Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The outing of the stuttering king

In the King's Speech, the king has been outed against his will, and certainly against that of his wife, the Queen Mother. Much like in the gay community in the Eighties and Nineties, the outing and coming out of prominent figures will lead to a seismic shift not only in the public perception but also in the self-perception of the affected individuals. Ironically, stuttering is blatantly obvious when most stutterers speak, but it's hidden in that it's not talked about.

The movie will have a dramatic impact on stuttering world-wide. Not because of the realistic portrayal of stuttering, but mostly because The King Stuttered.

1) Stuttering is now acceptable. Many influential people did not come out publicly about stuttering. But now even the king stutters, so it's OK for them to say: I am like the king. I have the same issue as the king. Like the king, I overcame obstacles and this made me a stronger person. Check out Sandra Howard's coming out. She is the wife of the ex-leader of the British Conservatives.

2) "Ordinary" people will also come out, or be asked to admit to stuttering. If the king stutters, you are a bit like the king! Many will be proud to be like the king. Don't know why, but they will!

3) Celebrity, especially royal one, sells.Many journalists have to write articles about the movie, which makes them more informed about stuttering.

4) You cannot make fun of stuttering any more, at least not in the UK. Making fun of stuttering means making fun of the king! And making fun of the king is the high treason to the Empire! Onto the gallows of London Bridge!

5) Many journalists are completely clueless about the nature of stuttering, and most of them are copycats, also due to the time pressure they are under. So they will copy from earlier articles and re-shuffle. Luckily, I noticed that most are taking the neurobiological cause, and mostly the there-is-no-cure phrase. Ironically, we experienced the same as in the last century. There is a prevailing theme of the cause, and the journalists just swallow it. Luckily, this time they swallow the "true" one. I take some responsibility due to my lobbying hard for a neurobiological cause over the last ten years at conferences and on this blog. I remember that ten years ago, "neurobiological cause" was a bit of a taboo word. Now of course, I am a bit scared that the social, behavioural and cognitive aspects are lost in the debate.

6) I expect much more funding for the stuttering associations and research. But I fear that the real grass-root consumer associations like the BSA or the NSA will receive little money, unlike the well-connected organizations like the American Institute of Stuttering or the Michael Palin Center.

7) Parents will be less concerned about the future of their kids. Well, even the king managed to live with stuttering. It's not the end of all times. 

Finally, I expect that these effects will impact on the well-being of those who stutter. They will have less emotional reactions like fear, shame, and embarassement, because even the king stuttered. But of course, they will still stutter.


Satyendra said...

You sum up well. Hope people in a position to do anything about it are reading this post..

Anonymous said...

Tom -

Would you please share with all your readers the imperical, evidenced based, undeniable and unrefutable reseach articles/authors proving that-- once and for all -- stuttering is a neurobiologically caused disorder?

In my training and educational preparation as an ASHA certified speech therapist working in the Public Schools, I have not had any definitive information presented to me as such.


Bud said...

You said "I expect much more funding for the stuttering associations and research. But I fear that the real grass-root consumer associations like the BSA or the NSA will receive little money, unlike the upper-middle class organizations like the Stuttering Foundation or the Michael Palin Center." How on earth do you classify some organizations as "middle class" and others as "real grass-root consumer" ??? Sounds to me that you don't think the oldest foundation started by a man who stuttered and there only to help people who stutter rather than to make money off of them is "real"!!! The Stuttering Foundation of America was the only source of help for my mother's brothers in the late 1940s and they are still there doing a fantastic job of education, awareness, training for therapists, giving people sources for support groups, and sending free materials to libraries all over the country to reach parents, teachers, employers, and those who stutter so they are definitely "real." And, if you considered them "upper middle class organizations" because only upper middle class people support them, you are way off base. My mother's family was a very poor WV farming family with no resources but the help they got from the Stuttering Foundation of America and I wouldn't be surprised if much of the stuff that other organizations say isn't because of the materials put together by the oldest organization!

Sean Ben Noach said...

I'm converting to Judaism and I like to tell people upfront that I have a stutter before meeting with them, so that it's out in the open. I have been pleasantly surprised how many times Rabbis have said "You are in good company as Moses also had a stutter." I agree that, just like the king, it's good for non-stutterers to have a positive face to stuttering.

Anonymous said...

How do you know the King would be against people knowing about his stuttering and therapy? His wife the Queen Mother requested a movie not be made about it in her lifetime, that is all. Everybody of his generation certainly knew about it, it was no secret. What was "secret" was the speech therapy

Anonymous said...

Speech therapy was not secret. Here is an article in time from 1925 reporting he had speech therapy.,9171,738177,00.html

Misnomer said...

This movie must win the next oscar so it can get recognized, released globally and like Sandra it would benefit other stutterers all over the world too.
Does anybody know the contenders for 2011? anything is officially announced from oscar?

Tom Weidig said...

@Bud: What I meant is that some associations are well-connected with the establishment, and others are not. I know better the UK scene. There is a big difference between the BSA and the Michael Palin Centre.

Anonymous said...

All stammerers and stutterers, come out of the closet. You are safe now!

2011 should be come out of your closet year.

All of you closet stammerers, come out, don't be afraid.

Admit that you are a person who stutters. Come out!

Anonymous said...

"I take some responsibility due to my lobbying hard for a neurobiological cause over the last ten years at conferences and on this blog."

First reaction, funny.

Did you discover that stuttering has a neurobiological cause?

LOL, Tom, you have a degree in theoretical physics. Are you a stutterer looking for attention?

Nice blog though, and you are correct most of the time. Keep up the good work and no more attacking nice Mark Onslow (he helps people)

Bud said...

Thanks for the explanation, Tom. I don't know anything about BSA or the Michael Palin Centre.

Tom Weidig said...

@Last Anonym:

I am not attacking Onslow. I am attacking some of his work or ideas!

Anonymous said...

If the king stutters, you are a bit like the king! Many will be proud to be like the king.

Does anyone still aspire to be like royalty??

Unknown said...


I don't think there will be much of a change in the way people think and feel about stutterers.

I stutter, I have done a lot of therapy for it including both very heavy psychotherapy mostly reliving painful events in my past relating to fear which has helped me understand better and use more easily the Hollins program and I have not been very aggressive in the process.

Most people who don't stutter feel that although there might be some kind of a genetic factor or neurological cause to stuttering they still think and feel and observe that when a person stutters there is some kind of discomfort or fear in the stutter's mind when they stutter, that is, it depends on the situation. It is definitely situational. That is why there are times when a person does not stutter at all, that is why some actors or actresses don't stutter when they become someone else and that is why stutterers have problems with specific words and not with others.

In summary to the non-stutterer they notice that it is some kind of an emotional and/or psychological problem even if they can't put their finger on it. This is what they have told me when I made it easy on them to express it!!

People hope that science can come up with an answer yes that is true.

The problem is that if one tries to get at when stuttering first started it is very painful, very time consuming, and very discouraging and upsetting to one's self as one learns what happened in childhood.

This is the real reason why people insist it is NOT psychological and/or emotional. A stutterer knows to a certain extent the truth of the above paragraph and will ignore it al all costs while at the same time hoping for and demanding a cure for stuttering that is genetic or neurologically oriented.

Most people who don't stutter sense that this is the case.

Yes certainly stuttering is now a more widely accepted problem but it will fade a year or two or even less after the Kings Speech "glow" has faded.