"The King's Speech" Shines New Light on Stuttering
Imagine yourself as the student giving a report in front of the class, a business leader making a critical presentation to shareholders or the British monarch striving to assure and inspire your subjects during a war that changed the world. Imagine what it's like when stuttering makes it a struggle to communicate your thoughts to those around you.
Travis Threats, Ph.D., chair of Saint Louis University's department of communication sciences and disorders, says the new movie "The King's Speech" is raising awareness, increasing understanding and perhaps shattering some misconceptions about stuttering.
|Travis Threats, Ph.D.|
"Speech-language pathologists, including researchers in stuttering, have been moved by this film," Threats said. "The key to the movie is how one's speech does not define what one is inside."
Threats adds that too many movies use stuttering as a metaphor or an outward symptom of a deeper problem - either intelligence or one's emotional state. Golden Globe-winning actor Colin Firth's portrayal of England's King George VI presents a poignant view of a great man, a naval hero and loving father, who is thrust into sudden leadership when his brother abdicates the throne, and whose lmage as a leader is affected by his stuttering.
"Here is a man with a great fear of public speaking who agrees to be king and to give an address to the entire nation because of a sense of a higher calling to lead his country," Threats said.
"And he is very brave. How many people would ever publicly do something at which they could fail miserably and have been laughed at for in the past. He is a great man in danger of not being seen as great because of his speech."
For Threats and many other speech-language pathologists, "The King's Speech" reaffirms why they chose their profession.
"We know that those affected by stuttering deserve a voice and acknowledgement for all that they are capable of contributing to society," Threats said.
"Much like Michelangelo's belief that a sculpture was already in a piece of marble and that his gift was to see the art that was there and chip away the excess so that the rest of the world could see it, speech pathologists chip away at what they can of the person's communication disorder to allow them, and others, to see what lies within."
Facts About Stuttering
- Stuttering is a communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions, prolongations or abnormal stoppages of sounds and syllables and can include unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak.
- The four factors most likely to contribute to the development of stuttering include genetics, child development issues, neurophysiology and family dynamics. Stuttering may occur when a combination of factors come together and may have different causes in different people. It is probable that what causes stuttering differs from what makes it continue or get worse.
- An estimated three million Americans stutter with approximately five percent of all children going through a period of stuttering that last six months or more. Stuttering affects four times as many males as females.
- Famous people who have stuttered, and lived very successful lives, include actors James Earl Jones and Marilyn Monroe, singers Carly Simon and Mel Tillis, news correspondent John Stossel, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and author John Updike. Click here for additional information about stuttering.
To contact SLU's Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, click here or call (314) 977-3365.