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The King's Speech Enlightens About Stuttering and a Speech Therapist - featured January 25, 2011

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Guest Blog: The King's Speech Enlightens About Stuttering and a Speech Therapist

Editor's Note: I know we have been really talking about this movie a lot, but I thought that this blog post was especially interesting to share because it addresses questions many of us (who are not SLPs) have regarding the therapy techniques demonstrated in the movie. Talking to author today she also commented "I was actually most taken by the kindness and relationship the SLP had with the king--much like we have to forge with a good client-therapist relationship."

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did.


By: Sherry Y. Artemenko M.A., C.C.C.
Copyright 2011. Reprinted with the express permission of the author as it appeared on her blog.

I just saw “The King’s Speech” last night. It was every bit as good as everyone said it would be. Of course I had an added interest in the story since I am a speech therapist and wondered how stuttering would be depicted and what character would be portrayed as the therapist. I was pleased on all counts.

As far at the movie’s treatment of the subject of stuttering:
  • Even though some of the “tricks” that Lionel proposed to increase the king’s fluency seemed silly, it is true that when a stutterer changes how he talks, he can experience a period of greater fluency. Obviously, it is not socially appropriate to “sing” your conversation with someone, but it can point out that it is possible to change. Learning such techniques such as slowing down and talking more fluidly, practicing an easy start to difficult sounds (like /p/ in the king’s case) can encourage fluency.
  • Well meaning but ill-informed friends or acquaintances might offer similar advice as did those around the king–”Relax.” “Get it out boy!” Unfortunately these kinds of comments can increase the pressure that the stutterer feels and undermine his ability to talk more fluently. Instead a helpful friend or listener should listen attentively as if he has all the time in the world, letting the stutterer finish her sentence without trying to complete it for her.
  • Lionel took the king into Westminster Abbey to practice his speech in the setting in which he would deliver it. He was helping desensitize the king so he could relax and use the techniques he had learned to be more fluent.
  • Stuttering can be isolating for the person who is experiencing it. The king initially was frustrated and rejected the help offered him.
  • Adults can increase their fluency through specialized techniques taught by a speech therapist, but therapy is most effective when stuttering is diagnosed in young children of preschool age and they receive therapy.

The movie’s depiction of Lionel, the speech therapist:
  • As the movie progressed, I was enjoying the scope of Lionel’s character as it developed. He typified a well-rounded, competent therapist. Even though it was revealed that he had no formal training, (I wouldn’t recommend that!) he developed a close personal relationship that reflected a sincere interest in his client. I don’t believe a speech therapist can be effective without that.
  • He got on the same level as his client. As a therapist working with a child, I need to get down on the floor and play games and with toys as a child does.
  • He was his client’s biggest cheerleader. Didn’t you love his face as he stood right in front of the king when he gave his radio address to the country warning about the imminent war? He was anticipating every slip up and had an encouraging gesture to support the king. Good speech therapists are encouragers.
What a great way to educate the public on stuttering–create a movie based on a true story that is collecting Golden Globe awards and hopefully Oscars.

Our Featured Guest Blog/Author:Sherry Y. Artemenko M.A., C.C.C.

Thanks to Sherry and Play on Words PlayOnWords.com for sharing her blog post with us. Please support our contributors and visit PlayOnWords.com

About Sherry Y. Artemenko M.A., C.C.C. and Play on Words
For more than 30 years, Sherry Artemenko has worked with children to improve their speech and language, serving as a speech-language pathologist in both the public and private school systems and private practice.

Working and playing with children daily, Sherry has become an expert in evaluating children’s toys, games, and books for their language-building value. She has contributed articles and reviews to Parents Choice Foundation and her reviews appear in promotional media for Playmobil, International Playthings, Alex Toys, Thinkfun Games, and Baker Taylor Publishing, among others.

Sherry has been tapped as an expert and her insights shared in the Chicago Tribune, on News12 Connecticut, and as a guest blogger for TimeToPlayMag.com.

Currently, she is advising children’s authors and startups for children’s toys and media.

Sherry started Play on Words LLC in 2003, after 16 years with the Fairfield Public Schools. The mission of her practice is threefold: 1) to serve as a therapist to special needs children, ages 1 to 10 years, helping to build their speech and language skills and 2) to assist new moms and dads of typically developing children, ages birth to 3 years, as a personal trainer, teaching parents how to talk, read and play with their child to enhance language, and 3) to advise parents, companies and authors on the attributes of the best toys, games and media to build language.

Prior to establishing Play on Words LLC, Sherry’s career as a speech-language pathologist spanned 22 years in the Illinois and Connecticut public and private schools, where she worked with pre-school to high school-aged special needs children. In this capacity, she served on multidisciplinary diagnostic teams at the preschool and elementary levels. In addition, she helped to develop programs for teaching language through literature and worked in collaboration with classroom teachers to bridge language, reading and writing in school curriculum.

Sherry graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees in Communicative Disorders, where she currently serves on the Alumni Council. Licensed in Connecticut, she is a certified member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and has been a member of the Connecticut Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Infant and Toddlers Committee. She serves as the Chairman of the Adult Regional Committee of “Young Lives,” providing support for unwed teenage moms and their babies in Connecticut and New York.

Sherry and her husband Bob have been residents of Southport for more than 25 years. They have three sons who served as Sherry’s first Play on Words clients: Bill, Yale 2000, Andrew, Northwestern University 2003, and Peter, Duke University 2005.

Tags: Article Stuttering Newsletter 28 January 2011