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‘The King's Speech' gets Oklahomans talking

“The King's Speech,” a film about a stutterer, has Oklahomans talking about the affliction, which affects about 1 percent of the population.
BY KEN RAYMOND kraymond@opubco.com Modified: February 22, 2011 at 11:05 am •  Published: February 22, 2011
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A scene early in “The King's Speech” resonates with Craig Dawkins, a business professor at Rose State College.

In the movie, Prince Albert, the man who would be king, is about to address his subjects over the radio. A red light beside the microphone blinks on and off a few times, then stays lit.

That staring light is Albert's signal to speak, but he stands there, transfixed by its baleful red glow, his words drying up and thickening in his throat until he can say nothing at all.

“He suddenly realizes that everyone in Britain is waiting for him to talk,” said Dawkins, 48. “And he just locks up. I really identified with that. It's every stutterer's nightmare.”

“The King's Speech” centers on the unlikely friendship that develops between stammering Albert (later known as King George VI) and Lionel Logue, an unconventional speech therapist. The movie won seven BAFTA awards and has been nominated for a dozen Academy Awards.

Among its biggest fans are stutterers such as Dawkins and John Robinson, 25, a speech language pathologist for Manor Care Health Service in Oklahoma City.

“This movie showed that you can stutter and still do anything,” Robinson said. “You can even be the king.”

The film “has provided context for understanding the plight of those who stutter,” Jane Fraser, president of The Stuttering Foundation, said in a news release. “For a few months now, people have been talking openly and honestly about stuttering. Therapists are seeing an upturn in referrals and inquiries. More families are discussing treatment options.

“Myths are being debunked. ... Hope and healing is displacing ridicule and snickering. ... People who stutter can hold their heads high. This is the movie's greatest accomplishment.”

Louise Washburn, 46, a speech language pathologist at the OU Child Study Center, said stuttering typically begins in childhood and is a lifelong struggle. Early intervention can help, but there is no cure.

The root cause is unknown, she said. There's some evidence that it is passed on in families, but no genetic link has been discovered.

“It's not necessarily a person who is prone to being overwrought or nervous,” she said. “It's more like the stuttering causes the anxiety, not the other way around.”

Stutterers make up about 1 percent of the population. Pathologists treat the malady by emphasizing fluency, changing behaviors and teaching muscle relaxation techniques. In many ways, Logue's methods in the film mirror real life.

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Support group meetings

The National Stuttering Foundation holds monthly support group meetings in the student center dining room at Rose State College in Midwest City.

Meetings are from 6 to 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

For more information, contact Craig Dawkins at 733-7466 or cadman12@swbell.net.

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