The King’s Speech
British Stammering Association comments on The King’s Speech
The British Stammering Association (BSA) is the UK’s national charity for adults and children who stammer. Founded in 1978, its aims are to offer support to all whose lives are affected by stammering, to support research into stammering and to raise awareness of the issues surrounding stammering. It works with others such as The Communication Trust on the National Year of Communication 2011 and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists on their Giving Voice campaign.
The King’s Speech: Colin Firth as King George VI, with Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter.
1. The British Stammering Association (BSA) welcomes the release of The King’s Speech. David Seidler, the script writer, Tom Hooper (Director) and Colin Firth (playing King George VI) are to be congratulated on their realistic depiction of the frustration and the fear of speaking faced by people who stammer on a daily basis. Colin Firth’s portrayal of the King’s stammer in particular strikes us as very authentic and accurate (see also BSA’s interview with Colin Firth).
2. The film offers a golden opportunity to talk openly about stammering. Too often, stammering is treated as embarrassing and shameful, something that may not be talked about in polite company. BSA profoundly disagrees with this view and we welcome the opportunity for more openness around this potentially serious communication disability.
3. There are about 720,000 adults and children in the UK who stammer. Early intervention as soon as possible after onset around the age of 3 years has been shown to be very effective in terms of complete recovery of fluent speech; intervention at school-age or even later offers the benefit of ameliorating the symptoms and the often severe psychological, social, educational and economic impact that stammering can have.
4. The film is very clear that the King is neither ‘cured’ nor does he ‘overcome’ his stammer. Colin Firth, in an interview with the BSA, states that to show the King as having been cured would have been ‘a lie’. Rather, he says, the King is shown to ‘come to an arrangement’ with his stammer.
5. Lionel Logue’s methods, as depicted in the movie are, as far as we know, largely artistic licence. Logue’s diaries are vague about his actual therapy methods. We know that he treated soldiers returning from the trenches who were suffering from mutism due to shell-shock. This gave him an appreciation for the psychological aspects of communication, something we believe he put to good use in his therapy. Logue had no specific training as a therapist – he was an innovator, working before modern stammering therapy had been developed.
6. Today’s speech and language therapy experience would be rather different than the one depicted in the film. Considering the fact that the events depicted are over 70 years in the past, this is hardly surprising.
7. BSA’s information and support service, both through our general website and our dedicated website on information for school staff as well as our helpline, can give accurate and unbiased advice on all aspects of stammering, including detailed information and support on matters relating to education. Our database of speech therapy provision can point every enquirer to their nearest NHS speech therapy department.