New film raises awareness about stuttering

PHILADELPHIA - December 10, 2010

"Rain Man" raised awareness about autism while the movie "Precious" showed the realities of child abuse.

Now a new film, opening in our area this weekend, shines the spotlight on stuttering.

It's called "The King's Speech."

Today, Britain's royal family is in the news media almost every day. But more than 70 years ago, a soon-to-be monarch had severe trouble speaking in public.

Prince Albert, who would become King George VI, stuttered. No one could help him until he began working with Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. The story is portrayed in "The King's Speech."

Local speech therapists, like Joe Donaher of the Children's Hospital, are thrilled to have stuttering in the spotlight.

"So often in the movies, stuttering is looked at as a character flaw. And in this movie, stuttering is finally portrayed for what it is," said Dr. Donaher.

Stuttering is a disorder of the brain, and one that can be inherited.

"No one decides that they want to stutter. It's not an individual's fault that they stutter, and it's not a parent's fault that they stutter," Donaher said.

Donaher says the first signs usually show up between two and-a-half and five years of age. Half of the kids who start to stutter will recover, but they need therapy and support.

If they are punished or bullied, the stuttering can become entrenched.

In time, King George was able to be the strong, articulate leader his nation needed during World War II.

Donaher, who has seen some of the movie, thinks it will be inspirational.

"It's not the message that if you stop stuttering, you can accomplish great things, it's that you can accomplish great things, even while you're stuttering," he said.

Donaher, who works with The Stuttering Foundation, says there are many resources for those who stutter, and their families.

For more information, visit the website of The Stuttering Foundation.

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