DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Academy Awards will be handed out on Sunday night and “The King’s Speech” leads the pack with 12 nominations, including nods for Best Picture and Best Actor in Colin Firth. The film is about King George VI and his struggles as a stutterer. But for a North Texas man, this is more than just a movie. Rather, the film is a reflection of his personal, real life battles with a speech disorder.
Byron Zick has lived with a stutter throughout his entire life. “I’m fearful of certain words,” he explained. “I’m fearful of being seen as a stutterer.” But for the past four years, the 27-year-old has been seeking treatment at the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders. “I’d say I’ve come a long way. I’m much more comfortable with myself now.”
But that was not always the case. Just as Firth’s character in “The King’s Speech,” Zick recalls a time when he would get anxious or apprehensive when he spoke. “Certain things have happened where people have, perhaps, called out the fact that I have a stutter. That has shaped my perception of the stutter in a negative way.”
However, with help from UT Dallas speech pathologist Shannon Raby, Zick has learned how to control his speaking. “Most people don’t understand what stuttering is and how it can affect someone,” said Raby. But therapy sessions are different from techniques seen on the silver screen. “Some of the things we do focus on is addressing the internal components, understanding you’re not the only one, accepting who you are, accepting stuttering is a part of who you are, knowing how you talk to yourself does affect how you speak, and your ability to have confidence in yourself as a speaker.”
Despite some storytelling differences, Zick feels that “The King’s Speech” does accurately depict the daily struggles of a speech disorder. “From a stutterer’s perspective, it very much captured the essence of the anxiety and the stress that a stutterer goes through, a particularly bad point of stuttering.”
Zick hopes that the Oscar nominated movie both entertains and educates audiences. Understanding and acceptance are a part of the film’s message – one that should resonate with everyone. “Just give them the same respect, because their opinion is as valid as anybody else’s.”