Celebrating Spartans: Solving Stuttering


EAST LANSING, MI (WLNS) – Our special Celebrating Spartans series continues with a topic that affects 70 million people world-wide, stuttering.

According to the Stuttering Foundation, roughly 5 percent of all children go through a period of stuttering.

Most recover, but for the ones who don’t, it’s tough to carry on a simple conversation.

Our Chivon Kloepfer explains how a newly developed computer game may be a game changer.

“I was extremely like self-conscious for a period, like, extremely self-conscious and I thought that my stuttering got to like a crippling point,” said Beelal Fakhouri, senior, Michigan State University.

More than 3 million people in the United States stutter. Beelal Fakhouri is one of them.

He first noticed the speech problem when he was very young and for some reason hasn’t grown out of it.

He’s among the 1 percent of adults who still stutter.

But this computer game, developed by MSU professor Devin McAuley and a colleague from the University of Michigan may be the key to unlocking some answers.

“Some kinds of music, like tango, a lot of, a lot of the music is off the beat and you have to feel the beat,” said Devin McAuley, professor, MSU Dept. of Psychology.

“Ed Sheran has a song out called ‘Thinking out Loud,’ you can see they’re sort of dancing to a non-existent beat.”

“And so we had a hunch or hypothesis that children who stutter might have more difficulty sort of feeling a beat when it wasn’t actually there. We designed this computer game to specifically test that possibility.”

Dr. McAuley had 20 young kids who stutter and 20 kids who don’t sit through this game which is roughly 20 minutes long.

The results, ground breaking.

“Separate from any differences in IQ or language ability that the children who stuttered had lower scores or more difficulty telling the differences between these rhythms. In particular the ones where they had to feel a beat in their head. That was very exciting because this was the first study to, to show sort of a perceptual difference and a subtle one that was tied to sort of being able to generate a beat in your head.”

Professor McAuley says several other studies have confirmed his findings. Findings which will hopefully lead to new rhythm based therapy and intervention in the future to help kids and adults overcome stuttering.

Beelal has tried therapy to no avail. But he’s not letting a speech impediment impact his future because to him actions speak louder than words.

“If I stutter than I stutter. If I stutter than I stutter. This interview went pretty well right now, like I feel like this went pretty well, like, I’m surprised I only stuttered 2 or 3 times,” said Beelal Fakhouri.

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