Why don’t we stutter when we sing?

Have you ever noticed that you don’t stutter when you sing?

Or if you’re a person who doesn’t stutter, have you ever wondered why you’ve never heard someone stutter while singing? If you watch the video below of Harrison Craig – season 2 winner of The Voice Australia 2013 – you’ll understand how big the change between speaking and singing can be for someone who stutters.

It’s an interesting observation, and there’s no single answer for why this phenomenon occurs. Scientists and researchers have worked hard to answer many difficult questions about stuttering, however when it comes to the singing debate, there are a few strong theories.

Singing occurs in a different part of the brain:

The University of Iowa has done some research on this topic, and have concluded that “Music is an activity in which you use the right side of the brain (language uses the left), so when you sing music, you’re no longer using your left brain (and probably no longer stuttering).”

This is an interesting observation and could very well be why singing is unaffected by stuttering.

We use our vocal cords and mouths differently when singing:

It’s true that in order to sing (well), we need to alter the way we use our vocal cords, as well as how we shape our tongues and mouths. There is a theory that this could have a part to play in why people don’t stutter when they sing and is attributed as one of the potential reasons by The Stuttering Foundation of America.

Here at START we think it could be a combination of our using our vocal cords and mouths differently as well as singing activating a different part of the brain. As one of our SLT Voon Pang says; “the brain controls the mouth, so if the brain is telling the mouth to do something different then I suppose this could be one of the reasons why we don’t stutter when we sing.”

Singing is a different form of communication than most speaking:

Most communication is two-way. It involves an unpredictable conversation, where you can’t plan your next answer. It also holds the potential for the other person or people to interrupt, or to become impatient. Singing, however, is mostly one-way communication, and eliminates the possibility for these challenges. We have often memorised the  lyrics when we sing, rather than facing an unpredictable conversation, and unless we are at karaoke it’s unlikely anyone in the audience is planning to interrupt.

We have had many parents comment that when a child is playing by themselves, or talking to themselves, that their stutter is not present. This could be similar to why one-way communication in singing reduces stuttering.

These three theories may or may not be the reason why we don’t stutter when we sing, it may be a combination of the three, or it could even be something else. The truth is, there is still a lot of research to be done.

What we do know, however, is that while singing, putting on an accent, or otherwise altering the way you speak can reduce stuttering, it is still not a permanent cure – it’s unreasonable to expect  someone to alter their speech 24/7. However if you are concerned about your stutter, please speak to one of our Speech Language Therapists first, before resorting to singing for the rest of your life.

What does a donation to our charity do?

If you’ve ever thought about donating to a charity or a cause, it’s likely you’ve also then wondered about where that money goes. This is a pretty fair question – you’ve worked hard for your money and you want to know that you’re making it go as far as it can.

For many charities, it’s difficult to track where the money goes or how it’s used – and in some unfortunate cases, donations go towards things the donor didn’t want.

We’re proud to say this isn’t how we work at START

As a registered charity, we rely on grants, funding, and donations to help us run, and we are fully transparent about where that money goes.

After operational costs such as rent, salaries, and other important factors, the money we receive goes towards making sure every person in New Zealand who stutters is able to access treatment. While we do have a $60/$45 fee for our sessions, we have a subsidy plan and sliding scale in place as an option for those who find the cost difficult.

The truth is, even though $60/$45 sounds like a lot, to truly cover our costs we would need to charge at least $100 per session. This is something we don’t want to do!

It is so important to us that every Kiwi who stutters has access to the treatment they need, and cost should not be a barrier to receiving support. In fact, we would really like to be in the position one day where we can offer our services for free to everyone.

To get to that point however, we need more support, and donating to our charity is a great way to help us achieve this goal. It costs approximately $1,000 for a preschool child to receive treatment for their stuttering, and if you were to donate even a portion of that, you would be making a massive difference in that child’s life – for their whole life.

Your donation could make a real difference in the lives of Kiwis who stutter, and it would make sure that your hard earned money goes as far as shaping a child’s entire life.

To make a donation today, head to our givealittle page and make a difference.

It’s not all about individual therapy

Why we run groups and courses in conjunction with treatment

Over the years we’ve stopped and started our groups and courses while we worked to find the best fit for our clients, but for the past 5 years we’ve really found our feet in terms of what works best. As someone who stutters, or a parent of a child who stutters, you might wonder why we recommend groups and courses in conjunction or even instead of individual therapy – and which option is best for your circumstances.

The groups and courses we run cover a wide range of topics and age groups and include:

Confident Communicators Group

  • Suitable for children aged 7-10
  • Includes 4 sessions over the course of the year
  • Is a fantastic opportunity for kids to meet others in their age group who also stutter and to make lifelong friends
  • An enjoyable way for children to explore their stutter and how it affects them

Fluency and Confidence Course

  • Suitable for children  aged 11-13
  • Is a 3 day course
  • Provides techniques to manage stuttering
  • Is a fantastic opportunity for kids to meet others in their age group who also stutter and to make lifelong friends

Intensive Fluency Course

  • We hold separate courses for teens and adults
  • Run as a 5 day intensive course
  • Provides techniques to manage stuttering and improve confidence
  • Offers the opportunity to meet others who stutter in a supportive environment

As you can see, there’s a wide variety for everyone, and while the main theme of each is to improve confidence as well as understand speech techniques to manage stuttering, what we’ve found is most valuable with these groups and courses is the social aspect.

Studies, as well as our own observations, have shown that stuttering can be a deeply isolating experience, and that the opportunity to have supportive and relatable interactions can be hugely beneficial for a person who stutters.

The groups and courses offer the opportunity for the person who stutters to be able to meet others like them, and understand their own experiences a bit better. Finding someone who relates to you and who you relate to in return is an invaluable experience for anyone, and this is no different for someone who stutters.

We also run social days for our younger clients, and a mentoring programme for adults looking for a supportive learning relationship with a peer. If you or someone you know could benefit from the social and supportive aspects of our groups and courses, please get in contact with us and we would love to help.

Stuttering in the School Playground

Why you might see a change in your child’s stutter as school begins again

Oftentimes changes in routine can be a trigger for children who stutter, as stress is likely to bring about communication difficulties for everyone. According to Anthony J. Caruso et al in the 1994 study Adults Who Stutter “A study found that under stress, non-stutterers went
from 0% to 4% dysfluencies, for the simple task of saying colors. Stutterers went from 1% to 9%”
 – this makes a lot of sense, as when we’re stressed we often speak with far more energy and urgency.

While we often look back at our school years spent in the playground and imagine how carefree and fun it was, we also forget that socialising with so many different people can often be stressful. There are a lot of factors to consider, and it’s highly likely your kid might find the playground at least a minor stressor.

The school playground is also exciting. It’s fun, there’s a lot to do, and kids often want to talk to as many people as they can and do as many activities as they can before lunchtime is up – all this energy and urgency may often trigger an increase in stuttering as well.

While this isn’t any reason for major concern, the excitement and change in schedule after a long holiday period can mark a change in stuttering.  If this happens, try and ensure your child is continuing to practice the techniques they have learned during their speech therapy sessions, and remind yourself that an increase or decrease in your child’s stutter after a significant change in their schedule is to be expected. For some people it can go the other way, and their stutter can increase during the holiday period, and decrease during school time, as the strict schedule can be helpful to them.

Regardless of whether your child experiences an increase in their stuttering, an educated and supportive school can be a major helping factor. If your child goes to school and you would like the school to access more support and information, please let them know we are here to help, or point them in the direction of our ‘For Teachers’ page. Socialising with other kids who stutter can also be extremely helpful, and create a lasting support network – we often run social days so please contact us to find out when our next one is. Our email is support@start.org.nz

Reflecting on 2017 – Merry Christmas from START!

This year has been a big year for START! We’ve had lots of opportunities to help people across New Zealand who stutter and it’s been a wonderful journey – thanks for being there with us the whole way!

We’ve found that technology has been a great way for us to reach people , not just those who are Auckland-based, and we can’t wait to continue to see how it will help us grow.

We also published a book! If you haven’t heard yet, for International Stuttering Awareness Day this year, we asked the kids we work with to submit art and writing that discusses their unique experiences as children  who stutter. We received some incredible submissions, and compiled them into a book which you can now purchase! ‘My Stutter’ is a charming little book filled with some amazing pieces on what it’s like to be a Kiwi kid who stutters.  All proceeds go towards supporting us to help those who stutter in New Zealand, and you can pick up your own copy here:

So what is next on our agenda?

Well, firstly it involves a holiday break.  START will be closed from the 21stnd of December until the 9th of January 2018. We’re all looking forward to spending some quality time with our friends and family, and enjoying the Kiwi Summer.

We will also then be closed again from the 18th until the 29th  of January. Why?

2018 involves some big changes and improvements to our organisation – one which we’ve been excited to tell you for a while, and now we finally can!

START IS MOVING!

We’ve loved spending the past 20 years at our site  in Parnell, and we know how convenient the central location has been in the past. However, as Auckland continues to grow and become the bustling metro it’s becoming, START has grown as well.

Travelling across the city is no longer the easy task it once was, and while our Albany clinic has been a great help for many of you, we’re looking to make things even easier for our clients.

This is why, in 2018 we’ll be moving in with The Hearing House at their fantastic new premises in Greenlane! This is a wonderful  opportunity for us to work alongside a similar charity, as well as become more accessible for our clients who might not be as central as they used to be.

We’ll also be looking into establishing more satellite clinics for our clients’ convenience in the future, however we’re firm believers in taking one step at a time!

We will miss our lovely Parnell office, however as the only organisation in New Zealand specialising in helping those who stutter, it’s important that we continue to encourage our charity’s growth as much as possible!

Our new office will be based with The Hearing House at The Stitchbury Bidwill Centre, 251 Campbell Road, Greenlane.which is very close to  the the Greenlane off-ramp. Our clients who live West or North will continue to utilise our Albany  office.

If you’re more of a visual person, hopefully this map helps you!

There will be limited parking available for our clients onsite as well as on-street parks available.

Once again, thank you for joining us on our journey, and thank you for all your support, particularly with our first published book – ‘My Stutter’!

From the entire team here at START, happy holidays! We hope you have a fantastic new year, and can’t wait to see you all in 2018!