By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Johnny Parker of Smithville and Bobby Griggs of the Wren community have a small share of the international spotlight this week.
People who struggle with stuttering and the professionals who work with them have been cheering the success of “The King’s Speech.”
The Oscar-winning movie depicts King George of England’s struggle with stuttering. Screenwriter David Seidler, who won the award for best adapted screenplay, stuttered as a child and dedicated his award to people who grapple with the condition.
For Johnny, a 16-year-old junior at Smithville High School, it’s interesting to have so many people paying attention to stuttering, but it’s also a little surreal.
“It’s kind of strange, but I want to see the movie sometime,” said Johnny, who has watched the previews with his parents, Patty and Randy Parker.
It’s wonderful to have these examples of King George, who never sought to be king and then had to stand against Hitler, and Seidler, who has received the highest honor for his screenplay. Mike Tonos 3/4/11
“I’ve always tried to put things like this in front of Johnny,” said Patty Parker, who stayed up to watch the Oscar wins. “He has big plans.”
Johnny’s stuttering is connected to cerebral palsy, which also made it difficult for him to learn to walk. He had therapy at Regional Rehab as a child and came back for additional help as a teen.
“Before I came back to Mrs. Kay in 2007, I was having a hard time getting the words out. I didn’t talk much to many of my friends because of it,” said Johnny, who has an extensive interest in weather and hopes to become a meteorologist. “Everything went from bad to good in a couple of weeks.”
Regional Rehab Speech Therapist Kay Mathews, who also serves as the center’s executive director, said she’s thrilled with the progress Johnny has made, which has allowed him to make public service announcements for Regional Rehab and make a presentation on hurricanes in his physical science class.
“He does still have some difficulty,” Mathews said. “But he doesn’t let that stop him.”
Mathews and other speech therapists around the country are thrilled with the movie and its depiction of what people struggling with stuttering go through.
“The movie is so good,” Mathews said. “It’s usually not so accurate.”
Although the speech therapists at Regional Rehab don’t use the cursing therapy, which earned the original version of “The King’s Speech” an R rating, they do use many of the other relaxation and intonation exercises depicted in the movie.
When Bobby Griggs returned to Regional Rehab for therapy as an adult in the 1990s, he was in a similar place to the future king at the start of the movie.
“When you watched (the movie) you could feel the pain,” Mathews said. “The harder he tried, the worse it was.”
With the therapy, Griggs, who is now 54, gained confidence, got married and started his own taxidermy business.
“It helped a whole lot,” Griggs said. “I guess I was more ready for it.”
The best thing folks can do for people who stutter is be patient and let them finish their sentences. The more relaxed and less rushed people feel, the less likely they are to stammer.
“There are days that I’m as fluent as anybody,” Griggs said. “But I have days where I struggle.”