University of South Carolina

‘The King’s Speech’ puts stuttering in spotlight

“The King’s Speech,” the Oscar-nominated movie about the relationship between the king of England and his speech therapist, is putting the national spotlight on stuttering.

And that’s good news, says Dr. Charley Adams, a clinical assistant professor and speech language pathologist at the University of South Carolina’s Speech and Hearing Research Center and a chapter leader of the National Stuttering Association.

“It would be nice if we lived in a world where people were judged by what they said and not how they said it,” Adams said. “While there is no cure, today’s speech-language pathologists can help most people who stutter improve their fluency, especially in combination with support groups.”

“The King’s Speech” tells the story of how an amateur Australian actor and self-styled speech therapist helped Prince Albert acquire the confidence and skills to overcome his stuttering and anxiety to become King George VI.

Adams, who has seen the movie with members of his stuttering support group, said it offers an accurate representation of stuttering. “It shows not just the behaviors themselves, but it also gives you a sense of the shame and anxiety that stuttering can bring and often does bring.”

Throughout history, treatment for stuttering has ranged from cutting out parts of the tongues of people who stutter to hypnotism to filling the patient’s mouth with pebbles and instructing him to scream at the ocean. While treatment has changed since King George’s time, stuttering is still widely misunderstood, and expert treatment is hard to find. Many speech therapists have limited training and experience in treating stuttering, and parents of children who stutter may get outdated advice from pediatricians and therapists.

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