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'The King's Speech' brings stutterers out of the shadows and into therapy

The popularity of the Oscar-nominated movie has resulted in a flood of new inquiries for treatment of speech disorders, specialists say.

February 25, 2011|By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times

Operating primarily a pediatric practice, she treats about 75 children and about 10 adults. But in recent weeks five more adults who suffer not only from stuttering but a variety of speech impediments have set up appointments and mentioned the movie as part of their motivation.

Chmela, the Chicago specialist, said that before the film premiered she treated about 25 clients. Today, she treats about 50.

Clients have told Chmela that watching the king's familiar frustrations and embarrassments play out on the big screen was uncomfortable, but that familiarity was what ultimately brought many through her office doors, she said. "Those feelings of anxiety are the same and the feeling of overcoming that anxiety is also the same."

The cost of speech therapy in the Los Angeles area hovers around $125 to $150 for an hour-long session, Douglas said, and health insurance rarely covers it.

When an adult does seek help it is usually because the negative toll the stutter has had on their life has become too much to bear. In deciding to take action, she said, it seems that a negative moment has been replaced by a moment of empowerment.

"Typically, there is something that brings them to this point of, 'That's it,' " she said. "Once they come in, they feel so empowered and are so glad they decided to take that step."

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