Mar 232022
  • James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars stutters?

Yes, you’re reading this correctly! This 91 year old award-winning actor is a lifelong stutterer.

According to The New York Times, the Shubert Organization will name the Cort Theater, a landmark 110-year-old house located on West 48th Street, after Jones, a two-time competitive Tony Award winner who, over six decades, has appeared in 21 Broadway shows. Jones received a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2017.

  • How can an actor who stutters perform on Broadway?

According to Jones, early in his career when he appeared in Sunrise at Campobello he had a line — ‘Mrs. Roosevelt, supper is served” — that he struggled to deliver because of a speech disorder. “I almost didn’t make it through because I’m a stutterer. But it became a lot of fun eventually.”

James Earl Jones joins a series of successful actors who have stuttered, including the glamorous icon, Marilyn Monroe, and recently Emily Blunt, who in an interview with Sandy Kenyon, the entertainment reporter on WABC-TV NY, Channel 7’s Eyewitness News, explained that she was advised to pursue drama as a way to treat her childhood stuttering disorder. At the time she was publicizing her movie A Quiet Place, (which has been followed by “A Quiet Place II”). Her performances in both films garnered her major awards nominations.

You can learn more about why acting helps stutterers speak fluently by watching my interview with Sandy Kenyon on Eyewitness News on my homepage

You can read about stuttering and fluent speech in the articles on my website, including, and numerous others I’ve written. Just click the category on the Blog or Publications headers on my website homepage 


Check back soon for more articles on stuttering, public speaking, executive function skills and speech-language pathology.


Aug 242015

Some children, as well as adults, punctuate their speech with “um’s” and “ah’s” to their discomfort and those around them.  I am often asked:

  • Are repetitions of words and phrases a form of stuttering?
  • Can anything help people who can’t seem to get their words out?

“Ums” and “ahs” can be found at times in most people’s speech, but for some people this becomes a constant pattern.  As a speech pathologist I’ve heard many people describe their own speech or the speech of others as stammering or stuttering.  But are there really so many stutterers in the world?

Approximately one percent of the adult population can be termed true “stutterers.”  A stutterer’s speech is notable for repetitions or prolongations of sounds, especially at the beginning of a word, but also within a sentence. Facial characteristics of eye blinking, grimacing or other physical gestures can accompany stuttering.  Most stutterers exhibit this pattern beginning in childhood but the onset may begin in early adolescence.  A speech pathologist will be able to diagnose stuttering, which differs in intensity and characteristics from normal dysfluency.

  • Why do some people seem to have difficulty finishing a sentence?

“Um’s” and “ahs”, as well as repetions of words and phrases, function as “fillers” for both children and adults.  Expressing one’s ideas in a novel string of words is actually rather miraculous.  Of all species, only human beings are unique for the ability to find words and create sentences full of meaning and variety.  For some people, this process does not come so easily.

Both children and adults can create more fluent speech by planning their sentences, focusing on the ideas they want to convey, taking time to generate words and sentences, and using silent pausing rather than filling space with “um’s”, “ahs” or repetitions.

For individuals who find modifying their speech a difficult task, therapy for fluent speaking will make a critical difference.  Becoming a fluent speaker can become a gratifying means of expressing oneself — satisying  for the speaker and for those who are listening.


Check back soon for more articles on communication, speech pathology, writing and cognitive function.


Jun 122014

While the movie, “The King’s Speech” brought a good deal of attention to a problem affecting children and adults, most people generally have limited knowledge about stuttering.

Is my child really stuttering?

I am frequently asked by parents of young children whether their child’s speech is true stuttering.  Many children experience a period of normal dysfluency, generally between the ages of two and three, when their speech is notable for the repetition of sounds at the beginning of words.  But true stuttering has clear markers in the child’s speech pattern that an experienced speech-language pathologist can diagnose.

Is my child’s stuttering psychological?

When a child is clearly exhibiting a stuttering pattern, some parents worry that the stuttering is psychological —  an idea held by many people in general about stuttering.  The movie, “The King’s Speech” reinforced the theory of childhood pressures and trauma as the primary cause of stuttering.  It makes for good drama but not fact.  Stuttering does not begin in the stutterer’s mind, or as some theories suggest, in the response of the mother or father to the child.

Is stuttering hereditary?

Research does confirm a genetic link in families that may predispose a child to become a stutterer, especially in males.  This fact makes it important for parents with a family history who question whether their child is stuttering to have a fluency evaluation by a speech-language pathologist.

If it’s not psychological, what’s really happening?

A stuttering block is a miscoordination between breathing and speaking that results in a tightening of the muscles in the throat. The stutterer struggles to break out of the spasm and the result is the pattern we hear as a stutter.   Eye blinking, facial grimacing and other sites of muscular tension can accompany the stutter.  A degree of psychological conditioning can take place when the problem persists.  If a stutterer feels uncomfortable in a speaking situation, the problem may be intensified.  But the fundamental cause is neurological, not psychological.

Older children and adults who stutter may appear to be struggling to speak and the listener often feels uncomfortable watching. But young children generally are not aware of their difficulty.

Can stuttering be cured?

Stuttering can be treated at any age.  Older children and adults can develop techniqes to control their dysflency.  But children whose stuttering is detected at an early age have the greatest chance of developing fluent speech because they learn to coordinate their breathing and speaking in a natural way without becoming self conscious.


Check back soon for more thoughts on speech pathology, communications and executive functioning.




Jun 092013

Tune into Peter Moses’ radio show on WVOX 1460 AM,  Monday, June 10, 2013 at 3 P.M.  I’ll be interviewed by Jen Ross, owner of Watercooler, a co-working space on Main Street in Tarrytown.  We’ll be talking about my work as a speech and communications coach as well as other aspects of my practice as a speech-language pathologist.

I’ll be taking questions from listeners so feel free to call into the program.

May 082013

What is stuttering and what causes it?

I’ve been asked this question many times but much more frequently since the Academy award movie “The King’s Speech” brought the problem of stuttering to the public’s attention.  Most of us have seen people who can’t get their words out, who hesitate or seem to get stuck speaking, who “stammer.”  What separates this type of speech from the “um’s and ah’s, hesitations and repetitions that most people experience to some degree?

By definition, stuttering is a speech pattern of repeating or prolonging the first sounds or syllables of a word.  Eye blinking, facial grimacing and other noticeable changes sometimes accompany the stuttering block.  The person who stutters frequently appears to be struggling to speak and the listener oftens feels uncomfortable watching.

What’s happening when someone stutters?  Fundamentally, the stuttering block is a miscoordination between breathing and speaking that results in a tightening of muscles in the throat.  The speaker struggles to break out of this spasm and the result is the speech pattern we hear as a stutter.

Is this psychological?  If I were to ask people in the street, I would receive a resounding “yes.”  But in fact, stuttering is a neurological problem that causes the miscordination I’ve described, not a psychological one.  “The King’s Speech” reinforced the theory of childhood pressures and trauma as the cause of stuttering.  As drama, the idea worked very well, but it’s not factual.  For sure,  psychological conditioning occurs when someone experiences stuttering blocks,  setting up a pattern of behavior.  Even more, when the stutterer feels uncomfortable or anxious in a speaking situation, the problem can become worse.  But it doesn’t start in the stutterer’s mind.

Are “um’s, ah’s” that I’ve recently written about in this blog part of a stuttering pattern?  Rarely so, although some stutterers use fillers to bridge the gap when they block on a word.  In both cases, the speaker gives an impression of rough, disjointed speech, not smooth speaking.

Can stuttering be treated?  Both children and adults can be treated for stuttering or dysfluency but it usually takes effort on the stutterer’s part to use the techniques learned, except for young children who can more easily modify their speaking without becoming aware of the extent of their problem.

Stuttering affects 1% of the adult population and occurs in all countries, among speakers of every language.   Stuttering can shape someone’s behavior and affect his or her life in profound ways.  But it is treatable.


Check back next week for more thoughts on communications and speech.


Feb 262013

LazarSpeech, a  private practice helping children and adults develop and improve their communication skills, has launched a new website.  Please visit the website, and share it with colleagues, friends and family.  Feel free to share articles in the Publications section and leave your comments.  I will be adding additional Blog posts on topics of interest and welcome your ideas for future articles.  You can also email me questions and comments at:  I look forward to hearing from you!