‘Empathy instead of sympathy’: one of our many support groups helping people with a stutter find their voice.
‘I’ve always had to fight to be able to speak’
Being able to have a spoken conversation is something many of us take for granted.
But what happens when you are born with a speech impediment such as a stutter which takes away your voice? Well, that’s where the Middlesbrough-based support group, The McGuire Programme comes into play.
Originally set up over 28 years ago in California by founder, Dave McGuire, there are now groups across the globe. And there’s one right here in Teesside working miracles.
Matthew Richardson, 49, has attended the programme for over 20 years and he even become an inspirational speaker – taking to the stage at school assemblies to tell students how he has overcome challenges thanks to the support group and its members.
He said: “Although I’ve managed to get my stutter under control through the programme, I am still attending the sessions over 20 years later as it has a huge sense of community which I would miss.
Unlike other support groups, the McGuire Programme provides members with plenty of empathy instead of sympathy.Abbie Thompson
“At the end of the day, having a stammer doesn’t discriminate against anyone and although we are coming together to solve one common issue, it’s that community connection, that understanding you get with meeting up with other people who are going through exactly the same thing as you.
“The group has seen close friendships form, where we often go out socially and take part in activities such as the Middlesbrough 10k together.”
The group has impacted Matthews’s life in more ways than one, as he met his wife – who has also enjoyed a career using her voice working for BBC Tees – at one of the sessions.
From being a teenager, I’ve been offered a number of speech therapy sessions on the NHS and although I am grateful for them, they haven’t been able to improve my stutter at all.
The Stockton-born said: “Unlike other support groups, the McGuire Programme provides members with plenty of empathy instead of sympathy.”
Abbie Thompson, 28, who has been a member of the group for a few months, said: “From being a teenager, I’ve been offered a number of speech therapy sessions on the NHS and although I am grateful for them, they haven’t been able to improve my stutter at all.”
“I’m from outside of the area, but I purposely travel into Middlesbrough as this support group is incredibly valuable to me. It really is life-changing.”
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