It’s hard to believe that singer Ed Sheeran used to stutter as a child. Along with his soulful ballad, the 24 yr-old Brit often incorporates rapid-fire rap lyrics into his music.
Sheeran was asked to the American Institute for Stuttering’s Free Voices Changing Lives Benefit Gala this week by actress Emily Blunt (who also stuttered when younger). He came along to “support the cause” and didn’t realize he would actually be honored at the Benefit. During his speech, he explained to the audience that he “was a very weird child.” He stuttered, was missing one ear drum, and had a port wine stain on his face. Sheeran believes that the treatment of that port wine stain as a young boy may have caused his stuttering:
” I had a port-wine stain birthmark on my face that I got lasered off when I was very young, and one day they forgot to put the anesthetic on, and then ever since then I had a stutter.”
He tried a variety of speech therapies and even tried homeopathy, but without success.
But Ed had a great love of music from an early age, and when he was 9, his father bought him his first album –Eminem’s Marshall Mathers. He loved the album and listened to it over and over until he memorized all the lyrics and knew them “backwards and forwards.”
“He [Eminem] raps very fast and very melodically, and very percussively, and it helped me get rid of the stutter. “
In his speech (captured below), Sheeran addressed his comments to children who may suffer from stuttering, saying:
“[I] just to stress to kids in general is to just be yourself ‘cause there’s no one in the world that can be a better you than you.
And just be yourself, embrace your quirks—being weird is a wonderful thing. But I think, you know, I’m not very good at speeches, I don’t really do a lot of speeches but I think the one thing I want to say is be yourself, embrace yourself, embrace your quirks, and embrace your weirdness.
And from from a stuttering point of view, don’t treat it as an issue—work through it and get the treatment that you want to get, but don’t ever treat it as an issue, don’t see it as a plight on your life, and carry on pushing forward. And I did alright—I did alright is all. Emily [Blunt] did alright. Nice, thank you.”
Stuttering is a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables, or words are repeated or prolonged, disrupting the normal flow of speech. These speech disruptions may be accompanied by struggling behaviors, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the lips. Stuttering can make it difficult to communicate with other people, which often affects a person’s quality of life.
Symptoms of stuttering can vary significantly throughout a person’s day. In general, speaking before a group or talking on the telephone may make a person’s stuttering more severe, while singing, reading, or speaking in unison may temporarily reduce stuttering.
Stuttering is sometimes referred to as stammering and by a broader term, dysfluent speech.
Roughly three million Americans stutter. Stuttering affects people of all ages. It occurs most often in children between the ages of 2 and 5 as they are developing their language skills. Approximately 5 percent of all children will stutter for some period in their life, lasting from a few weeks to several years. Boys are twice as likely to stutter as girls; as they get older, however, the number of boys who continue to stutter is three to four times larger than the number of girls. Most children outgrow stuttering. About 1 percent or less of adults stutter.
We make speech sounds through a series of precisely coordinated muscle movements involving breathing, phonation (voice production), and articulation (movement of the throat, palate, tongue, and lips) (see figure).
Muscle movements are controlled by the brain and monitored through our senses of hearing and touch.
Although the precise mechanisms are not understood, there are two types of stuttering that are more common. (A third type of stuttering, called psychogenic stuttering, can be caused by emotional trauma or problems with thought or reasoning. At one time, all stuttering was believed to be psychogenic, but today we know that psychogenic stuttering is rare.)
Developmental stuttering occurs in young children while they are still learning speech and language skills. It is the most common form of stuttering. Some scientists and clinicians believe that developmental stuttering occurs when children’s speech and language abilities are unable to meet the child’s verbal demands. Developmental stuttering also runs in families, but researchers have yet to identify a specific gene or genes involved. More information on the genetics of stuttering can be found in the research section of this fact sheet.
Neurogenic stuttering may occur after a stroke, head trauma, or other type of brain injury. With neurogenic stuttering, the brain has difficulty coordinating the different components involved in speaking because of signaling problems between the brain and nerves or muscles.
Although there is currently no cure for stuttering, there are a variety of treatments available. The nature of the treatment will differ, based upon a person’s age, communication goals, and other factors. If you or your child stutters, it is important to work with a speech-language pathologist to determine the best treatment options.
For very young children, early treatment may prevent developmental stuttering from becoming a lifelong problem. Certain strategies can help children learn to improve their speech fluency while developing positive attitudes toward communication. Health professionals generally recommend that a child be evaluated if he or she has stuttered for three to six months, exhibits struggle behaviors associated with stuttering, or has a family history of stuttering or related communication disorders. Treatment often involves teaching parents about ways to support their child’s production of fluent speech. Parents may be encouraged to:
Many of the current therapies for teens and adults who stutter focus on learning ways to minimize stuttering when they speak, such as by speaking more slowly, regulating their breathing, or gradually progressing from single-syllable responses to longer words and more complex sentences. Most of these therapies also help address the anxiety a person who stutters may feel in certain speaking situations.
Some people who stutter use electronic devices to help control fluency. For example, one type of device fits into the ear canal, much like a hearing aid, and digitally replays a slightly altered version of the wearer’s voice into the ear so that it sounds as if he or she is speaking in unison with another person. In some people, electronic devices help improve fluency in a relatively short period of time. Nevertheless, questions remain about how long such effects may last and whether people are able to easily use these devices in real-world situations. For these reasons, researchers are continuing to study the long-term effectiveness of these devices.
Many people find that they achieve their greatest success through a combination of self-study and therapy. Self-help groups provide a way for people who stutter to find resources and support as they face the challenges of stuttering.
(Source: National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders– NIDCD)