Fear Is Fine – Embrace It, Don’t Dodge It.

Group photo from our Public Speaking Event in Düsseldorf, Germany

As Susan Jeffers says ‘Feel the fear, and do it anyway’. Don’t wait for the fear to dissipate, it won’t. The longer you wait for the fear to go away, the more intense the feeling grows. Susan Jeffers states that becoming aware of your fears and your limitations can change your life as long as you learn how to deal with them. All through life we will come across situations that make us fearful but we need to learn how to approach these fears and move on with our life. People miss so many opportunities in life simply due to fear and anxiety; we need to approach these fears with simple steps each day that will allow us to take those chances and open doors that were previously closed. Fear can make your world smaller so don’t allow the fear to overtake you.

“Fear is fine – embrace it, don’t dodge it. Then, walk through the fire anyway.”

On the McGuire Programme we have the same approach to facing our fears and how to deal with them. We have techniques and strategies in place to deal with situations that make you feel less fearful. We learn more about ourselves when we take action, we don’t learn by sitting back and feeding the fear. By taking action and facing our fears we become less anxious and less fearful. On the program we take every opportunity that comes our way to talk and speak using technique. We take every opportunity to ‘expose’ ourselves for who we truly are. We are not our stutter. We are people who are working hard on controlling our stutters. We no longer hide our true selves. And it feels amazing. Once you break down that barrier, your outlook on life and your behaviour changes for the better. We can finally live without holding ourselves back from doing the things we’ve always wanted to do. This even includes the simple things in life, like ordering the food you desire, to giving your name when asked for it. These are major steps for a person who stutters.

I experienced a new student facing their fears head-on during our last course in Düsseldorf, Germany. I brought her out for the contact session on the Saturday of the 3-Day Intensive course. Once the new student started using the techniques and ‘exposed’ herself as a person who stutters, it removed the feeling of shame and guilt, it allowed her to free her mind from the stresses that a stutter can hold over us. It was also very inspirational for me to see the changes happening in front of me, and to keep doing what we do on the McGuire Programme. Helping people, like ourselves, to break free from the freezing, struggle and distortion, and from the many tricks and avoidances we all created to be seen as a ‘normal’, ‘fluent’ speaker.

No more ‘hiding’ for the 5 new students who joined us in Düsseldorf, who learned concrete techniques to turn passivity into assertiveness. And learned how to stop negative thinking patterns and reeducate their minds to think more positively. And how to turn every decision into a “No-Lose” situation.

“The more we do things that we’re afraid of, we are proving to ourselves that we CAN handle danger, uncertainty etc., the more we can feel confident that we will be able to handle similar experiences in the future. In other words, facing our fears is something we can practice and get better at, even if we can never completely obliterate fear from our lives.”

Did you find this article useful? Do you know someone who stutters, who would benefit from trying out the McGuire Programme and giving themselves the best possible start to controlling their stutter? Do you, yourself stutter? If so, get in touch with one of our representatives today. No need to be afraid to contact us, we all people who stutter, who have found a new lease on life via the McGuire Programme and it’s extensive backup support.

“An important truth: YOU can’t wait for the fear to go away before you do something!”

Our next 3-Day Intensive Course in Germany will be held in Frankfurt am Main in October 2017
Date: 18.-21.10.2017 – Don’t be the one who holds you back. Reserve your place today!

How Embracing My Stutter Gave Me a New Lease on Life


By Patrick Hanlon
Food and travel writer, blogger, 1/2 of gastrogays, London by way of Dublin!
Reading Time: 6 minutes

As I sat in a university lecture, my breathing was shallow and fast, my palms sweaty and my heart raced as one-by-one my classmates stood up to speak. This scene played out countless times before but the panic, fear and anxiety intensified each time this situation came around. I looked down at the book and the literature review I had written on the book. Nervously I agitated in my seat. Any semblance of confidence I once had in my own ability was on the floor and soon it would be my turn.

As my fear escalated, my focus and determination simultaneously vanished. ‘Just take it in your stride,’ I told myself. I was visibly uncomfortable, like always, and was consumed with the fear of being ‘found out’, of being seen as stupid and incompetent, of being pitied, of being a stammerer. Then it came: “Patrick Hanlon, you’re next to speak…”

“Ah…..muh……th….I….I”, I couldn’t even begin by stating the title of my report in front of my class, let alone eloquently broadcast the key points of the report like everyone else before and after me. My mind raced as I tried to conjure up different ways to communicate what I simply couldn’t get to leave my lips. Every trick and avoidance mechanism I tried to use failed me. If I could have physically run away, I would have; I was running away in my mind. After five excruciating minutes of broken sounds, non-words, speech blocks and facial struggle, I had to ask red-faced and humiliated to stop. I finished my 1,000 word report after one sentence.

As I sat in my college seminar waiting to be called to speak, I didn’t know it but that marked my lowest point. I was losing a lifetime battle I had to endure and at that point I was honestly ready to give up. I’ve suffered from a stutter my entire life and this was everyday life for me, and for so many others like me. Quietly fighting an internal war with yourself and avoiding situations, words and sounds. Choosing how to phrase things. Reaching for different tricks and coping mechanisms. Things as banal as saying your name at Starbucks, ordering a dish off the menu at a restaurant or answering the phone can be the most excruciating.

A stutter, or stammer, is a speech impediment that affects around 1% of the world’s population. You probably know loosely what it is and you might have come across stutterers every so often in your life. Maybe you’ve followed Pop Idol singer Gareth Gates’ speech difficulties or watched the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech. You might have been glued to the Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentary Educating Yorkshire and cried tears at school boy Musharaf’s speech breakthrough.

Living with a stutter is really tough. I’m sometimes asked by fluent speakers what stuttering feels like and I explain it like being blind but with occasional glimpses of perfect 20/20 vision, or being deaf and having small, random spurts of crystal-clear hearing. A stutter is a beast and a real battle between physical and mental state. No two stutters are the same. There is a scale of covert (practically unrecognisable) to overt (incredibly obvious) but even day-to-day how a stutter interrupts your life can be drastically different from person to person. Good days and bad days come and go, but the constant is that your stutter is always there.

I’m a freelance writer, and I spent my entire life battling a stutter, sailing turbulently along and calling at many ports of speech therapy and different teachings and techniques. At 21, the same day of that excruciating scene described above, I found a lifeline in The McGuire Programme, an immersive, intense speech therapy programme run by people who stutter for people who stutter, combining a new way of breathing (from the costal diaphragm, not the crural – which we use naturally) and a transformative mentality. It works for some people, it doesn’t for others and it’s certainly not a quick fix or an easy ride.

Though, I need to assure you: people who stutter are some of the funniest, most intelligent, sharpest and confident people I know. I’ve met hundreds of them. Take it from me, they’re rarely shy, nervous or unsure of what they want to say and some even have comedic timing to rival the best in the business. Unfortunately, before they can communicate what their brain is thinking, their stutter interrupts the process, gets in the way and can often step them in their tracks. But you don’t have to live this out of control way…

I still battle my stutter every day, I will for life. You never lose a stutter. It doesn’t go away and there’s no definitive ‘cure’ – no matter what Google might lead you to believe. What you can do, though, is change your perceptions and mentality and take on board different ways to go about living with a stammer so that it’s no longer an issue that dictates the everyday. My life has been transformed and I live how I never thought I could, never forgetting where I’ve come from as I work hard and confidently on my speech every day in my quest for eloquence and a comfortable level of fluency. So, I want to share three insights on how you can too.

Lean In

So, there’s a common saying in social work: ‘lean in to the discomfort’, and the same applies here. Whatever makes you uncomfortable, explore it, pull it apart and understand it. When you see the sum of its parts, it’s not so scary any more. Sure, there will always be other scary things lurking around the corner, but having a mentality that you can tackle anything, that you’re bigger than what scares you, and that you’re a strong and confident person will ensure that you’re prepared for whatever comes your way. A stutter seems physical and it is – our diaphragm and speaking system freezes in the face of fear – but really 90% of it is mental. Re-assess how you approach situations, what your mentality is and how you relate to yourself.

Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway

Ask a person who stutters what makes them most uncomfortable and many will say something like ‘blocking and struggling in front of strangers’, ‘stuttering in front of my kids’, ‘being seen as stupid, inferior or incompetent by my work colleagues’ – always anxious and worried about how the ‘listener’ is perceiving you, yet the biggest focus needs to be on how you as a person experiences your own speech. Why are you speaking thinking about everyone else? The only thing that matters is how you feel when communicating. Susan Jeffers’ book Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway is well worth anyone reading.

Be proactive

To use another common expression, ‘play to win’. Don’t go through life dodging obstacles that get in your way and waiting for the next wave to hit. Power through the wave. Tackle opposition head-on. Look a challenge in the eye and see it through. You have no idea how much confidence you’ll gain from having a proactive, rather than reactive, mentality.

Do you see a common thread? It can be summed up in one word: embrace. Uncomfortable and difficult, I know, but when you embrace something fully it becomes less and less of an issue. Most people who stutter will tell you it’s the one aspect of their lives they despise and hate even thinking about or showing anyone. But here’s the crux: you need to break it apart, build up your confidence step-by-step and live the way you want to. You have to walk through that big scary door that’s stopping you and face your fears.

Don’t force yourself to live in fear when there’s a whole wide world out there, a world waiting to hear what you have to say.

Follow Patrick Hanlon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ipadzorz

Lysterfield Owen Westwood works to control his stutter with McGuire Programme

AFTER more than 20 years spent trying to hide his stutter, a Lysterfield man has decided to “take action” against the speech impediment that has controlled his life.

Owen Westwood, 25, has had the “crippling” impediment since he could talk but time spent chained to a desk in an office job he hated forced him to fight back against “the demon”.

“I felt stuck because of my speech — I felt I couldn’t get a job anywhere else because who would hire a person who stutters?” he said.

“There is no cure for stuttering — the only way forward is for me to take control of my stutter instead of it controlling my life.”

Just trying to say his own name once led to anxiety and poor confidence, he said.

“There are so many people out there now who are experiencing the same feelings of pity and guilt and self-hate because we can’t do things as simple as introducing ourselves or order the food that we really want as opposed to what we can say,” Mr Westwood said.

He hoped sharing his story would inspire other people with severe and debilitating stutters to take action.

In July 2013, he joined a program to start on his “journey to be the most eloquent speaker I can be”.

The McGuire Programme, developed and run by a group of people learning to control their own stutters, includes a four-day course that focuses on the mechanics of speech, techniques for overcoming stuttering and the fear of speaking, the physiology and psychology of stuttering, and confidence building. Participants can do refreshers and work on their speech privately after the course.

Mr Westwood said joining the program was “the best decision I’ve made to date”.

“I went through my early childhood, teenage years, all my schooling with a really crippling speech impediment and it was tough,” he said.

Lysterfield's Owen Westwood has a severe stutter but has worked hard to improve his speech.

Lysterfield’s Owen Westwood has a severe stutter but has worked hard to improve his speech.

“I would avoid speaking situations every day, every chance I got because my fear and anxiety was so high that I would avoid doing speeches at school and being my true self at parties.”

Mr Westwood, a former student at Highvale Seconday College in Glen Waverley, said he never dreamt of taking part in school plays and even asked his English teachers if he could do his oral presentations at lunchtime to avoid an audience of students laughing at him.

“I always had a really tight group of friends but there were a few people who would go out of their way to pick on me, insult me every chance they got because I spoke differently to them,” he said.

Traditional speech therapy hadn’t worked for him because it only focuses on the physical aspects of stuttering, he said.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg — underneath the surface there’s the mental and psychological struggles that come with having a stutter and that’s where the McGuire Programme helped me,” Mr Westwood said.

Since joining the program, Mr Westwood has moved on from the job he hated and now works fulltime as an audio visual technician — and he loves it.

“I’ve been able to take the positive attitude I have from improving my speech into my work and no longer dread getting up in the morning and going into the office,” he said.

Original Article Featured in heraldsun.com.au written by Knox Leader

Meet the Conwy teenager who copied Gareth Gates to get rid of his stammer

Since overcoming his impediment, Daniel Reid of Llanfairfechan has spoken in front of 100 people at a wedding.

A teenager with a stammer took a leaf out of singer Gareth Gates’ book and has now conquered his speech impediment.

Like Gates, Daniel Reid’s stammer caused him no end of distress – but his life changed for the better thanks to a programme of daily breathing exercises.

But Daniel, now 19, will never forget how the impediment marked his life. On his first day of secondary school he stammered so badly he wasn’t able to say his name out loud in front of his classmates.

Daniel, then aged 12, rapidly lost his confidence and very soon wanted to change schools, but his mother, Wendy, encouraged him to remain at Ysgol Friars, Bangor.

School days slightly improved when he changed classes to join his friends from primary school who were used to his speech impediment.


Daniel, of Llanfairfechan, has battled with a speech impediment all his life and his parents sent him for speech therapy from the age of seven until he was 14 – but to no avail.

“School was a miserable time for me, I was bullied and laughed at,” said Daniel, who know works two jobs as a sales and kitchen assistant.

“I was a withdrawn person even in front of friends, if I thought I’d struggle to say something I just wouldn’t speak.

“I’d avoid meeting people I didn’t know, and my parents and sister would finish my sentences for me, which I didn’t mind.

“My sister would order any takeaways I wanted – anything so I didn’t have to talk.

“For some reason saying my name was the worst thing for me, I have no idea why. I just couldn’t get ‘Dan’ or ‘Daniel’ out, and sometimes I’d even make up a name if a stranger asked what my name was.”

But things dramatically changed for the better when he went to London to try the Mcguire Programme, the same scheme Gareth Gates goes on to control his speech impediment. “It’s a challenging programme, I have to do 20 minute breathing exercises every morning,” said Daniel.

“I also had to stop 100 strangers on Oxford Street, asking them directions and so on. My mother was with me and she was crying because she couldn’t believe I was actually talking to complete strangers.”

His mother was so impressed with her son’s new-found confidence that she asked him to be best man when she was getting married to Daniel’s stepdad Mark.

“I was both terrified and excited that they asked me,” said Daniel. “One hundred people were coming, many of whom I had never met before, so they had no idea I had a problem with my speech.

“I had five months to practice but we were all nervous on the day. But using the techniques I learnt through the Mcguire programme, I nailed it.

“My mum was in tears and I’m just so glad I was able to do it for her and Mark.”

Share your view about this story using the comments section below.

Jamie Googan; Stutterer – “My dream is now my reality.”


Jamie Googan: Bachelor of Business (Honours) in Sport and Exercise Graduate

– “My dream is now my reality.”

As a child growing up with a severe stammer (stutter / stottern), I always wondered why I spoke in a different way from other students and why they would laugh at me when I tried desperately to pronounce my own name. I was always self-conscious of my speech, and what I was going to say. One of my biggest emotional struggles came from growing up without being able to say my own name without stammering. I always had a dream of becoming an eloquent public speaker, I just didn’t know how.

When I got accepted into CIT I was both delighted and nervous. I always had a passion for sport and exercise from training Martial Arts, and knew the course was for me. My second class in college was an icebreaker session and we had to stand up and introduce ourselves, I stammered profusely on my own name and the whole room laughed.

I always found it challenging to reach out and ask for support until I met with Ruth Murphy from the Disability Support Service (DSS). As I am also challenged by dyslexia, Ruth advised me of all of the supports available such as extra time, separate room for exams, and Assistive Technology.

The Access Service introduced me to a student called Shane O’Sullivan who also has a stammer (stutter / stutter). During our very first meeting he said “we who stammer support each other” and I never forgot it. We became very close friends and even lived together for two years during college. Having a culture of student support is what makes CIT so unique.

I heard about a programme which supports people who stammer (stutter / stutter), called the McGuire Programme on The Late Late Show on 06. June 2008. For the first time in my life I could relate to people who had the same problem as I had.

I knew that I was no longer alone. My first presentation in college was supposed to last five minutes, but it lasted twenty minutes and from that embarrassing experience I finally decided to join the McGuire Programme in Galway in August 2012. For the first time in my life, I found joy in speaking and communicating with others. With my new found voice the lecturers in the Department of Sport,

For the first time in my life, I found joy in speaking and communicating with others.

Leisure and Childhood studies Noel Collins and Cian O’Neill gave me every opportunity to practice my speech by reading out loud, to giving presentations at the start of class, and really wanted me to succeed.

I graduated from CIT with a Bachelor of Business (Honours) in Sport and Exercise in 2015, and during my time I availed of many supports from the Access Service that played a vital role in my recovery from stammering and achieving my degree. CIT Access Service has one of only thirteen Assistive Technology Labs in the country where I availed of supports from Mark Burleigh, the Assistive Technology Officer, such as Mind Manager, Ginger Online Proofreading Software, Read and Write Gold, and a place where I could practice my presentation skills. What makes Assistive Technology so good is that you can use it at home and in the workplace.


Some of my best experiences in CIT was being involved in the Martial Arts and Swimming societies where I met loads of new friends from different backgrounds and studies, with the same interests.

I am currently employed by the CIT Access Service where I support various Access initiatives and help other students to be the best that they can be. One of my proudest speaking moments was representing the Access Service at the launch of the National Plan for Access and Equality 2015-2019.

By pushing myself to speak in challenging situations I found myself slowly breaking down the mentality of stammering and doing what I thought was once impossible. I never thought I would make it this far and be in the position that I
am. With the right support network and fantastic support from family and friends you can achieve anything you want, just believe in yourself. Never be afraid to reach out and ask for support. My dream is becoming my reality.

A copy of the CIT publication ‘Access- The Student Voice’ is available in PDF format here.

Irish man from Cork says overcoming his stutter ‘changed his life forever’.

A Corkman who overcame a debilitating stammer to become a confident public speaker wants to help others do the same.

Since he was five years old, Jamie Googan has struggled with a stammer: “Growing up, I always wondered why other people would laugh at me when I tried desperately to pronounce my own name or any other words,” he said.

“I suppose that one of the biggest things for me when I was growing up was I have never met anyone else had a stammer, so there was always that feeling of isolation there,” Jamie added.

As he grew older, Jamie said the stammer got progressively worse, to such an extent that saying his own name became impossible.

When he was 16, Jamie saw an interview with Pop Idol singer Gareth Gates, who overcame his stammer through taking part in a method which helps people with speech impediments called the Maguire Programme.

However, it took Jamie four more years to build up the courage to take the course, when he says he hit “breaking point” when he went on to third level education in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).

“So my first presentation inside here in CIT was supposed to last five minutes, but it lasted a lot longer and I left that room with a lot of shame and embarrassment and guilt. I think that was my breaking point where I knew that I had to make that phone call and reach out and ask for help,” he told Ireland Live News.

Help was also at hand from the Cork Institute of Technology’s Access programme, which helps students with challenges or difficulties they may face.

Head of Department of Sport, Leisure, and Childhood Studies at CIT, Dr Cian O’Neill said the facilities available to Jamie were key: “There’s a huge assisted learning centre, and it’s quite a technology-based centre here in CIT and it’s one of only 13 in the country. I know that Jamie really would have got a lot of benefit from that.”

Jamie graduated from Cork Institute of Technology with an honours degree in Sports and Exercise, and now works at CIT.

He hopes his story will give others the confidence to seek support they may be in need of: “I’m in control of my speech, and it’s changed my life forever,” he said.

Story by UTV Ireland Staff, Dublin – Original Article Featured in UTV Ireland

Speaking Up For Herself – No longer suffering in silence.

Until she was 23 Jennifer Vaughan couldn’t even say her own name. But on the biggest day of her life, she composed her own heartfelt wedding vows and made an emotional speech at the reception. She tells Lucy Richardson how an intensive speech therapy course has changed her life.

THERE is a pivotal memory from Jennifer Vaughan’s schooldays which encapsulates her early struggle to control her stammer. When her teacher went round the class asking people to read aloud, she got stuck when it got to her turn, prompting sniggers from pupils and humiliation for Jennifer.

She used to recoil at the prospect of having to speak in public, but she has found her voice after going on the McGuire Programme and, five years after enrolling, she’s going back as its newest instructor on April 13, ready to inspire and change the lives of others.

Jennifer, from Middlesbrough, thinks her stammer started when she was five and her father left home, but she doesn’t remember being affected by it until she reached secondary school, a time when she realised she was ‘different’ and retreated into her own introverted world.

Jennifer refused to put up her hand in class and used to stay behind with understanding teachers who were willing to give up their time to help their able, but inhibited, pupil. She went on to graduate with a degree in Psychology and then achieved an MSc in Occupational Therapy, both from Teesside University.

Student life can be daunting as well as exciting, but for Jennifer it was terrifying. “It was hard meeting new people. Every day I would feel sick to my stomach in case I was asked to say something and every day I would block and struggle through,” she says. “I would feel so small, so embarrassed and ashamed. I was an adult and yet I couldn’t even say my own name. It was humiliating. Inside I used to get so angry. I was frustrated that I couldn’t be the person I wanted to be. I didn’t think I could get married or have children and I didn’t know how I was going to get a job. I thought ‘who’s going to hire me over all these other people on my course?’. I felt completely trapped.”

One night Jennifer went out with friends and in the taxi home couldn’t say her address. “When I finally got home, I cried,” she says. “I picked up a pair of scissors and thought about slitting my wrists. That was my lowest point.”

Jennifer tried other speech therapies, along with hypnotherapy, but when her mum found out about the McGuire Programme, she encouraged Jennifer to sign up for its next course.

“By the end of the first day I was able to stand up and say my name, something I’d never been able to do before. It felt amazing,” beams Jennifer, who wells up with tears at the memory. “My family said afterwards that I looked so much happier and more confident and when I sent a message out to my friends, they were all really proud of me as it was something I’d never been able to speak about with them before.”

Jennifer still attends courses to develop breathing methods, assertive skills and self-acceptance tools and she has a phone list of experienced ‘graduates’ worldwide who have also been through the McGuire Programme themselves and are on hand for practice or advice at any time.

“Going on the McGuire Programme has completely changed my life in so many ways. The sound of the telephone used to make my stomach churn, but it doesn’t any more,” she says. “I’ve no fear saying my name any more and I can order drinks at the bar or food on a menu that I want to eat rather than what I can say.”

She admits she didn’t think she would have a relationship, and thought who would love someone with a stammer? If she couldn’t even say her name, she reasoned, how could she say her wedding vows?

“But at my wedding to Ashley a year ago I wrote my own, I made a speech and I was thrilled to be asked to do a reading at my sister’s wedding which reduced my family to tears,” smiles Jennifer, an NHS Occupational Therapist.

The Northern Echo:
Jennifer Vaughan speaking at her wedding

“It feels surreal that about five years after my first course I am going to be teaching it to others. When you’ve been on a course and had an instructor who is inspirational, it stays with you. I always wanted to instruct, but I thought it would be when I was old and grey and really wise.”

Jennifer, who regularly runs the McGuire Programme’s twice-monthly support group in Middlesbrough, is urging anyone who feels trapped by their stammer to get in touch and take the first step to changing their own lives.

“It not only gives you control of your stammer, but you get to meet people who under-stand exactly what you are feeling, who push you to reach your full potential. You get to do things you never would have dreamed possible before.

“I am so grateful now that I have a stammer, otherwise I would not have met such fantastic people and my life would have been a lot less interesting. Now I’m the person I always wanted to be.”

Man learns to control his stutter to fulfil his dream of being a teacher

Written by Sally McDonald, article featured in The Sunday Post
TEACHER Adam Black has just hung up from a telephone help line when I catch up with him.

“I’ve been practising saying the names of my pupils,” he tells me, smiling. “It’s parents night tonight and I want to get it right.”

Adam, 26, has been a stutterer all of his life and for most of it believed his dreams of becoming a teacher could never happen. Worst still, the man who has just become a father for the first time thought he might never be able to tell his son a bedtime story.

Glasgow man Adam’s remarkable metamorphosis from a lad fearful of opening his mouth, to a guest lecturer who has eloquently addressed academic conferences across the country, is down to one man – Dave McGuire.

Dave came up with the ground-breaking programme that bears his name, developed to help stutterers master their condition and lead normal lives.

And it is a programme that this year sees the new dad being nominated as a positive role model in the disability category of September’s coveted National Diversity Awards, to be held in Liverpool.

Adam – who also became a speech coach to fellow stutterer, former Scottish rugby captain Kelly Brown – has just finished teaching for the day at Glasgow’s Shawlands Primary School.

He tells me: “The McGuire Programme’s motto is to treat speaking like a sport, so I do breathing exercises every morning and then there is a phone list of people you can call to practise speaking challenging sounds or phrases – it’s like a golfer practising on a driving range.”

Adam was 10 when he first noticed his problem, but his parents had been aware of it from the time he could speak.

“I was reading out a book in class and couldn’t get round the sound of a certain word. Everything changed from then,” he says.

“From that day, even if I knew the answer to a question in class I would not put my hand up.

“I could go long enough without any evidence of a stutter when I was speaking to people I was comfortable with. It was different when I was uncomfortable, like meeting a girl at a party. The thought of introducing myself was terrifying.

“Moving on through school I had a great group of friends who looked out for me and they made things easier, but the thought of leaving that comfort zone behind was frightening.

“Stuttering can be so isolating. On the surface you are normal but on the inside you are tangled because you cannot express yourself.”

Then he chuckles: “Bless my parents, they tried everything to help me. I had therapy on the NHS, elocution lessons, metronome speech therapy and even hypnotherapy. Nothing worked. There is no cure.”

Adam – who with his bank worker wife Rachel, 29, has just welcomed their first baby, Samuel, into the world – reveals: “I had always wanted to be a teacher but in the end I chose to do a sports course because that involved no speaking.”

He smiles: “I was 17 and at Langside College when I heard about the McGuire Programme.”

Adam joined a course in Newcastle offering an intensive 55 hours of therapy over four days. He recalls: “They squeeze in a full year’s work in those four days. The day starts at 7am and goes right through to 7pm. Its success is in the fact that it is so intensive.”

The adult-only course offers a physical technique known as costal or deep breathing (often used by opera singers) which is combined with a psychological strategy to successfully manage the condition.

“A big part of that is self acceptance,” says Adam. “I will always have a stutter but the programme encourages occasional deliberate dysfluency. It seems strange, but when you deliberately stutter it helps you to feel like you have some control.”

The McGuire Programme changed his life. He met Rachel seven years ago, completed his first degree and then a teaching diploma and Masters degree at Strathclyde University, where he has been invited back as a guest lecturer.

In November 2014 Adam was best man at his brother’s wedding. “After I gave my speech a cheer went up,” he says. “I spoke at my own wedding last April, it felt great.”

Adam has been teaching at Shawlands for four years. He reveals: “It is a challenge every day but that is why I enjoy it. I could have taken the easy road and a job that doesn’t involve speaking but I feel that putting myself out there keeps me on top of it.”

And he has the unbridled support of his pupils and their parents.

“I think that is because I am up front about my stutter,” he says.

“At the start of the year I always read the kids Steggie’s Stammer, a fantastic book by Jack Hughes, to help them with their understanding. They ask some great questions, like ‘does it hurt to stammer’. If I have a moment of dysfluency in the classroom they are totally accepting.”

Adam admits: “I used to have feelings of shame and guilt and a hatred towards my stutter.

“To compare how I speak now with previously is just amazing. I feel blessed to have been on the McGuire Programme. It’s the things other people take for granted that matter most to me, like being able to buy cinema tickets or read to my son.”

Adam tidies his desk, bringing the interview to a close. Parents will be arriving soon. Then he stops and shares one last powerful thought: “I have to pinch myself all the time,” he says. “This is what I dreamed of.”

How I fought a stammer that was killing my confidence.

Written by Zahra Bassan. Zahra is a final-year medical student at Liaquat National Medical College.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m in my early 20s and have been stammering since I have the faculty of memory.

56f5234f359f9-Creative Commons

I was bullied for my stammer and would often go through a cycle of negative perceptions and depression – Creative Commons

Growing up, I had access to all kinds of privileges. But my speech impediment was one thing that kept me from being ‘perfect’.

It was, however, not until my 4th year of medical school when everything spiralled out of my control.

I was propelled into speaking situations that I could no longer dodge and in which I had to prove my competence. My confidence took a plunge for the worst and my anxiety compounded with each passing day.

At this point, I needed a miracle.

Stammering is a faulty speech impediment which renders a person incapable of uttering words and letters with fluency. The speech, therefore, becomes incoherent, repetitive and, at times, meaningless.

What makes it worse is a listener’s impatience, lack of interest and mockery.

Imagine a student with a vast amount of knowledge, eager to share their information in a class, only to be met with giggles and mimicry.

The person in question is unable to comprehend the mechanism of their distorted speech. All that he/she wants to say is right in their head but their vocal cords have left them helpless.

Yet, just a few hours ago, alone in front of the mirror, the words had flowed seamlessly.

One can’t blame kids. Anything unusual, which is seen or heard for the first time, is usually laughed at or derided.

But for the stammerer, this reaction is permanently stored in the memory, only to terrify him/her whenever put under the spotlight, accompanied by a rapid beating of the heart, profuse perspiration and tremors.

Science has not yet discovered the pathology behind stammering hence no cure has been found till date. There is no confirmation whether a genetic predisposition or a traumatic psychological event constitutes the triggering factor.

Stammerers are normally found to have both or, in some cases, it is an idiopathic disorder. It starts from early childhood and continues throughout the lifetime. Once a stammerer, always a stammerer.

Fortunately, there are a few exceptions.

Every stammer has a different way of speech, and the severity varies from person to person.

But the reactions that we receive from our surroundings are more or less the same. We are normally brushed off with phrases like: “Oh it is only in your head”, or “I didn’t even notice until you mentioned it to me” without them realising that that they had to finish our sentence for us or looked away while we were still stuttering.

Just like other stammerers, I was also a target of bullying and would often go through a cycle of negative perceptions, self-deprecation and depression.

Simple things turned into tedious mind-wrecking issues. I underwent many therapies without much success. After many failed attempts, I continued to survive on faith alone.

My miracle came in the shape of the McGuire programme, which is a four-day intensive course run by stutterers themselves that focuses on eloquence rather than fluency through breathing techniques, speech weapons and self-actualisation.

It deals with both the mechanical and psychological aspects of speech, and is conducted across the world. I attended one of its workshops in Dubai, which covers the Middle East and North African regions.

I enrolled in the said course without many expectations, thrilled to just meet people from varying cultures with a common problem and share our experience.

What culminated by the end of the 4th day was something I had never anticipated.

After having done 100 contacts and public and farewell speeches to a room full of people, I had come face to face with my fears. My dreams were unleashed and I had gained more than I could have ever imagined.

My farewell speech for the programme didn’t even encapsulate 10 per cent of the gratitude I have for it, and the integral role it played in my transformation.

“Speaking to a room full of people was always just a fantasy. This is my dream, and you’ve given me this. I would like to thank the McGuire Programme, my course instructor, my coaches and everyone else. Thank you.”

Pause. Silence.

“Countless nights, I cried myself to sleep. There was no one I could talk to about what I was going through. I did not have the courage to face the following day — the bullying, guilt, self-pity and loneliness.”

Mine is a happy ending indeed, but one that requires constant persistence, perseverance and dedication. I’m not fluent, but am markedly eloquent.

I also recently attended a refresher course to further work on my speech and help new students.

With every tribulation, there is now also an ease which wasn’t there before. With my new way of speech, I am ready to embrace all the challenges that life has to throw my way, and I intend to take them head on, eloquently.

Original Article featured at dawn.com

“I’m so grateful now that I have a stammer”

WHEN Jennifer Vaughan raised a glass to toast her marriage to new husband Ashley she had a lot to celebrate.

Before she went on an intensive speech therapy course she’d hit rock bottom after suffering years of anger and frustration at not even being able to say her own name.

And now here she was, eloquently reading aloud her own personally written vows as well as making an emotional speech at the reception – and she’d enjoyed it.