Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Movie Review: The King's Speech

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Movie Review: The King's Speech

Article excerpt

By Janet Farrell Leontiou, Ph.D.

Recently, I saw the film The King's Speech. As the mother of a child with a disability, I was anxious to see how the therapeutic model of speech therapy was to be presented.

The film tells the story of Prince Albert and his quest to overcome stuttering. He tries many therapies and they all fail until his wife finds an unorthodox therapist. One therapy begins to take hold just as Prince Albert takes his place on the throne as the King of England.

The film is one of the finest films I have ever seen and I think the point it makes about therapy reinforces what every parent of a child with a disability already knows. Therapeutic intervention, in order to be successful, must be relational. The Prince and therapist formed a bond between them and it is in that bond where learning and healing can happen. Therapy and education when done outside the realm of relationship will have no effect. A therapist who does therapy by merely focusing on technique or a teacher who merely delivers information will leave no impression.

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When I watch the film, I think of one of my sons, Zachary, who stutters from time-to-time. I also think of my other son, Andreas, who has cerebral palsy and spends much of his day with his therapists. Lastly, I think of my students in the community college where I teach. When I noticed that Zachary started to stutter, I brought him to Phil Schneider who has devoted his career to trying to understand the enigma of stuttering. He explained to me that stuttering is not a psychological issue, as it was described appropriately for the time in the film, but instead an interpersonal issue. Stuttering occurs in an interpersonal context. It would then follow, as it shows in the film, that the healing then must also happen in an interpersonal context. Dr. Schneider did a wonderful job of building a relationship with Zachary through play. I remember learning once that to a child, if you do not play, you have no value. This idea gave me so much to think about because my son is physically limited, so engaging with play is difficult. Dr. Schneider got down on the floor and "dropped in" the therapy in the context of the play. It is the same approach that I have seen good therapists use with my son. …

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