Monday, December 27, 2010

"The King's Speech" is really about relationships...

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!

Happy 2011,
Doreen Lenz Holte


  1. Hi,
    I really enjoyed your blog and this post. I got the address from Retz - a good friend and colleague.
    In fact, I made a recent FB post to the same effect. Therapy should be about "friendship" and courage. (And some traditional speech techniques along the way.)

    I encourage you to check out our films at where we have documented "Transcending Stuttering: the Inside Story" and "Going with the Flow: A Guide to Transcending Stuttering."

    Besides screenings in NY, we have planned an interactive webevent with a Q&A on Jan 23. See details at

    Keep blogging - and good luck!

  2. Lionel Logue was special in that he instinctively knew how to let the king relax - and that in a time when the true nature of stress was still largely unknown. The king had to function within a highly regulated, formal and cold milieu - all factors that add to stress. By offering understanding and warm friendship, Logue was able to lower the king's stress levels - and stress, in all its many manifestations, is a huge component in stuttering. Unfortunately many therapists today are unaware of what stress exactly entails and how it impacts on fluency. Stress research, initiated by the Canadian biologist Dr Hans Selye, has not (yet) been absorbed by the speech therapy establishment.