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How can Music Therapy help with a stutter?

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

I had a wonderful experience when working with a boy who had a profound stutter. I'll always remember his lovely little face - let's call him Paulo. It was intensely frustrating for him because he was so chatty and keen to communicate and yet it was incredibly difficult to understand anything Paulo said, and it would take a very long time and a huge amount of effort for him to say anything at all.



Can you imagine his and our delight when we heard him improvise a whole verse of the 'goodbye song' one week with complete fluency?!!


It brought to mind an opera singer friend of mine who has the most impressive bass baritone voice. He told me that the only reason he had been given singing lessons as a boy was to help with his stutter - because his ingenious mum had identified that he didn't stutter when singing. His mum thought singing lessons might help - AND THEY DID!!


Stuttering often involves disruptions in the normal flow of speech caused by neurological factors. When a person stutters, there is a momentary block or interruption in the coordination between different brain regions responsible for speech production. When singing, however, these blocks tend to occur less frequently or may not occur at all. This is because singing engages different neural pathways in the brain. I have always found that those with speech difficulties always find singing easier than talking, and not only that, after doing some singing, speaking itself is much more accessible.


It's not to say that singing is a quick fix. However, there are many reasons why Music Therapy helps with stuttering:-


1. Creating a non-pressured, positive, creative, fluid environment rich with opportunities for communication


There are many areas of Music Therapy where the presence of music circumvents the conventional speed of interactions - the pressure to make contributions is greatly slowed down. In a conversation, you haven't got very long at all before you feel pressured or others have moved on to something else. Added to this, there is such pleasure to be found in music-making that the client can concentrate on the joy whilst experiencing an extremely effective music therapy intervention. Since stuttering can cause distress, music can offer a lovely, positive, relaxing and reassuring environment in which clients can flourish.


2. SINGING!!


Again, the pressure is off, and the pace is slowed down. We are also engaging different neural pathways in the brain. Neuroimaging studies have indicated that singing and speaking engage different areas of the brain. While speaking involves a broader network of regions associated with language production (including Broca's area in the left frontal lobe), singing tends to activate areas primarily associated with music processing, including the right hemisphere. This differential activation effectively offers a workaround for those with a stutter.. and we sing the client's favourite things - songs that will motivate them to join in.


3. Specific Neurologic Music Therapy Techniques


Depending on the specific nature of the difficulties, Neurologic Music Therapists have a number of tried and tested techniques that promote more fluent speech including:-

  1. Rhythmic Speech Cueing: NMT therapists use rhythmic cues to help individuals establish a more fluent speech pattern. This can involve tapping or clapping in sync with the person's speech to promote smoother and more controlled speech production.

  2. Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT): MIT uses melodic patterns and singing to encourage speech. Individuals are guided to sing their words or phrases with leaps in the melody corresponding with sentence stresses and left hand tapping. Tapping the left hand is thought to engage the right hemisphere of the brain, which is associated with musical processing. This engagement of the right hemisphere can sometimes help compensate for deficits in the left hemisphere, which is more involved in language processing. By involving both hemispheres, MIT aims to enhance speech production which leads to improved fluency when transitioning back to spoken speech.

  3. Auditory-Motor Mapping Training (AMMT): AMMT helps individuals with speech disorders synchronize their auditory perception and motor control. It involves listening to spoken phrases or words while engaging in motor movements that correspond to the speech sounds.

Please do get in touch with us at This Inner Voice to discuss in more detail how online Music Therapy might work for you or your loved ones









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