“The King’s Speech” is a great film. But to Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation, it's something more -- a long-yearned-for opportunity to get the word out to schools, therapists, the general public, anyone and everyone, about what it’s like for people to live with a stutter and how they can get help.
The movie’s kind of like a “Rain Man” for the stuttering world, Fraser said in a phone chat earlier this week. “We have a world-class, superb actor showing us how devastating it is to stutter,” she says. It doesn’t hurt that he’s playing a king who’s leading a country against Hitler.
Fraser says she and her staff have seized the moment--they've sent out a blizzard of public service announcements to 12,000 radio stations and 1,000 magazines and a few newspapers. They’re distributing awareness posters to schools. They’re sending out e-blasts to the 25,000 speech pathologists on their database. “It was like a train going through the station — we wanted to jump on the train,” she says.
Stuttering, she adds, “is the only disability that people laugh at.”
She knows what that’s like: Her father, Malcolm Fraser, had a severe stutter. (He started the Stuttering Foundation back in 1947.) He was one of the founders of NAPA Auto Parts, and every Christmas there would be a big workplace banquet. “During that party, he would hand out pins to employees who’d been there the longest — he never relegated that to someone else,” Fraser recalls. “He would be up there saying. ‘T-t-t-thomas Smith, f-f-f-f-ive years with the c-c-c-company, we appreciate your s-s-s-s-service’ — only after it was done could I begin to eat my Christmas dinner.”