EVEN A KING CAN HAVE CHALLENGES

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One of The Mighty‘s March challenges to its contributors was to “describe a scene or line from a movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness.” I took it one step further and wrote about a whole film.

One of my favorite movies is “The King’s Speech.” It is an Academy-award winning (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay) historical drama based on the Duke of York’s struggle with stuttering and the speech therapist who helped him.

Following the abdication of Edward VIII, the Duke of York was crowned King George VI and saw Great Britain through the Battle of Britain and World War II.

When it was released, some critics and historians pointed out that the movie was not a true story, but a “truish” story, with some facts changed, eliminated, or Hollywood-ified — the difference between a drama and a documentary.

Regardless of whether it is actually, wholly true, I love its story of quiet bravery, both that of the Duke and Lionel Logue his speech therapist; the respect they developed for each other; and the friendship they developed while navigating around significant cultural, social, and economic differences.

It is a beautiful movie with gentle humor and dignity.

As a parent of a child on the Autism spectrum, “The King’s Speech” has many layers for me. Like some iterations of Autism, stuttering was perceived for many generations to be the result of some kind of personal failing — failing to control nervousness, fear, or a lack of self-discipline to pull oneself together.

Like Autism, researchers now realize that the causes of stuttering are not a personal failings but have measurable neurological and physiological origins.

Like Autism, the causes of stuttering are complicated and not yet wholly understood.

My son enjoys watching “The King’s Speech” in part because on some level he recognizes the similarities between the struggles of the king and his own struggles.

He sees a man who was born into wealth and power, the kind which many people wish for and aspire to, and who, like my son, must learn to live with and adapt to challenges that simply came with being who he was, royal title notwithstanding.

He finds comfort in the realization that if a king had to adapt, maybe it isn’t so bad that he has to adapt to achieve his goals, too.

He sees a man who had to face his fears on a daily basis — whether it was public speaking, dealing with his overbearing father, or shouldering the burden of leadership — and doing so with dignity and perseverance.

My son deals with his fears on a daily basis when he walks out the door to go to school, sits in a classroom being the only child on the spectrum, and adapts his behavior and needs to the neurotypical norm.

He sees how friendships can be made in unexpected circumstances, the value of someone who sees a person not a disability, and how challenges can be turned into strengths.

“The King’s Speech” is a movie I have watched many times. It is meaningful to me not only as a great Academy-award winning film, but as a movie that speaks to me as an Autism Mom.

Click here for the review of “The King’s Speech” by Common Sense Media. It is rated “R” because of one scene with strong language which is actually (refreshingly) a logical element of the story as part of the Duke’s speech therapy. A PG-13 rated version removing most of the strong language was released separately.

Originally published on Autism Mom March 2016.

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