Monday, March 14, 2011

The King and I

I tried for a while to come up with a title for this post, and I figured this one would pique your interest.

The interest in the movie "The King's Speech" has brought up a lot of memories and emotions for me. I grew up as a stutterer. It amazes me, and I can only attribute it to God's grace, that my chosen profession is exactly what caused me the most pain as a child: reading aloud and talking in front of groups of people. That pain has kept me from talking about, even thinking about, those memories of excruciating humiliation until just the last few years.

My stuttering began about the time it does for most children, around age five. My parents took me to psychologists and speech therapists to no avail. Around my middle school years it began to release its hold on me, due perhaps to an effective school speech therapist, perhaps to growing out of it. (Though I know that doesn't happen for many stutterers.) By the end of high school, it was mostly gone. However, as I read in a wonderful article by David Mitchell in Prospect Magazine, we stutterers are like alcoholics who no longer drink. We are stutterers who do not currently stutter.

Thinking about this, talking about it, even writing about it now makes my heart pound. That fear will always be present. The success of "The King's Speech" has made it a topic in the community, so I thought I'd give another face to the cast of those who have this "disability." I actually haven't seen the movie, and I'm still not sure whether I can bring myself to sit through it. I have to say that since the topic has been more on my mind, I've felt that catch in my throat more times in the last months than I have in years.

I'm working on writing a picture book in the hopes that children can say "Yeah, it's like that," to parents and teachers, and find some validation and hope. I suppose if it gets published I'll do a lot more talking about it, but if it doesn't, I'll probably be just as happy pushing it all back out of my conscious thoughts. In my story, the main character finds a friend in someone who sees past her problem. Parents, please teach your children to do the same, to see a child who stutters as just another child in need of a friend.


Anonymous said...

Way to be bold. I definitely think that book will strengthen and help kids in the future. I love you!

- Your daughter

Anna Briggs said...

Teresa, please write this book! I was forwarded the link to your blog by my neighbor Nicole, who along with her children, are big fans of yours. This happened after I mentioned that I had just watched "The King's Speech." I told her how surprised was at how much I enjoyed the movie and the extraordinary job the actor did at portraying a stammerer, as they call it in the movie. Nicole told me that you wrote in your blog about your struggle with stuttering. Interesting that you mention two things from the movie, which I understand you haven't seen yet. The first is the age at which most stuttering begins, age five. And, two the fear a person who has overcome stuttering has that they may at any moment revert to stuttering again. I agree with you that this movie may be difficult for you to times in the movie it was excruciating for me, and I have never struggled with this myself. Should you write this book while the awareness has been brought to the forefront of conversation? Undoubtedly there is no better time! In your blog you ask parents to help their children see past the stuttering in another child in order to be a friend. Giving parents practical ideas about how to teach their children to do this this is an important reason for writing your book. Who would know better than you? I look forward to reading it.

Anna Thomas Briggs