suffered greatly. By middle school, Carah mentally and emotionally struggled, and she didn’t want to go to school at all.

finding the right care

Over the years Carah saw countless speech therapists and didn’t feel that she ever found the right fit. Finally, when Carah was in eighth grade Susan found Dayton Children’s and speech therapist Sara Strother.

“Something clicked day one,” said Susan.

At Carah’s first appointment, Sarah used the “iceberg analogy” of stuttering and how above the water you can work on techniques but underneath it all, there are the mental and emotional hurdles which are often hidden beneath the surface and have a much larger impact than the techniques above the surface. Carah looked at her mom with tears in her eyes and said, “She gets it, Sarah gets me!”

Carah and Sarah in the speech therapy clinic sitting at a desk

As Carah continued her visits with Sarah, Sarah also informed Carah about her ‘secondary behaviors’ due to her stutter, which are the often painful twitches, head nods, jaw locking, and other involuntary movements of her body before, during, and after her stutter due to the tension build-up that she experiences. Over the next two years Sarah and Carah worked hard to overcome years of stuttering behaviors and the hard work paid off!

“Carah has been a joy to work with.  It's always so rewarding to see our patients make progress, but it gives me renewed energy to see her come this far,” said Carah’s speech therapist Sarah.

As Carah’s worked with her speech therapist, her confidence soared. So much so that Carah decided in her freshman year of high school to give a speech to the entire middle school about bullying and stuttering. She wanted an opportunity to make a change, empower others and educate students.

“I am one of the few in the small statistic of children that don't grow out of stuttering. I am likely to struggle with this condition for the rest of my life and the goal of speech therapy at this point in my personal development and at my age is to manage it to the best of my ability. Most speech therapists focus on fluency and strive to continually and hopefully be completely fluent. For some, this goal just isn't attainable and we still need the resource of speech therapy to consistently help provide the techniques to make life with a stutter manageable due to the harsh reality that it doesn't just lessen the way that I once wished it would. Speech therapy has done this for me. I want children like me to know that sometimes speech therapy can't lessen or fix our struggle but that is 100% okay.” 

Carah’s positive outlook inspired Sarah too. “Being able to accept yourself above all else is one of the biggest challenges that not even some adults ever achieve, but Carah seems to have done it. It's so inspiring and motivating!” said Sarah.

carah and sarah on the steps sitting next to each other

empowering others

Carah’s first speech was just a starting point. She has now given the speech two years in a row and has been asked by the school board to give her speech yearly! Carah also created buttons and banners that say “stuttering does not define the power of my voice” to inspire others. Carah has learned to use her voice to educate, empower and encourage others to stand up to those who bully and are unkind. Carah believes that she suffered for years for a purpose.

“I learned perseverance and I’m using that to make a change. Even if I only impact one person, it was worth it,” said Carah.

taking notice

Carah’s outreach and education have reached local news media, the National Stuttering Association (NSA), and even writer LeRon Barton, who has a popular Ted Talk on overcoming stuttering. He encouraged Carah to keep doing what she’s doing. And recently, Carah has spoken to and become friends with an America's Got Talent contestant, Amanda Mammana, a musician and a member of the stuttering community. Amanda took her passion for songwriting and music to national television showing the world that despite a person's differences, you can achieve your goals and more importantly, like Carah, she could reach her own goals even with a stutter and allow her voice to be heard.

And today, Carah is excited about the future and stuttering is not silencing her story.

learn more

Learn more about stuttering by clicking here and about speech therapy by clicking here.