The King’s Speech (Part 2): Interview with Jane Fraser, President of The Stuttering Foundation

Stutterng awareness poster from the Stuttering Foundation


Stuttering awareness poster available from The Stuttering Foundation

As mentioned in “Part 1” of this entry, I was invited to interview Jane Fraser, president of The Stuttering Foundation, about the movie “The King’s Speech.” This was an offer I couldn’t refuse, never mind that the only interviews I’ve ever conducted were to obtain case histories during the client assessment process. There was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity of channeling Larry King…or Anderson Cooper…or, more likely in my case, Wayne Campbell (think “Wayne’s World”). So on a cold, snowy morning in Clarion I connected with Ms. Fraser via Skype at her location in Sea Island, Georgia to talk. The hour I chatted with Ms. Fraser sped by quickly, during which we touched on memories of her father, bandied about names of speech pathology legends such as Charles Van Riper, Eugene Cooper, Robert West, and William Perkins, and discussed stuttering in the context of what she fondly called “That Movie.”

It is impossible to discuss “The King’s Speech” with Ms. Fraser without talking about her father, Malcolm Fraser. The two are intertwined, as each evokes memories, recollections, and impressions of the other. The founder of NAPA Auto Parts, Mr. Fraser, a significant stutterer, began The Stuttering Foundation in 1947 with the goal of providing “the best and most up-to-date information and help available for the prevention of stuttering in young children and the most effective treatment available for teenagers and adults.” Each Christmas, Mr. Fraser would hold a company party at which he would give a speech and distribute awards to a sizeable audience, a task which placed him in a situation which was not necessarily the most comfortable and necessitated his publicly facing the communicative challenges created by his stutter. Ms. Fraser recalled these annual events as she discussed an early scene in the movie during which the future king addresses a crowd at Wembly Stadium and a nation-wide radio audience to commemorate the closing of the British Empire Exhibition on October 31, 1925. She believes the sheer terror Colin Firth, the actor playing the future king, shows on his face prior to and while delivering this address will help people realize what a person who stutters might be going through when required to talk and hopes it brings about a greater day-to-day sensitivity. So powerful was the scene and its association with her father’s annual holiday party speech that Ms. Fraser watched it with tears streaming down her face.

Unlike previous cinematic depictions of stutterers as buffoons or villains “The King’s Speech” depicts the stutterer as a hero and, in this instance according to Ms. Fraser, “a man of duty.” In the movie we see an individual faced with the pressure of ascending to the throne while simultaneously tackling a severe dysfluency which disrupts almost all his interactions and attempts at communication. Undoubtedly he was motivated to become fluent and did achieve a significant level of success with the assistance of Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist. Ms. Fraser believes a large part of the future king’s success was the “therapeutic alliance” forged between himself and Logue. This therapeutic alliance, which Ms. Fraser views as a vital component of the rehabilitation process, extends beyond the mere implementation of techniques and strategies, but involves the process of establishing rapport, instilling confidence, and acting as a cheerleader for the client. She often mentioned Logue’s calling the future king “the most courageous person I know” as proof of the bond between the two and Logue’s sensitivity to his client. The nature of their therapeutic alliance perhaps allowed what Ms. Fraser cited as the interesting uses of desensitization depicted in the movie, namely the practice session in Westminster Abbey prior to the king’s coronation. They practice alone, free of any royalty associates, as if this landmark structure were any old place. Logue even takes the liberty of sitting on the throne and describing it to the soon to be king as “just a chair.”

Ms. Fraser and I talked at length about Logue’s promise of curing the king’s stutter in the movie (a point I took issue with in “Part 1” of this entry). Like me, Ms. Fraser felt that perhaps Logue did this as more of a confidence building gesture and means of establishing a therapeutic alliance rather than a guarantee of total fluency. By way of elaboration, Ms. Fraser noted that she would never do this (promise a cure) and that fluency can be increased in those who stutter and, citing the work of Van Riper, prevented if early fluency enhancing strategies are used with young children. Following this, I asked Ms. Fraser to speculate how King George VI would have fared in the age of television. She thought this medium would have been a “nightmare,” feeling that perhaps speeches would have been taped instead of broadcast live. Ms. Fraser was also of the impression that with each successful speech the king gave, his self-confidence would have grown and subsequent ability to fluently deliver a live address increased.

The movie has much to teach speech-language pathologists about stuttering, so much so that Ms. Fraser hopes the movie becomes part of the curriculum in training programs. What lessons can be learned? Ms. Fraser believes future practitioners can learn that confrontation is not necessarily a bad thing in the therapeutic process and that sometimes the unorthodox is needed. To support her case, she drew upon the work and examples of Cooper and Van Riper. Therapists should also not be afraid to take a break during the course of therapy, terminating intervention for a period and resuming it later. She feels this might be particularly useful when the clinician and client are out of sync, motivation is on the wane, or the process is not moving ahead. Perhaps, most importantly, Ms. Fraser thinks this movie provides incredible insight into the overpowering fear which occurs when a stutterer hits a block.

I would like to thank Ms. Fraser and The Stuttering Foundation for the opportunity to talk about “The King’s Speech.” That King George VI is a hero to her and that she views this movie as extremely important were evident throughout our discussion. Feel free to share your impressions of the movie and Ms. Fraser’s remarks in the comments section.

The first installment of my series reviewing “The King’s Speech” was previously posted on ASHAsphere and describes my impressions of the movie.

Kenneth Staub, M.S., CCC-SLP, is an Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He will be a regular contributor to ASHAsphere and welcomes questions or suggestions for posts.

The King’s Speech (Part 1): My Impressions

Poster for the movie "The King's Speech"

I was recently surprised to find an email in my inbox from Scott Squires of The Stuttering Foundation. Why would someone from The Stuttering Foundation be contacting me… after all, I’m a self-described “Voice Guy” with significant interest in adult language disorders. As it so happens, Mr. Squires, the foundation’s Director of Marketing and Communications, had read my posts for ASHAsphere and wondered if I’d like to interview the organization’s president, Jane Fraser, about the movie “The King’s Speech.” In the interest of conducting an informed interview with Ms. Fraser (which constitutes the upcoming “Part 2” of this post), I thought it best that I see the movie first. Because it was only in limited release at that time, my wife and I ventured from the wilds of Clarion two hours south to Pittsburgh and took in a showing.

The Kings Speech” is the story of King George VI’s attempt to overcome his stuttering as he ascends to England’s throne in the mid-to-late 1930s. Along the way, he is treated by an Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, who, through persistence and the application of various therapeutic techniques, convinces the future king that his stuttering can be cured. The movie culminates with King George’s speech to the British Peoples on September 3, 1939 announcing Britain’s entry into what would become World War II. (The actual speech can be heard here.)

During the movie I couldn’t help but be drawn to Geoffrey Rush’s portrayal of eccentric speech therapist Lionel Logue. Now I’m not a movie critic or a stuttering expert or a historian…what I am is an SLP who teaches in a university program responsible for the training of future SLPs. So it is from this perspective that I viewed Rush’s performance (and later “boned up” on the real Lionel Logue). What could I take from the movie to illustrate various facets of professional practice for my students? The movie was rife with examples, both of what to do and of what not to do as an SLP. I’ve chosen one from each category for brief discussion.

From the moment I first heard it, Logue’s promise to cure the future king’s stutter rankled me. And make no mistake, a cure is guaranteed in the movie (“I can cure your husband, but I need total trust”). I fully recognize that I’m viewing Logue’s promise of a cure within the context of contemporary ASHA practice standards. Maybe it was acceptable to guarantee a cure during the period depicted, a form of practitioner bravado or self-assurance designed to instill hope and confidence in one’s patients. Today, however, such an action would be foolhardy, potentially open the practitioner to litigation, and, most significantly, would violate the Code of Ethics to which we adhere as holders of ASHA’s Certificate of Clinical Competence. Specifically Principle I, Rule J: “Individuals shall not guarantee the results of any treatment or procedure, directly or by implication…”. Perhaps my discomfit is simply testament to the degree to which this tenet has been instilled in me by the organizational climate of the profession. And, for the sake of historical accuracy, the king was never “cured” despite Logue’s intervention, but rather continued to manifest a degree of disordered speech. In a December 2010 interview with Mark Medley of Canada’s National Post, Mark Logue (Lionel Logue’s grandson) described King George VI’s speech during a 1944 radio broadcast as manifesting the “watermarks of a speech impediment, signs in the hesitations and the pauses and the breathing.”

ASHA’s Code of Ethics states “individuals shall not reveal, without authorization, any professional or personal information about identified persons served professionally …” (Principle I, Rule N). When working with students in the clinical setting this is a stricture discussed over and over and over again. Logue practiced confidentiality to an admirable extent and could most definitely serve as a role model for students, both as depicted in the movie and in his actual life. At no point does he reveal his client to be the future King of England, not even to his wife and sons (though he, in one scene at the dinner table, is sorely tempted to do so). In fact, Logue’s family never finds out that his client is the king until George the VI shows up in their parlor and, in so doing, reveals himself. Imagine how hard it must be to keep something of this nature to oneself, not even confiding in one’s spouse…to strictly observe all that confidentiality explicitly and implicitly requires…especially when, like the future king, the client is sometimes exasperating and a source of professional discontent.

“The King’s Speech” might be the first exposure some in the general public have to the practice of speech therapy. As such, and despite being a “period piece”, the movie has the potential for shaping how the layperson views the practice of contemporary speech-language pathology. To this end, it behooves SLPs to critically look at the movie from a professional perspective, deciding what on the screen represents an accurate representation of today’s practitioner and what does not (historical differences notwithstanding). The above are but a few of my impressions. What did you like about the portrayal of SLPs? What didn’t you like? Please feel free to share your impressions in the comments section.


The next installment of my series reviewing “The King’s Speech” will share my discussion with Jane Fraser, President of The Stuttering Foundation.

You might find the following sources pertaining to Lionel Logue and “The King’s Speech” both interesting and informative (these were pieces I referred to as I prepared to write this post):

Bowen, C. (2002). Lionel Logue: Pioneer speech therapist. Speech-language-therapy dot com. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from http://www.speech-language-therapy.com/ll.htm

Dana. (2011, January 5). Review: The King’s Speech. Stimulated Boredom. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from http://stimulatedboredom.com/historical/review-the-kings-speech/#

Hallett, V. (2010, December 14). Surviving royal treatment: ‘The King’s Speech’ provides history of stuttering treatment. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from
http://www.expressnightout.com/content/2010/12/the-kings-speech-stuttering-treatment.php

Medley, M. (2010, December 13). As a speech therapist, he was fit for a king. National Post. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from http://arts.nationalpost.com/2010/12/13/as-a-speech-therapist-he-was-%EF%AC%81t-for-a-king/

The Stuttering Foundation. (2011, January 10). Stuttering and The King’s Speech. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from http://arts.nationalpost.com/2010/12/13/as-a-speech-therapist-he-was-%EF%AC%81t-for-a-king/

Kenneth Staub, M.S., CCC-SLP, is an Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He will be a regular contributor to ASHAsphere and welcomes questions or suggestions for posts.

New Year’s Resolutions


Photo by Fernando Coello Vicente

Happy New Year!!

I, like many reading this entry, have started the new year with a list of resolutions to guide my actions over the course of 2011. Recognizing that 78% of those who set such resolutions fail (Wisemen, 2007), I’m attempting to maximize my potential for success by tapping into the wisdom of one of today’s more popular “self-help gurus,” Dr. Mehmet Oz. According to Dr. Oz’s Facebook post of December 31, 2010 success can be more readily achieved if one’s resolutions are realistic, have a plan of action underlying their attainment, and are publicly declared. This entry represents my public declaration.

Now I’ll grant you I could probably stand to lose a few pounds…cut down on the swearing…become fluent in another language…etc. Because Dr. Oz recommends that the goals one sets are realistic, however, I’ll be focusing on other things in this public declaration. More specifically, I’ve decided to share my professional resolutions, those actions which might optimize my effectiveness as a speech-language pathologist working in the university setting. Here goes:

RESOLVED…I will earn half the CEUs needed for an ACE…ASHA’s ACE is automatically awarded to those who attain 7.0 CEUs within a 36 month period. To me, this is an important award because it represents my (and my discipline’s) commitment to lifelong learning and continued professional development. With the many different and cost-effective mechanisms for earning CEUs presently available, this award is accessible to anyone…my next will be my third.

RESOLVED…I will improve the learning environment in the classes I teach…For the most part I receive good student evaluations. Students like my enthusiasm for the subject matter, my content knowledge, my sense of humor. What they don’t like is how fast I sometimes talk. My rate inhibits complete and accurate note taking, makes classes feel rushed, and may reduce communicative effectiveness. I am a professional. I take pride in what I do and know I can always do better. As such, I will reduce my speaking rate during class presentations and in the process, hopefully, improve my students’ learning environment. P.S. … I’m open to suggestions.

RESOLVED…I will facilitate student interest and involvement in research…The benefits of student participation in research-based endeavors are numerous and include (but are definitely not limited to): the enhancement of analytic skills, critical thinking, and problem solving; the opportunity to apply classroom theory in a hands-on manner to solve real-world problems; stimulation of lifelong learning; etc. (Utah State University, 2007; Weber State University, 2011). Recognizing these benefits, I’ve always wanted to start a departmental research group comprised of faculty and students. The only problem is I’ve never really had a concrete idea of how to exactly go about putting such a plan into action. That is until I read an article by McComas, Fry, Frank and Fraley in the October 2010 SID 10 Perspectives which provided a blue print that just might enable me to transform my idea into a program reality.

RESOLVED…I will make significant progress on my dissertation…In many respects I’m an exception, if not an anachronism, in contemporary higher education. Namely, I’m a tenured faculty member holding the rank of assistant professor though I do not possess a doctoral degree. It’s not for lack of trying, though, in all honesty, I must admit to sometimes suffering from lack of motivation. I completed all coursework toward a Ph.D. at The University of Georgia in the mid-1990s but never took the final step. I’m currently in the process of writing a dissertation to meet the requirements for an Ed.D. in Administration and Leadership Studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. To be truthful, however, my project has languished during the past year. Well no more! I might not complete my dissertation this year, but I will make significant progress toward doing so. How do I define significant progress…all data collected and chapters 1, 2, and 3 completed by this time next year.

RESOLVED…I will continue to write for ASHAsphere (if they will have me)…Rereading the above it seems I’ve set an ambitious agenda for myself in 2011. Despite this I’d still like to write a blog entry for ASHAsphere on at least a bi-weekly or monthly basis (as I currently do). Maggie McGary, ASHAsphere’s “editor,” has provided something important for the association…the opportunity for members to present themselves and their ideas in a relaxed, less formal manner than what we might typically be used to. Not only that…its fun! Want to find out what the likes of Vince Lombardi and professional cyclist Saul Raisin have to do with our profession…well continue looking for my posts, as these are just a few of the things I’d like to write about in the coming year. Ideas…I’ve got ideas.

Well, I’ve now gone on record and publicly declared my resolutions for 2011. Look for periodic updates to find out how I’m doing. Now let me provide the opportunity for you to increase your chance of success for accomplishing the professional resolutions you might have developed. Please feel free to list any of your professional resolutions for 2011 in the comments section of this blogand, by so doing, consider that your public declaration of intent.

Kenneth Staub, M.S., CCC-SLP, is an Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He will be a regular contributor to ASHAsphere and welcomes questions or suggestions for posts.

In the Beginning

Country road


Photo by Dominic’s Pics

As the year begins drawing to a close I find myself taking trips down memory lane. Not normally given to dwelling on the past, I suppose having to update my vita during the past week has spurred these interludes of recollection. Being in the business of teaching tomorrow’s professionals, my recent thoughts have frequently returned to how it all began for me…my decision to become a speech-language pathologist.

In high school I was not the most studious of individuals…it’s not that I lacked intelligence, I simply lacked “give a damn.” Fortunately my high school was willing to assist its students in charting their course in life, having each of us take an aptitude test designed to help choose a career. I can still remember sitting in Miss Crabbs’s English class during my junior year and looking at the results…the test indicated I was ideally suited to be a speech therapist.

So that afternoon of my junior year I decided I’d become a speech therapist. Never mind that I didn’t know what a speech therapist was or, in fact, had ever heard of such a thing…if that’s what the test said I should be, well that’s what I was going to be. I resolutely stuck with this decision throughout my senior year…though I never actually took the time to figure out what a speech therapist was (I’ve already mentioned my lack of ambition haven’t I). Undeterred, I applied to the Speech Pathology and Audiology program at Clarion University of Pennsylvania and was accepted into the class of 1987.

Despite going to orientation during the summer, I was still unclear what a speech therapist was when the start of classes rolled around that fall of 1983. With all the confidence of a blissfully ignorant 18-year-old I strolled into my first “speech therapy class,” Speech Science I, and was struck dumb by what I saw…every seat was occupied by a girl. Yes…I had won…I had correctly chosen a career (or at least the test had).

Fortunately, during that first semester of college I also came to learn what a speech therapist was and, in the process, realized that this was the truly profession for me. The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve spent the past 20+ years in a career I find endlessly interesting doing a job that I more often than not don’t regard as work.

Now here’s the kicker to this whole story… Remember that aptitude test that set me down the road to becoming a speech-language pathologist? I looked back on it several years later, after I’d earned my graduate degree. Much to my chagrin I found that I’d read it WRONG…I had looked at the “female side” of the test instead of the side that provided the “male interpretation” of results. Though the world missed getting another mason, I like to think it got a fairly decent speech-language pathologist in return.

Kenneth Staub, M.S., CCC-SLP, is an Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He will be a regular contributor to ASHAsphere and welcomes questions or suggestions for posts.

I Came…I Saw

The 2010 ASHA Convention in Philadelphia has come and gone, though its memories remain fresh in my mind.  Like all conventions there are things which I’ll remember fondly and others, well…not so much.  In the spirit of channeling my inner movie critic, I present my list of convention HITS and MISSES.

Street flag "Welcome with Love Philadelphia xoxo ASHA"
Photo by Kenn Staub

HIT: Reunions with old friends…Walking throughout the convention site I was occasionally startled by shrieks as long time friends greeted each other, often with warm embraces.  Some had not seen each other for months, others years.  I myself was not immune (though I do not shriek)…whether it was reminiscing about the 1992 Penguins/Blackhawks Stanley Cup playoff series with Richard Peach…listening as a former professor, Larry Molt, told my current students embarrassing stories about my college days (“Don’t eat the eggs”)…chatting-up Leisa Harmon about the state of affairs at a university where I once taught (Minot State in North Dakota)…dining with Charles Ellis and shooting the breeze, talking about this, that, and other things as if we had just seen each other yesterday and not two years ago.

HIT: Meeting new people…As anyone who has ever attended a convention can attest, part of the attraction is networking.  Meeting new people, hearing other perspectives, learning from each other.  In this I’m sure I was not alone.  It was my pleasure to have met, among others…Maggie McGary, the moderator of ASHAsphere, who was kind enough to share her perspective on ASHA’s involvement with social media…Todd Tyler of Dynavox, who discussed developments in the world of alternative and assistive technology…Lesley Magnus from Minot State, who had some interesting ideas for further development of a poster I presented (“No, I had not considered that”).  Like my students, who were excited to meet and pose for pictures with Barry Guitar, I was not immune to being “star struck”…it was truly a privilege to discuss professional ethics with Norman Lass, an individual I’ve admired since reading his multi-volume collection Speech, Language, and Hearing in the mid 1980s (when I was a student).

MISS: Long lines…Whether it was waiting for coffee in the morning, trying to get served at lunch, or simply picking up registration materials, a line could be found snaking across the convention floor at almost any given moment.  After talking with many attendees, it seems that waiting to pick-up registration materials was the most galling.  True, ASHA provided an option for materials to be sent in advance, but a one-and-a-half hour wait to pick-up a paper badge, receipt, and swipe card on Thursday morning…after having already registered on-line…really.

HIT: Watching students come into their own…Like many college faculty in attendance, I was looking forward to presenting with my students and seeing how they would hold-up under the scrutiny of a nation-wide representation of speech-language pathologists.  Luke Martin discussing the perception of accented speech by SLP students for nearly three hours…Sara Johnson and Vanessa Wheatley, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 8:00 on Saturday morning ready to explore the portrayal of SLPs in print advertising with interested parties…Greg Hoover unveiling one of the first speech pathology-specific studies pertaining to effects of Lyme disease on cognitive-linguistic function at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon…they all acquitted themselves well and should be proud of their accomplishments.

MISS: Lack of session moderators…Though short courses had moderators, they were noticeably lacking at technical sessions and seminars.  Who was going to start the session…how were the speakers to be introduced…who would ensure that speakers did not stray from their allotted time…how were questions to be solicited from the audience.  Fortunately confusion was held to a minimum, at least in the sessions I attended.

MISS: Closed sessions…Fortunately none of the sessions I wanted to attend were closed (I suppose voice disorders weren’t that popular this year), but I heard grumblings from colleagues about having to sit on the floor and being turned away from packed rooms.  This, in fact, led some to leave sessions early or miss ones they hoped to attend in order to get seats (possibly) at others.  The end result was the same…missed continuing education opportunities, missed learning experiences.

HIT: Poster sessions…I love the diverse nature of the presentations which can be found at any one time in the Poster Hall.  Who knows what interesting subject is just around the corner??   I learned, among so many interesting projects, the history of aphasia therapy…how to prepare my students for potentially difficult clinical placements…that some SLPs still might consider blowing and sucking activities as effective for treating velopharyngeal dysfunction…how to make grad school more appealing to non-traditional students…the list goes on.

As with everything in life, there was some positive, some negative.  I’m confident, however, that my memories of what I learned, who I met, and how I enjoyed myself will last far longer than any negatives which might have been experienced.  This being noted, I do know one thing for sure…I can’t wait for the next ASHA convention.

This blurb represents the opinions and experiences of this author and this author only.  If you have a “HIT” or “MISS” or other memory from Philadelphia, feel free to share them in the comments section.

Kenneth Staub, M.S., CCC-SLP, is an Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences & Disorders at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He will be a regular contributor to ASHAsphere and welcomes questions or suggestions for posts.