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Waltham practice brings "The King’s Speech" methods to life

YCAN - Waltham practice brings "The King’s Speech" methods to life




“The King’s Speech” has garnered awards and acclaim throughout the world , including Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, for its depiction of a famous stutterer trying to overcome his impediment.

A Waltham speech therapy practice hopes that success will help bring more people through its doors.

Communicative Health Care Associates (CHCA) on Main Street has been in business for over 35 years and helps those struggling with speech problems such as stuttering. One in 20 children stutter at some point in their development, while one out of 100 people deal with stuttering throughout their lifetime, according to The Stuttering Foundation.

With the success of the film, which won four Oscars Sunday at the Academy Awards, representatives from CHCA are hoping it will encourage more people to seek help for their speech impediments.

“(The movie) might allow people to feel more comfortable to find out what their issue might be and get some help for it,” said Cynthia Reppucci, a speech language pathologist who has worked with CHCA for 26 years.

The film depicts the struggles of King George VI, who had to overcome a severe stuttering problem as he ascended to the crown and England stood on the brink of war.

The king, played by Colin Firth, goes through a number of different speech therapies in the film to control his speech. One of those techniques which is still used today is biofeedback. Though it’s depicted slightly differently in the film, modern therapy uses biofeedback by playing a patient’s voice back to them with a slight delay through headphones, forcing the patient to wait to hear their own voice before continuing to speak.

The process slows down the patient’s speech, and in many cases prevents them from stuttering.

“Often times, stutterers can be very rapid speakers,” said Reppucci. “They’re often competing in rapidly speaking households and the parents will admit, ‘we talk fast so he has to hurry to get a word in edgewise.’ Biofeedback slows down your speech. You can’t speak at the same time while hearing so you have to slow down.”

Stutterers also tend to speak through their clavicle rather than from the diaphragm, causing them to easily run out of breath and seem tense.

Nowadays, biofeedback can be performed with tiny devices that are placed inside the patient’s ear. It’s just one example of how technology has changed the speech therapy field. An iPhone application evaluates and scores speech behaviors.

“The technology is making it a lot more palatable for students,” said Reppucci.

Stuttering is defined as a motor speech disorder and is thought to be mainly genetic. It can stem from tightness of the lips, which causes the sufferer to stumble over certain hard consonant sounds. Relaxation methods and facial massages can help to loosen the tightened mouth.

Reppucci said that stuttering used to be considered a psychological or psychiatric disorder. Nonetheless, there are many factors, such as illness, anxiety and emotions, which can perpetuate stuttering or speech impediment.

Reppucci hopes “The King’s Speech” will help family members of speech impediment sufferers understand the disorder and how to treat it.

“Often times it’s very difficult for the family to admit,” she said. “They want to try to blame someone for their child’s difficulty and I don’t think that’s just with stuttering. I think it’s very difficult for parent of any child who has a communication or other type of disability to take complete ownership. I think it takes a lot of work and a lot of understanding.”

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“The King’s Speech” has garnered awards and acclaim throughout the world...

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