On The Avenue

Childhood Stuttering Couldn’t Blunt Her Edge

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Most of us know Emily Blunt for her chilling performances in movies such as The Girl on the Train and Sicario. What’s less well known, however, that she struggled with a stutter when she was younger.

It had an enormous impact on her childhood, to the point where she had difficulty speaking in regular conversation. Acting became the outlet she needed to conquer her problem, and today she offers encouragement to young people who are still doing their best to overcome the same speech challenges that she had.

Blunt is now an active board member of the American Institute for Stuttering, and on June 26, she hosted the organization’s 11th annual Freeing Voices Changing Lives Benefit Gala at Guastavino’s in New York City.

She presented the Freeing Voices Changing Lives Leadership Award, which is given to those who have either refused to let their stutter hinder their successful careers or done their best to encourage and influence others who struggle with stuttering. Among those who have won this award in the past are Blunt herself, Bruce Willis, Ed Sheeran, Samuel L. Jackson, Vice President Joe Biden, Colin Firth, Kenyon Martin, Carly Simon and Tommy John.

This year, the first person to receive this award was Eric Dinallo, who is a lawyer and a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. He has become an enormous advocate for ensuring consumer and policy holder protection. He is now a board member of AIS, as he has dealt with stuttering all of his life. “Stuttering has been a challenge I have had to manage throughout my entire life,” Dinallo said at the gala. “So when my son developed severe stuttering at a very young age, my wife and I took him to AIS, knowing that early intervention leads to the most successful outcomes. We are now lucky to say he no longer faces this challenge but unfortunately, there are many children in the world who do not have a support system with the financial means to access strong pediatric intervention. With the help of AIS and so many generous donors, we will work together to give children who stutter access to these therapies early on, ensuring that the voices of the next generation are heard.”

Wayne Brady was the next to receive the Freeing Voices Changing Lives Leadership Award, presented to him by his friend and fellow comedian Jonathon Mangum. Brady, the five-time Emmy winner and Grammy nominee, recently played Aaron Burr in Hamilton. He too struggled with stuttering when he was a child.

The co-chairs of the gala were Arthur M. Blank, the co-founder of Home Depot and the owner of the NFL Atlanta Falcons, and Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric.

The mission of the American Institute of Stuttering is to give everyone who stutters state-of-the-art, affordable speech therapy. Sixty million people in the world, 3 million of which are Americans, suffer from stuttering. Despite common belief, it is a neurological disorder that is not caused by anxiety. AIS works to give their clients the help and the confidence that they deserve.



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