Written by Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca
Like a lot of 12 year-olds, Jake Zeldin is a fan of Canadian rapper Drake. But unlike other 12-year-olds, Jake has actually had the chance to rap with him. Impressive enough; but what's more impressive is what rapping does for Jake.
Jake Zeldin has struggled with a significant stutter all his life. But when he starts to rap, that stutter disappears.
Communicating has been a struggle for Zeldin since he first started to speak. But ask him to rap one of his own written songs, and the sentences and rhymes tumble out easily, one right after the other.
Zeldin's mom Robyn says her son figured out how rap relaxes him fairly recently. "He discovered about two years ago that he has this ability – that when he raps he has fluid speech, which is incredible because sometimes it's a challenge to speak," she told CTV's Canada AM Monday. "Rapping has really helped. He's incorporated it in with book reports at school and with talking, so it's amazing for him."
Two weeks ago, Jake went with his brother Cole to a concert by rapper Tyga, where Drake and fellow rapper T-Pain were special guests. The brothers decided to see if they could get backstage, where they ran into T-Pain who they had met the previous summer at another concert. T-Pain gave them a hug and introduced them to Drake. The next thing Jake knew, he was showing off some of his rhymes to one of his idols.
He has been in speech therapy since his preschool years, but with none of the therapies working, he and his mother decided to stop for a while. "We haven't done any therapy for the last two years. We decided to take a little bit of break. But we may visit it again," Robyn said.
Stuttering remains largely a mystery to brain researchers. For some reason, most childhood stutterers recover with no help at all, with as many as three-quarters outgrowing the condition.
Some stutterers find they can speak perfectly well in one language but stutter in another. Others find they don't stutter when they sing, or when they speak to young children. And for still others, the condition clears up when they act on stage and take on a different persona.
While stuttering was once thought to be psychological condition caused by anxiety issues, it's now recognized as a neurological condition stemming from an as-yet undetermined brain wiring issues.
The long-held suspicion of a genetic link is bearing out: in recent years, a number of genetic mutations involved in stuttering have been identified. But since these mutations account for only about 10 per cent of cases, more still wait to be identified.
Robyn says for now, she and her son are working on using singing and rapping to help Jake communicate. Jake has been writing songs, putting his music and videos online under the stage name "Lil Jz," and dreaming of becoming a professional rapper.
Why rapping helps, his mother Robyn doesn't know. But she says they're going to use it as best they can. "He has this gift; he has a different way to communicate. I think it's amazing and we're just going to try to keep it up."
Read more and watch the video at CTV News