I Hardly Dared Speak, But Now I Am Coaching Others
Jon-Paul Ward, a person who stammers, from Guisborough in North Yorkshire, stammered severely for 20 years. In April 2012 he did a McGuire Programme course in Newcastle upon Tyne. He is now a coach on the McGuire Programme and helps other people who stutter and stammer. Article published in The Gazette, Thursday 11th September 2014.
A Guisborough student who has overcome a severe stammer is hoping to inspire others to take control.
Jon-Paul Ward developed a stammer at around the age of four.
As a St Paulinus RC Primary School pupil, one of Jon-Paul's earliest memories was being unable to say the word Yes in class.
Such trouble and frustration continued through to secondary school when Jon-Paul attended Sacred Heart RC Secondary School in Redcar.
Jon-Paul, 24, who has a twin brother, Chris and a younger brother, Simon, 23 said: "Luckily we didn't have to ask for tickets on the bus
"In class I wouldn't answer questions either. If I had anything to ask I would wait until the end.
"I tried to not let this get to me in terms of what I wanted to do."
Jon-Paul completed A-Levels in maths, chemistry and PE before moving on to York University to study for a master's degree in chemistry.
It was during his time at university that Jon-Paul realised his struggle.
Words which many of us don't think twice about saying, were a significant struggle for Jon-Paul.
He said: "To say my name, I had to start with my surname then move onto my first name.
"When you suffer with a stammer there are also tricks you can use to get by. I would look away or lose eye contact with whoever I was speaking to."
Despite living with the negative turmoil for so long, Jon-Paul knew it was time to do something.
When he began studying at university, Jon-Paul joined a house of 12 students.
He said: "I spent two hours unpacking. I was so scared to go and introduce myself."
Wanting to avoid becoming a recluse and not speaking at all, which is what Jon-Paul explained can become of a stammerer, he decided to act upon it during his final year of studies.
Jon-Paul said: "I knew I couldn't go on like that. I had six months left of my studies and knew I had to think about the bigger picture."
Having witnessed the change in TV star, Gareth Gates, after he enrolled on The McGuire Programme, Jon-Paul decided to give it a go.
In April 2012, Jon-Paul embarked on The McGuire Programme which goes beyond overcoming the stutter and transforms people who stutter into articulate, well spoken people.
During the first day of the intensive four day course in Newcastle, Jon-Paul went back to basics and was taught how to breathe.
He was also taught how to speak again, beginning with letters and then words. At the end of the day, Jon-Paul had to speak in front of a room of 60 people, telling them his name and full address.
Jon-Paul said: "My heart was pounding but it was such a great feeling that I had used my most feared word which was my name.
On the second day, Jon-Paul was faced with having to go out on the streets of Newcastle and speak to 100 strangers and at one point he had to stand on a box in the middle of the city and introduce himself to the crowds as they gathered to see what he was doing.
He said: "There were so many emotions going through me at that point. I didn't feel afraid to put myself through it."
Following the course, Jon-Paul was fluent in speaking and set himself strategies to help maintain his recovery, one of which saw Jon-Paul become a coach for the programme.
From September 2012, Jon-Paul also worked as a chemist for two years in Ireland in preparation for his upcoming studies.
Following the programme, Jon-Paul said: "Going to a new place, meeting strangers and getting to know a new work team did not phase me."
Having returned home now, Jon-Paul is set for Nottingham University where he will study for a PhD in chemistry.
Jon-Paul, who continues to attend two courses a year and practises his breathing every morning, said: "You have to go backwards to go forwards. I'm ready to go back to university and this time I am going to meet as many people as I can.
"I am looking forward to the challenge ahead."
By Lyndsay Oxley, Reporter, firstname.lastname@example.org