Dad says ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ character helped son overcome speech problem

For years, Sawyer Dunlap struggled to talk. He developed his own form of sign language, which his parents understood, and often said “bah” to indicate what he wanted. But he fought to form words. Sawyer, now 4, lives with dyspraxia, a neurological condition that causes motor and speech problems.

Until a year ago, Sawyer could only say three words, but then he watched “Guardians of the Galaxy” and his vocabulary increased by one word — Groot.

“When Groot came out, he kept saying ‘I am Groot,’ and if he saw a tree … he would say Groot,” said Natasha Dunlap, Sawyer’s mother, who also has dyspraxia.

Sawyer Dunlap Natasha Dunlap

Soon the Dunlaps noticed Sawyer said “Groot” with different inflections much like the character; he even started saying “bah” using different tones to project various meaning. He recently started speech therapy and he is now stringing words together.

“He has to think about it. He has to go slow,” said Dunlap.

The Dunlaps credited his progress to Sawyer’s connection to Groot.

“I think he related a lot to the character because [Groot] couldn’t really talk,” said Dunlap.

Her husband, Josh, felt so grateful for Groot and “Guardians of the Galaxy” that about a month ago he sent a private message on Facebook to director James Gunn. Josh thought he’d never hear anything back from Gunn. On Wednesday, Gunn did more than just send a message; he posted the family’s story for the world to see with a simple message. “I love making movies because of stories like this. Thank you.”