Olivia Uchima

Photo from Olivia Uchima

Photo from Olivia Uchima

There now is support and a wealth of information for those who stutter or have family members who do, thanks to National Stuttering Association, Hawaii chapter.

While it currently is focused on helping adults, the group has plans to include children and/or teens.

“(We want them to know) they’re not alone,” says speech-language pathologist (SLP) Olivia Uchima. “There are others who want to listen and gain some experience from individuals, other people who have the same struggles.

“It’s an open environment. It’s safe and no one’s going to be judged for anything.” She first got involved with the group because Dr. Pauline Mashima, head of Tripler Army Medical Center’s speech and language department, articulated that she had clients who previously stuttered and were willing to give back to others.

Uchima was more than willing to step in and lend a helping hand.

“Hawaii doesn’t have one, and it should be started,” she explains.

NSA Hawaii conducted its first meeting earlier this year and hopes to host more on a monthly basis.

According to the national chapter, its mission is to provide “support, friendship and information to the stuttering community, instilling the sense of self-worth so often missing in the lives of those who battle this disorder.”

Uchima became interested in speech when she was in elementary school.

“My sister was diagnosed with encephalitis … she eventually passed away when I was in 10th grade,” she explains. “Because of her being in and out of the hospital constantly, it felt like a second home to me to be in a medical facility.

“I wanted to give back to others and be in a hospital setting.”

She looked at her options and realized she didn’t really want to be a nurse or doctor. “I fell into speech and liked it. I liked everything about it,” says Uchima, who recently graduated with a master’s degree in SLP from University of Massachusetts Amherst. NSA Hawaii chapter founding members include Uchima, Mashima, Will Gottlick, Kathleen Mays, and chapter leaders David Baker and Huang Troang.

The free meetings not only offer mutual support and social activities, but also communication skills practice, with a focus on personal goal achievement.

Their goal is to progress forward while sharing experiences with others who stutter
and have fun at the same time.

For more information on future meetings, email nsahawaiichapter@gmail.com or visit
westutter.org and search for the Hawaii chapter.