In the Oscar nominated movie, The King’s Speech, Colin Firth, portrays the true story of King George VI of Britain, whose serious stuttering causes him great anguish in his daily life as a Prince and younger brother to the future King of England.
Desperate to get help with his impediment, the future King George VI seeks help from many doctors before his wife, Elizabeth finds their answer. His dream redemption comes in the form of speech coach, Lionel Logue, who ultimately helps the future King deal with his speech impediment and desperate fear of public speaking.
King George the VI had a dream to speak clearly — without stuttering.
His coach, Lionel Logue believed speech problems can be caused by fear and traumatic incidents when we don’t process them correctly. Logue derived this belief from what he learned treating Australian soldiers returning home from World War, who stopped speaking due to Post-Traumatic stress.
I was fascinated by this film, both because my son suffered with stuttering from age 7 until age 12; and because for the past two years, every time I make a speech in public, I stop breathing.
From my lone seat at the back of the movie theater I was reminded of the pain a stutterer feels. I was catapulted back in time to the years when my son was most unhappy, insecure and struggling with speech. They were the years I desperately searched for the right speech therapist and often cried myself to sleep at night. Our own “Lionel” eventually came in the form of a counselor at my son’s new grade school, who had experience working with struggling kids and speech disorders.
She adored my son.
She met with him twice a week, and insisted upon meeting with me once a week to discuss ways I should support my son’s speaking efforts, and to instruct me on how I was to teach others how to treat my son when his mind raced faster than his mouth. She made it clear to me that it was my handling of my son’s speech difficulties that could make all the difference in my son’s progress.
We spoke openly about my divorce and what could be troubling my son, and the adjustments he’d made because of my traveling around the US for work, and how much this traveling was affecting this very shy little boy.
So I quit my traveling job to be with my son full time and help him achieve his speaking dream.
For three years I shared his dream.
Well, my dream was more that my son find confidence in himself and gain an understanding of how much he was loved, and that everyone is “different” and it’s okay to be “different”. Just look at Temple Grandin . . .
But kids hate being different.
I did everything the counselor asked, and encouraged my son to take a year-long drama class when he reached Middle school to help him gain confidence in himself. He shocked me by agreeing, and he appeared in 4 plays that year — completely stutter-free. The counselor’s efforts worked, and my son rarely stumbles anymore, in fact, now I can’t get him to stop talking. He’s a different person from that very shy, fearful little boy who trusted that his mother would make everything right.
His dream became my dream, and I pushed aside any dreams I had for myself. Sometimes our dreams are thrust upon us — asking us to become something greater than we were before. I was being called to be a better mother, even though some would argue I was doing a fine job. Looking back, the traveling job with its great pay wasn’t worth it — the company doesn’t even exist anymore.
I sat at the back of the dark movie theater watching The King’s Speech with great interest. I was fascinated by the character of Lionel Logue as he performed his magic on King George.
And I was reminded of 3 things –
- Most stutterers can whisper correctly; speak fine in unison; sing clearly; speak easily when they are prevented from hearing their own voices; speak fine when talking to pets or small children, and do fine when talking with themselves in front of a mirror.
- Stuttering becomes worse when under stress or emotional tension. This is especially true when speaking in front of a group of people, answering questions in school, and speaking on the telephone or over a microphone.
- I once shared a dream with my son to speak clearly, regain his confidence and enjoy school — and this shared dream came true.
My son went with me to see the movie, although being a soon-to-be-16-year-old-boy, he sat in another part of the theater. Several times during the movie I longed to squeeze his hand in understanding of what we went through when his stuttering was as profound as King George’s. We get so busy as parents that we sometimes forget the small miracles that have occurred in our lives.
As I was moved up the isle to exit the theater, I felt a firm hand squeeze my left shoulder. I turned to see my 6-feet-tall athletic son leaning towards me, “That was a great movie, Mom!” He placed his arm around my shoulder — something he rarely does in these days of cool.
“Do you remember when I stuttered?” he asked — not looking my way — probably due to checking out the teenage girls giggling in the corner. “Of course I do!” I shot back. I had to look the other way when I answered because it was one of those shared moments with your kids when you realize they will soon be gone from home. I felt the tears well up in my eyes remembering how hard he worked to speak as well as he does today, and how much I am going to miss him when he goes off to college.
“You saved me mom,” he whispered in my ear as he reached forward to push open the double doors to the theater. “You saved yourself Brian. I only supported your efforts.” I firmly countered. He abruptly turned and faced me.
“Nooooo” he shook his head, “You made my dream come true . . .” He lightly punched me the the shoulder. “Just like that speech guy in the movie. And I remember that you quit that job you liked.”
Th night air was cold and we thrust our hands into our coat pockets. “Maybe it was you made my dreams come true Brian . . .”
Then there was nothing but silence and the cold air around us.
“I’m hungry mom. Will you make me two roast beef sandwiches when we get home? Or go by the store?”
It was said he spoke in perfect King’s English . . .