It’s undeniable that the movie The King’s Speech has had a profound impact on the stuttering community. For one group, however, it has been more than an inspiration – it’s a namesake.
Founded in London nearly three years ago by Mr. Harminder “Harry” Dhillon, the King’s Speakers Toastmasters Club is a Toastmasters International group created specifically for people who stutter (stammer) or have severe social anxiety. “In 2011, the movie The King’s Speech raised awareness of stuttering like never before and became a big hit. The name ‘King’s Speakers,’ therefore seemed very fitting for a public speaking club for those affected by stuttering,” said Dhillon.
According to its website, www.kingsspeakers.org, “By joining King’s Speakers you will enter into a community of people with similar experiences and a common goal: to improve their speaking abilities in all areas of their life.”
“The group is special because it is aimed at people who generally do not like speaking at all, let alone public speaking. But after just a few weeks, the members experience a transformation which they had never imagined possible,” Dhillon added. “Once the initial fear levels diminish, people who previously would not contemplate standing on the stage find it difficult to get off it. Their new found confidence then translates into real-life situations where they find themselves speaking more at work meetings, making new friends, and taking on new challenges. The group provides a very safe and encouraging environment for people who stutter and helps them to develop their potential.”
For eons, the practice of public speaking has been used as an exercise to increase fluency, overcome anxiety and to put into use tips and tricks for controlling a stutter. “The ability to practice public speaking in a safe and supportive environment is critical to overcoming fear and improving fluency whether a person stutters or not,” says the Stuttering Foundation’s Jane Fraser. “For years, we’ve encouraged the stuttering community to practice the art of public speaking every chance they get.”
Toastmasters International, for example, has helped many speakers overcome both fear and speech impediments through practice and training. “I may never lose my stutter, but through Toastmasters and public speaking, I have found an outlet to help me improve,” said Garret Garrels in a March 2013 Toastmasters newsletter article. Leys Geddes, a past chair of the British Stammering Association, put it this way: “Very few adult stutterers ever overcome the condition entirely, but we must still be prepared to speak and stutter in public. Society realizes, for example, that limping is simply a sign of difficulty with one’s leg, not a sign of a personality defect; so it should be with stuttering.”
According to Dhillon, the King’s Speakers club currently has 34 members, most of whom attend meetings regularly and occasionally bring guests. “King’s Speakers is changing lives. Members report all sorts of different successes which they enjoy in their personal and business lives as a result of the personal growth they experience at the club.”
The group can be found at Facebook.com/KingsSpeakers. The website for Toastmasters International is www.toastmasters.org.
From the 2015 Winter Newsletter