A lot of people start off as overt stutterers but they develop lots of tricks to get over it (or hide it), for example, I started avoiding words that began with the letter ‘B’.
James Caplan, 44, works full time as a managing director for a financial advice agency based in Pynnacles Close, Stanmore, employing 29 staff and managing two offices and he has a stutter!
After going from avoiding his children’s sports days to studying to become a coach, one man hopes to inspire his fellow stammerers to take control of their lives as he has done.
Bushey man James Caplan, 44, works full time as a managing director for a financial advice agency based in Pynnacles Close, Stanmore, employing 29 staff and managing two offices.
But despite this, the high flyer who is married and has three children has suffered from a stammer for most of his childhood.
He said: “I first noticed it as a child. It was more overt then so I was stumbling on lots of different words, a more traditional type of stammer.
“A lot of people start off as overt but they develop lots of tricks to get over it, so for example I never used to use words with the letter ‘B’, generally referred to as avoiding words.”
“My parents took me to elocution lessons and speech therapy but they only seemed to work for the short term.
“I let the anxiety and anger build up inside of me for years and years by trying to hide it and avoiding certain situations, I almost felt like a prisoner.”
By developing tricks and avoiding words, he was able to hide his speech disorder from many friends, colleagues and clients – but one day realised enough was enough.
He added: “The speech became all too much, the tricks and avoiding words that I was using every day were just failing, the anxiety was just building up and continually not saying what you want to say and when you want to say it is so frustrating.
“I avoided so many things like I never went to my children’s sports day because I didn’t want to be perceived as someone with a stammer.
“I was asked to do a speech at my best friend’s 40th birthday and I had a fully prepared speech avoiding all the b-words and using my tricks, practised it endlessly, but the two weeks leading up to the party gave me sleepless nights.
“I text her, I couldn’t even call her about it and said I can’t do this. At that point I decided enough was enough, I needed to do something about it.”
With the support of his family and having carried out years of research on speech therapies, Mr Caplin decided to sign up for a lifetime membership of the McGuire Programme which was featured in the Channel 4 documentary Stammer School.
The programme deals with physical techniques to improve fluency and also identifies and teaches the mechanics and dynamics of speaking.
Techniques to improve concentration and assertiveness and to face potentially difficult situations also form part of the programme.
Mr Caplan says the four-day course has helped him to go to events he previously would never have dreamed of attending – from company golf days to going out for dinner with clients or attending parties.
He said: “It’s been completely life changing. If you could imagine waking up every single morning and the first thought that enters your head isn’t something like ‘why is my son jumping on my head at 6am’ but instead is ‘what will my speech be like today?’ that is what it was like before.
“It is a function as basic as breathing but not being able to say what you what and when you want is so frustrating.
“The course has changed everything – it’s made me a much calmer and happier person, my wife says I’m much less angry now.
“Because I’ve benefited so much from it I can’t wait to give something back. It’s a big difference to putting your hand in your pocket, but signing up to be a coach means I can make sure that other stammerers take the action they need.”
Having spent six weeks studying, Mr Caplan will now attend a coaching course in Newcastle next weekend in his bid to become a McGuire coach and wants to inspire other stammerers – there are around 640,000 in the UK or one per cent of the population – to stop living in fear and take action.
He added: “If they can’t deal with it and they realise they were living a lie, which is ultimately what I was doing, I would recommend speaking to one of the regional directors.
“They can put them in touch with other people who have been on the course, come and observe a session and really take a chance- what have you got to lose?”