len's masthead




londoner editor pic





The widely acclaimed movie, “The King’s Speech” is an in-depth insight into the many travails that are faced by people who are unable to speak without stuttering. It brought back my struggles as youngster who seemed cursed with the same affliction.

When I was in grade one I had the misfortune to cut off part of my tongue after a fall down the stairs. The doctors sewed it back on and I subsequently missed many weeks of school. The wound healed but it left me emotionally afraid of making a mistake. The stuttering seemed to get worse the faster I tried to speak.

I still remember receiving my report card at the end of June. There was one word still haunts me still: in bold black letters, the school told me that I had FAILED. No explanation or sorry just the words, REPEAT GRADE ONE. I ran crying all the way home.

Those who couldn’t speak well in my youth were referred to as dumb but now that the school failed me I assumed that they thought I was also stupid.

When my fellow students would mock me with ah ah, I had no voice, I used my fists to defend myself. I would fight and the vice principal would strap me with a long leather belt. He told me once that: “he would hit me until I cried.” I refused to let him win and didn’t shed a tear even though he gave me twelve belts on each hand.

Everything seemed to change in grade four when the school referred me to Miss Jane, a Speech Pathologist to help me with my stammer. The administration wagered that if I got some help I may not get into as many altercations.

Every Tuesday after school I received some pointers on how I might correct my speech. She taught me to relax my jaw, take deep breaths, pause and try and speak slower. Every night I would practice in front of the mirror in my room. Who could forget the musical refrain: “Chickery chick, ch-la, ch-la, check-a-la romey in a bananaika, bollika wollika can’t you see chickery chick is me”?

Jane even offered up an awesome treat of a very large chocolate sundae when I could master the song. It worked; my confidence was better and I stopped getting into trouble. I still didn’t offer to volunteer to answer the teacher’s questions but the fighting eventually abated.
In high school I discovered that weight lifting/wrestling could offer up some appropriate outlets to many of my frustrations.

To better understand the many complex problems relating to stuttering I called Kerry Erle, Director of London Speech and Language Center www.londonspeech.com “One in ten Canadians have a speech problem. You are not born with a speech defect. Boys are four times more likely to develop speech problems then girls. 80% of children before the age of four spontaneously recover their normal speech pattern.”

Stress can bring on the speech disorder resulting in a constant fear/apprehension of the fear of stammering. Having to speak in public in front of a microphone is the worst. You find that your neck tightens into knots, your mouth seems dry and the words just don’t come out the way that they are intended. Interesting, that youngsters who get the chance to perform in the school choir do not stutter when they are singing.

When I am tired or nervous I still find myself stuttering but now I accept my limitations. There are some very famous people who tended to stutter. Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, Julia Roberts and King George the V1 who shared my speech problems.

In my opinion, King’s Speech” is the best film of the year and is well worth the price of admission.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com