A King, a College Student, and the Struggle to Speak

3:48 PM, Jan 27, 2011   |    comments
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Brandon Sabilia is ammong 1 million Americans that understand the emotion behind "The King's Speech".


ATLANTA, -- It's the movie getting all the attention right now, "The King's Speech." It's been nominated for 12 Academy Awards. It chronicles a king's struggles with stuttering. Many in Atlanta understand the extreme emotion that pushed this movie to the top.

Today, Brandon Sabilia loves to talk. His junior year at Emory, his lazy roommate and his favorite Italian meal are all subjects covered in a few minutes on a Wednesday afternoon.

He wasn't always this way. "There were days I just wouldn't want to talk at all, it would just be that frustrating, he said.

Like three million Americans, one percent of the population, Brandon stutters. When he's giving a classroom presentation, making a phone call, or doing a television interview, suddenly, a word gets stuck. Sometimes words or sounds will be repeated, other times, it's a total block.

"At that moment, in my mind, I'm trying to figure out a way to get past the stutter," he said. "There are certain techniques I use to get by." One of those techniques is to pause, take a breath, and continue. It could be perceived as a purposeful dramatic pause. Those pauses made King George VI famous during World War II.

In one scene of the movie "The King's Speech", the king screams, "I have a voice!"

Frustration, anger, humiliation - the emotions familiar to stutterers were played so well by Colin Firth he's nominated for best actor. The movie, "The King's Speech" is up for 12 Academy Awards.

As recently as the 1950's, the suggested causes for stuttering included possession by the devil, overbearing mothers, and super-strict potty training. A lot has changed. Today, at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, speech pathologists help stutterers conquer their speech.

"If therapy's been successful, you learn how to control it. And, to some degree, you accept you are going to stutter to some degree. Usually, if you accept it, others will," said speech language pathologist Judy Kirkland. "But it's a long road getting to that."

Eighty-six years after the setting of "The King's Speech," scientists have just now discovered a stuttering gene. Researchers are still trying to figure out how it works. "One thing that they do know is that the brains of stutters are different from the brains of non-stutterers," Kirkland said. 

Brandon isn't a king, just a college junior, who loves to talk. And that is a victory.

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