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"The King's Speech and the right to be heard"
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"The King's Speech and the right to be heard"

Sarah KilcoyneCommunication disorders are indiscriminate. They can affect  everyone from a king to your next-door neighbour, writes 28-year-old Sarah Kilcoyne, a pediatric speech pathologist from Brisbane, Australia.

The Oscar award-winning film, ‘The King’s Speech’, recently highlighted the plight of those in our society who struggle daily with a stutter and other communication difficulties.

The film outlines the story of King George VI’s work with an Australian speech pathologist Lionel Logue to overcome his stutter and  find his voice to lead Great Britain through the Second World War.

Stuttering effects approximately 1 per cent of Australians, with similar figures reflected in other Commonwealth nations(1). This number may not mean anything to you unless it was your sister, your brother or your friend who struggled daily to verbally communicate their basic needs, ideas and emotions.

So much of what we do each day relies on verbal communication, simple tasks like ordering food, buying groceries at the store and making phone calls for doctor’s appointments.  We all take for granted the ability to clearly communicate in these situations. The powerful story contained in this film encourages us all to walk a mile in the shoes of a person with a stutter and think about the daily obstacles that they face.

The next time you talk to someone who stutters, stop and think what it must be like for them. Take the time to patiently listen to them communicate what they want to say, and don’t interrupt or try to finish their sentences for them. Maintain eye contact and avoid well-intentioned phrases like:  “slow-down” and  “take a breath”. It is vital to show individuals who stutter respect because for them to say a sentence might be more difficult than you ever know.

As a pediatric speech pathologist I have had the privilege to work with many children with communication disorders and their families. Whilst there is no cure for stuttering it CAN be managed effectively. It is important for people who stutter to realize that they can access treatment from speech pathologists to assist them with techniques to manage their stuttering.

The most powerful message of the film is that communication disorders are indiscriminate. They can affect  everyone from a king to your next-door neighbour.

In one of the  final dramatic scenes of the movie, King George VI states: “I have a right to be heard. I have a voice!” Indeed, we all have a right to be heard and all have a voice. If you know someone who stutters and is not seeking treatment, use this opportunity to help them seek effective treatment and find their voice.

To find an accredited speech pathologist, find the speech and hearing association in your area.

(1) According to figures from the British Stammering Association 1% of the British adult population has a stammer. This is equal to approximately 459,000 adults.

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Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. All articles are published in a spirit of improving dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

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