Make Room For The Stuttering

He Doesn’t Stutter When He Sings

Posted on: January 19, 2013

It’s known that most people who stutter don’t stutter when they sing. The brain uses different areas for speech production and singing.

So it was a bit offensive when judges on American Idol told a young man who stutters after singing beautifully during his audition that he should just sing all of the time. Can you imagine singing all the time in everyday communication? Talk about weird and drawing attention to yourself.

Part of that comment was ignorance. The American Idol judges likely haven’t encountered many people who stutter and understandably may not have known how to react. Another judge also finished the contestant’s words before he finished explaining what song he was going to sing. Most people who stutter, including myself, don’t like having their words finished for them.

The stuttering community is all abuzz because we have someone who stutters on national television competing in the popular singing competition. He is “representing!”

The non-stuttering community is all abuzz because he doesn’t stutter when singing and it’s thought to be so amazing.

I think the most important thing here, as shown below, is that Lazaro is stuttering openly and confidently while he pursues his dream. His confidence is what we should focus on, not that he can sing with out stuttering, like most of us can do.

Hopefully, Lazaro will go a long way in the competition so that the American Idol judges, and all the people watching, can learn more about differences. Listen to what he says in addition to how beautifully he sings.

17 Responses to "He Doesn’t Stutter When He Sings"

I think the most important part of this for me is Lazaro is moving forward. Beating up judges or people who just don’t know what the proper thing to do is a waste of time. Lazaro knew the situation he was getting himself into. It was brave, it was also very moving. However after watching two days of American Idol, there were many other moving personal stories. We should focus on his triumphs not what other people say. I hope his SINGING voice carries him far in this COMPETITION.

Hi Lott,

I see what you mean – it’s about singing rather than the back story, but I have to disagree with something that you say.

I’m someone who not only has quite a severe stutter (like Lazaro) but also someone who is very disabled by it – not so much by my speech, but by the reactions of others. I never speak – I won’t answer the phone, I won’t speak to people I don’t know well… I’m basically silent. I am so paralysed by the fear of how people may react that every day it holds me back.

The reaction of the judges, to me, just reinforces these fears – “You should sing all the time” – so they obviously do think that stuttered speech isn’t “worthy” and that it should be avoided at all costs, even if that means singing instead of speaking. How do you think that makes me feel?

Pam – I love your podcasts!

I am glad you both weighed in – this appears to be an age old dilemma, that a world so focused on communication has great difficulties when dealing with different communication.

Anonymous – it makes me sad to learn that you heardly speak but I understand why. The negative social consequences that people who stutter often face are often harder to deal with then the struggle of the stuttering itself. I have a friend with a severe stutter who also hardly ever speaks – doens’t answer the phone, feels it is a burden to listeners to have to listen to him. But I get it – he doesn’t want to feel the double shame when he is pitied, laughed at or excluded.

Lott, I feel strongly that we have to bring attention to when public figures don’t react well to people who stutter. How else do we bring about change? And make it safer for people who stutter severely to risk speaking. When we have judges on a show watched by millions ask what is he doing about his speaking pattern, finishing his sentence and suggesting he sing all the time, that is evidence that we still have a long way to go towards real attitude change. Until media personalities and public figures can get it right, we have little hope for the average mainstream to get it right.

Here, my good friend Nina G explains why we don’t stutter when we sing or whisper or speak with a breathy tone.

SORRY, dont agree. stuttering is not caused by a brain impairment or we would do it all the time. 99.9% of stutterers are fluent when alone so how is this a brain impairment?

I stutter when alone. So there goes your theory.
Do you have a source for your claim that 99.99 percent of stutterers don’t stutter when alone?
Do you know how complex the brain is?

Source for your 99.9% comment, please.
Btw, Research does not agree with you.

you arrogant son of a bitch fuck you. If only you knew what having to worry everyday about other peoples reactions is like. Especially when you can’t control it. Imagine having a giant pimple on your forehead that never goes away. You can cover it, put makeup on it, but the bottom line is that its still there. Thats what stuttering is like.

I think you’re right Pam – what we need is people saying “It doesn’t matter if you stutter, it doesn’t matter how long you take to say something or how you say it, you are still just as worth listening to as the next person”.

I’ve had people telling me to sing so many times, or asking me to write what I’m trying to say down. Almost every time I made a phone call, the person would hang up, and eventually I just gave up on it all. I can’t stand the laughter or smirking when I speak, people looking awkward or patronizing me.

What we need is people stuttering openly and for it not to be treated as an issue. For people to wait for them to finish what they’re saying. We need not only positive role models who stutter openly, but also positive role models for those who come face to face with stutterers.

Well, we can live in hope!

Pam – I would love to hear you talk about this on the podcast. I’ve found them really inspiring and they are helping me with my “journey” (as clichéd as that sounds) to hopefully breaking free from the self imposed bubble that I’m currently living in.

Anonymous, you and I have a lot in common. I also went for my whole life without talking to people I didn’t know well. (I’m 23.) I shied away from any speaking situations that made me uncomfortable and switched and dodged words until I went to graduate school and could no longer function while hiding my stuttering. Stuttering openly is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and I’ve had some hard times. The thought of it is daunting and really depressing. However, I am always surprised by my personality that emerges when I do stutter openly, and I find it very rewarding. I got some really good speech therapy, though, that focused on desensitizing myself to my reactions, as well as listeners’ reactions, to my stuttering. I also found NSA support groups really helpful. I still have a long road ahead of me, but I am finally feeling comfortable in more social situations with people that I don’t know well. I wish you luck on your journey, and kudos for taking the courage to start one!

Thanks for including my video. I am somewhat reluctant to criticize the singing comment or Moriah for finishing his sentences because I feel like the media might never put us on TV. Kind of seems like an irrational fear, but none the less when we see the reaction on TV that we receive everyday it is hard not to point at it and say “see, this is what I get every day” and not respond in some way. Also, discussing more appropriate ways of responding probably couldn’t hurt. I am just so happy that real and actual stuttering is on TV. Hopefully FOX shows stuttering with the pride and respect that Lazaro Abros stutters with!

I get you Nina, for not wanting to be critical. I feel we need to continue to address the issues, but you’re right. Offering tips for listeners is always a good idea, as well as talking about it. The previous commenter suggests I do a podcast about this topic and I am all for it.
For tips on listening respectfully to people who stutter, visit the websites of the National Stuttering Association at and The Stuttering Foundation at

I would love to talk about this on the podcast, to have a go at this topic.
And it’s not cliche at all to hear that listening to others talk about their stuttering would help you on your journey.
That’s the whole point – we learn we’re not alone by listening to other people share their stories.

Upon watching Lazaro Arbos, I felt every single feeling expressed here. First I felt very offended by the judges responses. Then I just felt completely proud and good about Lazaro’s open stuttering and secondary behaviors. After a few very discouraging discussions with non-stutterers in the past year, I am at a point where I am so tired of being told how much stuttering is acceptable or how much is not acceptable in this enviroment or on that stage…..and then being told by others that stuttering doesn’t matter…it’s no surprise that many PWS remain hidden. At this point, I’m happy to note how much progress I’ve made to not worry about others’ opinions of me when I stutter. We are all educating on various size stages in our lives. Thank you to Pam, Nina, Annie, everyone working in the stuttering community.

This “why don’t you sing instead?” phenomenon is nothing new. When I was a kid in the pre-internet Dark Ages, I’d hear the nonsense about Mel Tillis, the country singer with a pronounced stutter: “He doesn’t stutter when he sings. You should just sing, and so should he.” Etc. Tillis used his stutter to get attention, even though he was a terrific songwriter and top-selling singer. His willingness to be made fun of did me no favors with the idiots I went to school with.
I’m glad that Lazaro is just being himself, facing the cameras and the pressure with dignity. Besides, the interest in the lad has been getting people to look into stuttering. Greater understanding leads to acceptance. He’s a better example than the ones I had. The main examples for me were Mel and Porky. Or, as I used to say, a cartoon and a pig.

I feel the stutterer HAS to DEMAND respect and stand up for himself. For most PWS, invoking a state of confidence and self-respect when speaking is non-existent, Most PWS are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings and avoid confrontation. I would love to see Lazaro stand up for himself and say, “No, I wont sing when I talk. Im hear to sing, judge me on singing, not talking”. Can you imagine the respect the judges would give him? We cannot take s..t any longer from people. Stand up for yourself AND DEMAND RESPECT AND COURTESY.

[…] to stuttering, there are some stutterers that  can’t help but see the negatives. Pamela Mertz points out in her blog the judges committed a big no-no when they finished Arbos’ […]

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