Stuttering in “The King’s Speech”


UC Irvine School of Medicine’s very own Dr. Gerald A. Maguire discusses the portrayal of speech impediments in “The King’s Speech” — a film concerning England’s King George VI — in an article by Elizabeth Landau for CNN.

Landau’s article gave the unique point of view of multiple people who relate to the predicament seen in “The King’s Speech.”

Giving his professional and personal opinion regarding stuttering and its role in “The King’s Speech,” Dr. Maguire told CNN, “It really captured well that anticipatory anxiety, the fear around the speech, the frustration that people who stutter have even today in seeking help and seeking relief of their symptoms.” Not only has Dr. Maguire had medical experience with the problem, but he has personally faced this battle. Dr. Maguire today researches this problem that affects approximately 1 in 100 Americans.

“The movie gave an accurate portrayal of the stuttering problem, and especially captured the frustration stutterers have in public speaking situations and the great lengths they will go to alleviate the problem,” Maguire said. “I’ve stuttered since I was a little boy, I went through speech therapy as a child and mediation treatment and found beneficial effects for my stuttering.”

In the film, King George VI is forced to take to the throne after his father dies and his older brother declines the opportunity to become King.

In 1936, the time the story was set, it was important for the King of Britain to make public addresses in person or by radio announcements. This was a major form of communication between the people of the country and the King; at the time it was possibly the only form of communication. Because of the turmoil in the country, it was vital for the King to come forth and console the country’s people.

George VI dealt with public speaking problems and consistently stuttered to the point of public humiliation. In order to deal with the persistent speech impediment, the King looks for help to fix his problem and be able to do his job. He finally finds a thespian fronting as a speech therapist to help him. After a great deal of work and effort, the King is able to speak with ease and address his country. “The King’s Speech” shines light upon an important issue, bringing it to the surface.

Dr. Maguire not only has a deep personal interest in stuttering, he is also doing something about it by running the Kirkup Center for the Medical Treatment of Stuttering at UCI with colleague Dr. David L. Franklin. The Center has been at UCI since 2007.

In addition to his research on stuttering, Dr. Maguire conducts his research on bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia and Major Depressive Disorder. His research at the Kirkup Center, however, focuses on finding new treatments and therapies for stuttering.

“At the Center we research and provide new medications for the treatment of stuttering. We also research the causes of stuttering and find new treatments for patients,” Dr. Maguire said.