“The King’s Speech” has garnered the most nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards, in twelve total categories. The period film is up for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Colin Firth), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Geoffrey Rush), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Helena Bonham Carter), and Best Directing (Darren Aronofsky), among others. The movie has been graced with Oscar love and box office bank, but how does the film rate from a speech disorder professional’s perspective?
I had the opportunity to pose these questions to Butler University’s Communication Sciences Director, speech-language pathologist Suzanne Reading, Ph.D., CCC-SLP. She shared her expert opinion–based on 30 years experience–on the accuracy of Firth’s portrayal of an adult stutterer. Dr. Reading also related how treatments in “The King’s Speech” related to modern-day practices in her field.
Dr. Reading, as a speech-language pathologist what is your professional opinion of “The King’s Speech” after watching the movie?
Dr. Reading: It was excellent in showing the difficulty, fear, and low self-esteem that many stutterers have. It also showed that speech pathologists honor confidentiality for their clients; (the character of the King George VI’s therapist Lionel) Logue never even told his wife that he was seeing the King for treatment.
Are similar treatments shown in the movie used to help adults with stuttering disorders today?
Dr. Reading: Some basic principles of treatment are still used today, such as singing and background noise to show that speech can be stutter-free. The main technique that was portrayed and still used today is to have the person face their fear and not avoid speaking situations.
How would you rate Colin Firth’s believability and his portrayal of King George VI’living with and overcoming the speech impediment?
Dr. Reading: Firth did an excellent job portraying the fear that can accompany a speaking situation for a person who stutters. His stutter was also very realistic, especially the long pauses that can occur when a person who stutters is trying to start a stream of speech. Since I don’t know the speech characteristics of the King, I can only assume that Firth was coached about how the King stuttered and portrayed his stutter accurately.
Dr. Reading noted that she is qualified to work with all types of speech and language disorders, including adults who stutter. However, “Stuttering is relatively rare and so speech language pathologists do not usually see people who stutter exclusively; there would not be enough clients,” she said.
Does the movie deserve an Oscar?
Since film making is out of her area of expertise, Dr. Reading declined to guess the Oscar chances for “The King’s Speech.”
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