What’s common between Elvis Presley, Kendrick Lamar and Ed Sheeran, besides their undeniable talent for music? They were and are prolific singers popular all across the world for their unique voices and their originals.
These are all famous personalities with tremendous talents who began singing as an outlet because all of them stuttered well into adulthood. The only time they were confident was when they were either singing for their friends and family, or the millions of fans out there.
Ed Sheeran, Lamar and Carly Simon all found out that their stammering simply disappears when they are singing.
Why do we not stutter while singing?
While you are likely to think that it’s just a fortunate coincidence for some, research shows that it might not be the case. According to Dr Barry Guitar, one of the leading personalities in modern speech pathology research –
- While singing we move our tongue, lips and vocal cords quite differently from when we speak.
- Whether it’s a famous singer or a bathroom singer, the person doesn’t face the pressure to communicate while singing, which they face otherwise in life.
- The regulation of breathing is critical in singing. Regulated breathing helps in minimizing blocks and prolongations.
- In most cases, singers already know the words of a song by heart. There is no “word searching” that may contribute to stuttering.
- Modern imaging techniques show that the language and communication centres of the brain function differently when a person is singing as compared to when they are talking.
Should your child be singing even before they can learn to talk?
We saw this “magic” work when American Idol contestant Lazaro went on stage and shook the entire world with one of the most heartfelt auditions. While Keith Urban was famously criticized on every possible social media for his spontaneous comment “You should sing all the time,” he had a point.
Singing makes it easier for a person to stutter to express themselves. It is not only an avenue for self-expression, but undergoing vocal training and voice training will give any potential singer the confidence necessary to go through daily life.
We have discussed in our posts before how a child who stutters may slowly develop a lack of confidence and shyness. These can feed into the negative attitudes and feelings that can keep a person who stutters from achieving their full potential in life.
However, just imagine, if you are a parent of a child who is struggling with speech impediments, you can always encourage your child to “sing it” to you. It is a small step that can help your child find his or her first control over breathing, phonation and enunciation.
Music lessons and speech therapy can go hand in hand
Speech therapy is always beneficial for someone with a stuttering problem. It is especially beneficial for a child, who has just begun to show signs of stuttering. Early intervention in the form of speech therapy from an experienced speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help children overcome the struggles of stuttering, and keep the negative emotions at bay.
Addressing stuttering in children is much easier than in adults, since in the latter case, SLPs may have to deal with advanced forms of stuttering, in addition to addressing cognitive behavioural issues that arise from not being able to express one’s feelings in their desired words.
A study done in 1982 at the University of New South Wales shows that after singing, participants showed a 90% reduction in stuttering. The participants went on to show a consistent increase in phonation duration. In the case of non-fluent aphasia (the inability to speak fluently), Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT) by Sparks, Albert and Helm-Estabrooks, in the 70s, has shown significant improvement in speech fluency.
An introduction of guided music classes in coordination with an experienced SLP can help a child find an avenue of expression. Moreover, a child can always rely on a new skill like singing to make friends, and socialize in kindergarten, elementary school or even in middle school!