New movie, The King’s Speech, casts new light on stuttering
Jan. 13, 2011
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430
The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The King’s Speech, a new movie focusing on King Edward VI’s struggle with stuttering, has been nominated for seven Golden Globe awards. While the movie is enjoying critical acclaim, it’s also bringing to light a subject that currently affects more than 3 million people in the United States. One University of Missouri expert says that catching stuttering early and taking advantage of available therapy can help make it manageable.
“For developmental stuttering that begins in childhood, about 80 percent of those children will recover,” said Matt Krause, an adjunct clinical instructor of communication science and disorders in the MU School of Health Professions. “For the other 20 percent, there are therapies that can help them manage the disorder.”
Currently, professionals use two types of therapy. The first type focuses on producing more speech fluency and reducing the occurrence of stuttering. While this type of therapy can be successful, Krause says the techniques for maintaining fluency can be taxing. People who stutter may try to avoid specific words, and thus, potentially create hurdles in communicating what they truly mean.
The second type of therapy focuses on changing the way someone stutters. Acceptable stuttering with little or no tension is the goal. For example, as people begin to stutter, they might clench their fists, tighten neck muscles, or tap their feet quickly; all of these actions make the stuttering worse. As therapists help people focus on relaxing and allowing the stuttering to occur, sounds are produced without the tension and people are able to use any words they desire when talking.
“Being more fluent is usually a therapy goal, but being able to say what you want to say and not avoiding certain words simply because you stutter on particular sounds is also very important to address,” said Krause, who stutters himself. “When I ask clients to work on relaxing the speech muscles, I first try to make them stutter with a lot of tension. Then, we repeat the exercise and focus on releasing the physical tension to allow the same word to be said.”
Krause also says many “old wives” tales exist about stuttering, none of which are true. Some myths are:
- Tickling babies will cause them to stutter.
- Telling people who are stuttering to slow down will “cure” them.
- Left-handed children are more apt to stutter.
- ·Overbearing parenting causes stuttering.
While no scientific evidence supports these tales, Krause said that parents should be aware of several risk factors for perisistent stuttering into adulthood. Some risk factors include:
- Having a family history of stuttering, especially if immediate family members stutter.
- Being a male. Stuttering is more likely to persist in boys than girls.
- Stuttering after age 3. If a child begins stuttering after age 3, there is a greater chance the stuttering will persist into adulthood.
- Displaying secondary behaviors, such as muscle tension, foot tapping, or clenching fists, while stuttering.
- Having a history of other speech or language problems.
- Not improving rapidly after first stuttering. Children are more apt to recover if they show significant decreases in stuttering within a year of its onset.
Many school districts offer free screenings that detect stuttering. Krause also recommends that parents also explore university or private speech therapists if they believe their child is stuttering. Therapists can then make a diagnosis and determine the best course of action for the child.
For more information on stuttering, visit the Stuttering Foundation of America’s website: www.stutteringhelp.org.