Tag Archives: Our Time Theater Company

The King’s Speech and Some Stuttering Information

1 Mar

“Listen to me… I have a voice!”

Colin Firth as King George VI


I saw the King’s Speech a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it.  Now that it won an Academy Award for Best Picture, I simply can’t avoid mentioning it here.

I loved the portrayal of the speech therapist, Lionel Logue.   Besides the fact that I simply admired his personality and his deep understanding of his client, I felt that his character was a positive nod to the profession of Speech Pathology at large.  Lionel Logue certainly contributed to the early development of the field of Speech Pathology.  And I find that many people don’t exactly know what I (a Speech Pathologist) do for a living, or they are quick to assume that I mainly help to correct lisps.  To learn more about what a Speech Pathologist does, click this link for a short cheat-sheet.

(P.S. I currently only have 3 kids on my caseload who are working on intelligible speech or articulation errors, like a lisp, and 3 kids who stutter.  I see a total of 34 kids so it’s a small percentage of what I do every day).

Lionel Logue was a pioneer in the field of Speech Pathology.   His background was in public speaking.   Although he didn’t have the same training in anatomy, physiology, child development and communication science and disorders that Speech Pathologists have today, he did possess  an ingenuity, and a deep sense of empathy that, in conjunction with his background in public speaking,  set the stage for him to achieve better levels of speech fluency with the clients he worked with.

Some of the strategies he used with the King to help him produce fluent speech in the movie are not supported by evidenced-based research to be effective across patients.  However, other strategies are still part of the framework that many Speech therapists use today when working with people who stutter.

For more information on Lionel Logue, and a brief background on the field of Speech Pathology , you can read a short article in the ASHA Leader by Dr. Caroline Bowen, an Australian Speech-Language Pathologist.

It is estimated that more than 60 million people in the world stutter, including 5% of all children.  There is still no conclusive evidence as to the cause of stuttering.  Some more recent studies suggest that there is a genetic component to the disorder, and it is not just a product of environmental factors.  We do know that stuttering is more common among males than females.  However, how stuttering develops, and when and where stuttering occurs (at beginning of words, on certain words, a whole word, a part of a word, certain sounds, at certain times of day, in certain environments, when talking to certain people, etc.) is different for each person who stutters.  It has been said that no two people stutter alike.

Researchers believe that some children are born with a predisposition to stutter.   Many kids when they are learning to talk, have “disfluent” or “bumpy” speech.  Some kids grow out of this as they gain a better command over language.  Many kids who begin to stutter early on will stop.  Other kid’s who exhibit these same “disfluencies”, “bumpy speech”, or “moments of stuttering” can be exacerbated by how other people react to them or how frustrated they themselves are with their speech as they are learning.  Kids who are easily frustrated and/or have a predisposition to stutter may tense their muscles more and have a more difficult time stringing together coordinated muscle movements necessary for fluent speech.

What is most interesting to me, and what I focus on in therapy sessions with people who stutter, is that, all people, even those who are very disfluent (or stutter A LOT) have moments of speech in which they ARE fluent and they are NOT stuttering.  The focus therefore, is on what they are doing with their muscles, tongue, teeth, lips, and breathing in those moments of fluency.  Then it becomes a matter of translating that awareness to other, more bumpy or difficult moments of speech.

If you’re interested in learning more about stuttering, a great place to start is the American Speech-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Information for Public section. Or, feel free to stop by my office if you are at PS20 or email me with any questions if you’re not.

Finally, I will probably write another blog entry at some point on the Our Time Theater Company, a FREE program right here in New York City that aims to improve the confidence and communication skills of kids who stutter through the arts, but I need to quickly mention it because their upcoming show I Could Be King is a tribute to David Seidler, the screenwriter of the King’s Speech, and a childhood stutterer.

Here is Our Time’s Mission Statement, but I really encourage you to take a peak at their website, especially if you know a child of age 5 -18 who stutters.  It is an incredible organization and best of all, many of their programs are FREE:

Our Time is a non-profit organization that uses the arts to improve the confidence and communication skills of children who stutter.  Through a local New York City-based program and a summer camp open to children from around the nation and abroad, Our Time helps young people transform their fear and shame from stuttering into confidence and determination to reach their fullest potential.  Our Time participants gain enriching friendships and experience tangible success, giving them the confidence to overcome the challenges presented by stuttering.

Our Time serves children who stutter, their young family members and friends, ages 5 to 18, from a wide diversity of backgrounds.  The company is committed to offering its NYC programming free of charge and providing financial aid for its national program, Camp Our Time.

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