The King’s Speech: Speech Therapists Analyze How King George Overcame Stuttering
As educators and clinicians, we focus a great deal on theory, content and methodology, both in training and in practice. But when we examine what had the most significant, positive, and lasting impact on our lives, the answer is our relationships with others.
Stuttering, (called “stammering” in England) refers to sudden, involuntary stoppages in the ability to produce the desired word or sound. It is not simply a speech issue. It usually requires that the speaker is engaged in a meaningful communicative speaking situation. Therefore, most people who stutter do not do so while singing or acting. When a person is speaking out in a state of rage, stuttering is often reduced, possibly due to limited cognitive-linguistic complexity.
Approximately 5 to 10 percent of all children go through a phase of stuttering, but only 1 percent retain it into adulthood. At this time, it is clear that stuttering is caused by some brain-related neurologic dysfunction that occurs intermittently. There is no known explanation for why people acquire stuttering or why most do not retain it into maturity.
Stuttering can be exacerbated by stress but it is not caused by stress. In fact, stuttering often causes stress.
Therapy can be very helpful to people who stutter. For some individuals, it can help to eliminate the issue permanently, for others it helps on a temporary basis and for others it may be of limited benefit. There is some evidence that appropriate early treatment is highly effective. In general, the key to productive therapy is finding the right professional for your needs.
A new film called “The King’s Speech” captures the essence of a therapeutic relationship in a manner that is both dramatically magnificent and meaningfully realistic. While the film’s theme focuses on the King of England’s stuttering, the film’s lessons of how to face challenges and overcome fear with courage can easily be transposed to any of the many circumstances we face — and how the role of a teacher or clinician could be a valuable part of the process.
Unlike most American films, this film does not conclude with a magical ending and a miraculous cure or some stroke of therapeutic genius. In fact, as clinicians, we are deeply grateful that this film shares a more powerful story.
Each of us is challenged in some way at some point in our lives. And those challenges and limitations often become lifelong parts of who we are, for better or for worse. But the choices we make about how to live with those challenges and limitations can help us define our lives for the better.
The job of the educator/therapist is an interesting challenge. It is part science and part art. It engages both our intellect and our emotional selves in a soul-searching role. We combine our hope and passion with endless patience and acceptance for the slow, imperfect, often unpredictable journey.
We strongly urge everyone to see this film, now nominated for seven Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture of 2011. The King’s Speech is a wonderful teaching tool for students, professional educators and therapists because it opens the dialogue of what it means to become “that heroic person” — the helping professional in the lives of people who strive to transcend their set of limitations and life’s hurdles. #
To learn more about the challenge of stuttering from the perspective of the person who stutters or from the perspective of the therapist, see “Transcending Stuttering: The Inside Story” and “Going With the Flow: A Guide to Transcending Stuttering” at www/schneiderspeech.com/media.
Phil Schneider, Ed.D. CCC-SLP and Uri Schneider, M.A. CCC-SLP are partners in Schneider Speech Pathology, a private practice with offices in Nassau, Queens and the Bronx. They specialize in stuttering, voice, learning and public speaking; working with both children and adults and present locally, nationally and abroad. For questions or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.schneiderspeech.com.
[Ed: The King’s Speech is a highly acclaimed new movie underscoring how stuttering afflicts children and adults and the techniques that enable them to be triumphant in its conquest. It was of particular interest to me because my father, a linguist and highly intelligent man, suffered with intermittent stuttering and shared how he had tried Demosthenes’ technique of putting pebbles in his mouth to help himself.]