In the film "The King's Speech," Colin Firth plays King George VI of Britain. After his older brother Edward ran off with an American woman, George took over the throne. But in order to address his subjects, the new king had to overcome a major obstacle: his stutter.
By portraying the difficulties the king faced in confronting his speech disorder, the film promises to bring awareness to a topic that is often misunderstood by the public, say national leaders in the field.
"We are absolutely thrilled to see stuttering portrayed in a way that is going to introduce a whole new generation to how devastating this problem can be," says Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation of America, a national nonprofit organization. She says the amount of publicity the film is likely to receive could have a major impact on people who stutter, on their families and on the help they receive.
"Public awareness could help in a number of ways — encouraging parents to seek treatment for children, helping reduce some of the stigma, helping to reduce bullying and teasing and increase funding for research into stuttering treatments." adds Tommie Robinson, president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Assn., in an e-mail.
Having a public that is more sympathetic will perhaps afford stutterers the comfort of not having to explain themselves every time they open their mouths to speak. If the film succeeds in that, Robinson says, "it would serve an important purpose."
Jessica Pauline Ogilvie