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About Amy Umble:
Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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A king speaks out

Colin Firth won a Golden Globe award this week for best actor for his work in "The King's Speech."

When I saw the movie “The King’s Speech,” the first thing I thought about was the teacher I had in playwriting class. She would not let us bring a new play to class unless it met her “3Cs” rule: It must have characters in conflict who change over time.

She would have loved “The King’s Speech,” as I did. It has great characters facing memorable dilemmas who are dramatically changed by movie’s end.

The movie tells the story of King George VI, who suffered from a debilitating stutter. His therapist was Lionel Logue, an unconventional Australian. The movie builds to a dramatic conclusion when, on the eve of World War II, George must make a radio address to the British people.

Those who work with stutterers also are excited about the movie. Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation of America, has called it a “tsunami,” adding, “This movie has done in one fell swoop what we’ve been working on for 64 years.”

Fraser said in a phone interview this morning that speech therapists today still use many of the techniques that Logue used. They still tell stutters to slow down when speaking. “Slow speech has always  been a universal healer,” she said.

They also want patients to be aware of their breathing, she said. And some still use distractions, as Logue did with curse words, or masking techniques, such as when he asked the king to speak while listening to music.

To Fraser, however,  the strength of the film is its depiction of the successful alliance between a supportive therapist and a motivated patient.

“When you have that wonderful alliance,” she said. “The results are positive.”

(The Stuttering Foundation’s web site is here.)

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