Harvard Mental Health Letter

Ask the doctor: Stuttering and a king's speech

Q. Is The King's Speech, the movie chronicling the relationship between England's King George VI and his speech therapist, an accurate portrayal of stuttering?

A. Not only do those who created The King's Speech seem to have done their homework, but David Seidler, who wrote the script, has firsthand knowledge of the problem. In interviews, he has described himself as a "profound stutterer." Born in England, he moved with his family to the United States at the start of World War II to escape the bombs. At that point, his stuttering began.

In stuttering (or stammering — which may be the more common term in England), the speaker has trouble producing flowing speech. The "disfluency" may be repetition or prolongation of a sound. There may be unusual pauses at the beginning of words or syllables. Or the speaking rhythm may be unusual.

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