Thursday, January 17, American Idol introduced America to Lazaro Arbos. Lazaro was born in Cuba, and his family moved to Florida when he was ten years old. At first glance, looking at Lazaro you probably would think that he is a super cute guy with lots of friends and a date every Saturday night. In truth, Lazaro spent much of his growing up years friendless and alone.
In an interview with American Idol, Lazaro and his parents tell of his struggle with stuttering growing up. Lazaro’s stuttering has at times been so severe, he could not even speak and his mother, Gisela Andraca, had to speak for him. Gisela found a special way that Lazaro could communicate with her when speaking become too difficult; she would have him sing what he needed to tell her. Amazingly, this young man’s influent speech would become crystal clear while singing.
According to his mother, Lazaro began stuttering when he was six years old and became much worse after they moved to the US. According to Lazaro’s dad, Reinaldo Arbos, it was the amount of time spent alone in his room that fostered Lazaro’s love for music and singing.
It was apparent during Lazaro’s audition that the judges were not sure what to expect from this young man who could barely introduce himself and the song he was about to sing. All this changed as Lazaro’s beautiful tenor sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and the judges “walls” came down. Lazaro was given a unanimous yes from the judges to go on to the next round of American Idol in Hollywood. No matter how far Lazaro makes it, he has already inspired thousands and hopefully is causing conversations about stuttering to begin.
If you have a student or child who stutters, there are ways to help him/her feel more comfortable and confident about speaking.
- Do NOT interrupt his/her speech or finish his/her sentences.
- Encourage him/her to find something they really enjoy doing (even if it involves speaking) and give time for this subject or hobby.
- Model accepting behavior in front of other students in the classroom by ignoring the stuttering and giving the student as much time as he/she needs to answer verbally.
- If the student is extremely uncomfortable answering questions verbally, have him/her write the answers and give the same credit.
- There are no definite answers as to what causes stuttering, so asking a student who stutters to take more time thinking about the answer before verbalizing it may not help and may cause embarrassment. If you’re not sure how best to assist the student, speak with the speech and language pathologist for ideas.