Our family saw the movie “The King’s Speech” about King George VI who stuttered and unexpectedly became King of England in the 1930’s after his brother abdicated to marry a divorced American “commoner.”
The movie does a wonderful job of depicting the Herculean effort the King put into making a speech without speech errors. Therapists often tell their young clients that “it’s okay to stutter,” and promptly follow that up with stickers and praise for making fewer speech errors. These kids might as well be King George IV needing to make public speeches when it comes to the pressure they will put on themselves to please us and not make speech errors. They either attempt (and most often fail) to put this level of effort into speaking, or they choose silence. Either way, their genuine level of engagement in their world diminishes. Sadly, this is often the result of today’s therapy for children that focuses primarily on minimizing speech errors.
The outcome of the movie (and the true-life story) is that King George VI was ultimately able to speak publicly with few if any speech errors. The heart of the movie (and true-life story) is one of friendship and mutual respect. King George VI found a good friend and listener in Lionel Logue, a maverick actor turned self-proclaimed speech therapist. Lionel Logue grew to appreciate and enjoy King George VI, not for the quality of his speech, but for the person he truly was. The real story is about an extraordinary relationship the evolves between these two men.
We, as parents, must advocate to ensure that the support we choose for our children who stutter results in genuine engagement and meaningful relationships, not simply error-free speech or silence. Raisa Gorbachev once said “Youth is, after all, just a moment, but it is the moment, the spark, that you always carry in your heart.” We must keep the spark burning brightly – as parents, that’s our #1 priority!