The King's Speech: A voice for the voiceless

Mark Bartholomey, Drew's father, is a stutterer himself. He says he suffered through years of taunts and bullying.

It won 4 Oscars, including Best Picture, but perhaps more importantly, the movie The King's Speech has won great praise outside the film industry.

The movie shines a spotlight on a speech disorder affecting 3 million Americans.

A Myrtle Beach boy and his dad are among those struggling to overcome stuttering. They join the Stuttering Foundation in saying The King's Speech helps give a voice to the voiceless.

In features like A Fish Called Wanda, movies often portray stutterers as buffoons, objects of laughter or ridicule.

The King's Speech is different. England's King George VI may suffer from speech disfluency, but he's also portrayed in the movie as decent, intelligent and well-mannered.

To 10-year-old Drew Bartholomey of Myrtle Beach, the king is a role model.

"He inspired me," Drew said.

Drew has had a stuttering problem since he was 4 years old, but after six years of speech therapy, his father says Drew has shown dramatic improvement.

Drew's dad, Mark Bartholomey, is a stutterer himself, who suffered through years of taunts and bullying while he was growing up, due to his halting speech.

"You didn't know where you were gonna turn, who was gonna tease you, who were your friends," said Mark Bartholomey.

Drew says things are different for him today, at the private Catholic school he attends. "No one teases me or no one says anything. It's like I don't even stutter," Drew said.

But Drew is well aware that as he gets older, it's more likely the taunts will come. "I can see when I grow up, there's gonna be people out there who are gonna try to get at me for that."

For Drew and his dad, The King's Speech represents just about the only time they've ever seen a stutterer presented in a positive light.

"Should have come out a long time ago," said the elder Bartholomey.

The movie begins with King George struggling through some proposed cures for his stuttering that seem outrageous to us today, like smoking or stuffing his mouth full of marbles.

As the movie progresses, an unorthodox and largely untrained therapist introduces the king to more effective exercises, some of them familiar to today's speech therapists.

"When he was using diaphragmatic breathing, the rate, monitoring the rate, continuous intonation, the melodic, like the singing, different things like that he used that are still used in some treatment methods today," said Drew's speech therapist, Nicole Young-Cline.

Young-Cline, owner of Young Talkers in Myrtle Beach, says the movie made a stutterer into a hero and showed how his lack of speech fluency effected his every interaction with other people.

"I just thought that was great to kind of get out there in society so that people understand what type of impact that this has on a person, but how you can have success and you can move forward and you can do the things you want to do and make those goals and achieve those goals," said Young-Cline.

She believes the movie will help change people's perceptions of stuttering, perhaps leading to a day when there will be no negative connotations to the disorder.

Mark Bartholomey isn't convinced the day will ever come when stuttering will be fully accepted. "That's how the world is. You always got people trying to put somebody down."

But Bartholomey says The King's Speech is an excellent film that will raise public awareness of stuttering and that can only be a good thing.

Now that the movie has won so much praise and so many awards, millions more will know that stutterers are not to be made fun of, are not slow, are not stupid. Things that Drew Bartholomey has known for all of his young life.

"Some people think that, but I certainly do not. I know better," Drew said.

Drew wants to be a doctor or lawyer when he grows up and says his stuttering never figured into his thinking about what he wants to be.

Note: The King's Speech is rated R, mostly because of brief cursing in a couple of scenes. If vulgar language offends you, it's something to consider before you see The King's Speech.