The King’s Speech has already taken home some top honors this year at the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards and the Golden Globes. If it takes home an Oscar tonight, it has the potential to have a huge impact on kids.
The movie is the story of King George VI of Britain, his rise to take over the throne and the speech therapist Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush) who helped the stuttering monarch overcome his stammer. The film received 12 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Actor (Firth), Director (Hooper), Original Screenplay (Seidler), Supporting Actress (Bonham Carter) and Supporting Actor (Rush). It is ultimately an encouraging tale that will give hope to many children who stutter. Some are saying that this movie will shine a light on stuttering much in the same way that Rain Man highlighted autism.
London writer David Seidler also developed a profound childhood stutter and looked up to King George VI, who became a boyhood hero, role model and inspiration for Seidler’s film. Seidler is said to have suffered from such a strong childhood stutter that he feared the ring of the telephone because he was unable to make the ‘h’ sound to say ‘hello’.
Stuttering is often a misunderstood condition and kids who suffer from it can experience many repercussions including low self-esteem and loss of confidence. While stuttering has certainly gone unnoticed by many, there is one organization that helps kids who stutter. It is a camp in New York called Our Time and was founded by Taro Alexander, who has stuttered since he was five years old and knows firsthand the shame children who stutter feel each day.
Alexander didn’t meet another person who stuttered until he was in his twenties. He created Our Time to make certain that other children don’t feel the isolation he battled for nearly two decades. It is the only such organizations in America that bring sensitivity and compassion to a group of youngsters who are often consumed by shame, or worse, ignored. Our Time has two core programs: a sleep-away camp that welcomes children who stutter, as well as their young family members and friends, ages 8-18, from across the nation and abroad, and a year-round program that serves children who stutter, ages 5-18, from the New York tri-state area.
Like any misunderstood condition or disease, the key to combating it and the stigma that goes along with it is awareness and education. The King’s Speech and organizations like Our Time help kids and their families better understand the condition and learn to deal with it. To me, entertainment and art is at its best when it can bring life issues to the forefront and illustrate ways that people have overcome the odds. When a movie has the potential to help many children, it makes it even more worthy of accolades.